Speke Bay Lodge is run by two Dutch expats and it is a remarkable place to spend a night or two. The rooms are in standalone huts that come with independent solar energy, hot water generation, water filtration and ventilation, and look out over a pristine view across Lake Victoria. There were thousands of colorful birds flying around the lake, and I can imagine that the Lodge would be a haven for bird watchers. When I got there it was pitch black and eerily quiet. I had a delicious but peculiar dinner waiting for me, alone, at the head of a 10 person table that had been set aside for the rest of the group. Luckily a couple of the hotel staff (Juliane and Jacqueline) kept me company and answered some of my questions about the place. I had quite a bit of work to do so I went back to my room right away to finish my lesson plans. The anticipation of my first class on Monday kept me up until the power went out at 11PM, when the hotel’s generator went off. I suppose there is a romantic quality to staying up late working by candlelight with the waves of Lake Victoria washing ashore outside, but I was just hoping for more light. I was a bit skeptical about finding my way to the shower and into the intricate mosquito netting by cell phone flashlight, but the miraculously hot water in the shower quickly put me at ease.
Monday was the kick-off for the Tanzania mini-SITE this week. Even on 5 hours of sleep, anticipation for the first day made me feel wide awake. I was greeted at the dining room by a fresh plate of local fruit, a gorgeous sunrise and a team of colorful chirping birds that came straight out of an old Disney movie. I was in a great mood when I left for Zariki, which was a good thing; I wasn’t confident that students would show up, let alone that the day would be a big hit.
I had planned a brand new lesson for Monday morning to introduce students to the scientific concept of Energy. I can’t remember if I already explained the theme of this SITE, so I’ll start over. Since the school is installing new solar panels for electricity, the ELiTE team decided that this mini-SITE should focus on topics of Energy. We created a curriculum titled “Using Energy” that was intended to teach students how to think about, and practically employ, energy from a variety of sources. The first lesson was intended to give students an intuitive sense of energy, by teaching them to measure their own force, energy and power. I created a track in the Zariki playground for students to measure their sprinting speed, acceleration, force and power, and worked with Susan and Justin to find heavy rocks for students to try pulling.
(Pictures coming soon, on someone else’s camera!)
I hadn’t expected the language barrier to be such an issue. Swahili is firmly established as the national language of Tanzania, and students aren’t traditionally exposed to English until secondary school. It didn’t take me long to realize that I would need some help to discuss the abstract concepts of work and power. Luckily enough, I had two English-speaking teachers from Zariki in my class to help out. We began talking about how much energy different household appliances, vehicles, animals and countries use, and comparing it to the amount generated by a variety of sources. We then went outside to measure each student’s personal powerplant directly, using a tape measure, stopwatch and spring scales. Paige and her family eventually arrived and we enjoyed the delightful company of Paige’s children Austin and Mackenzie, who helped get us through my confusing English phrasing with vigorous enthusiasm. All of the students were shocked to find out that their own power capacity (we calculated about 400 Joules per second, or 400 Watts of pulling power), paled in comparison to the energy present in a loaf of bread (about 400,000 Joules per Slice), let alone a litre of gasoline (about 40,000,000 Joules per Litre!). We broke for lunch and enjoyed a healthy break from all of that sprinting in the noon-time sun.
Our second class of the day was intended to teach students about Chemical energy. I helped students put together Calorimeters (think glorified tea kettle with a thermometer attached) from soda cans. We then gathered a variety of common fuels, including candles, kerosene and cooking oil. Students tried to measure how the Calorimeter water temperature rose over time to compare the energy produced by each type of fuel. Even Austin and a few Zariki primary students came over to help out! Peter and Amos were incredibly helpful with translation and we made a lot of progress by the end of the afternoon.
Before finishing the class day, we held a small engineering challenge – an ELiTE staple. The first challenge was the classic water tower contest, where students compete to build the highest tower that can hold a full 1.5L bottle of water. We gave the students sticks, leaves, twigs and string to create their structures. It took a few minutes for me to convince them that this was in fact a worthwhile activity for a free afternoon, and they eventually started to have a great time with the contest. The end of the competition was dramatic, with a come-from-behind finish that pushed the struggling team into first place. They were very excited!
After class I went back to Speke Bay where I jogged for a bit before joining the rest of the group at the bar. Dinner was delicious, and after a few more hours of lesson planning I crashed for the night. All in all, Monday was more than I could have wished for, and I went to bed feeling optimistic for the program. Capping off with that closing sentiment, I promise that there will be more to come!