Dear Friends of Open Windows,
From the 25th of November until the 7th of December, I had the great opportunity of conducting science workshops with children at the Open Windows Foundation. I was just planning on a vacation in Central America but thanks to all the good things I was able to see and the kindness that I received in these wonderful countries, I wanted to give something back.
I left Germany when I finished my Masters Degree in Communications this October and went on for a ten weeks trip starting in Costa Rica and finishing in Mexico. My greatest experience happened in Guatemala, where I volunteered at Open Windows. By volunteering, I realized that I could help children learn a bit more and get deeper in contact with people that live in the culture at the same time. Additionally, I found that Antigua is definitely a good place to stay. And what luck - the classes I taught the children about mathematics, physics and chemistry, turned out to be loved by the children a lot. My approach was to stimulate childrens' interest in these sciences and give them easier access to topics that often are not very popular for youngsters. The workshops I conducted just use components you can find in every kitchen, and can create sustainable change regarding how children view on these topics.
In groups of 6 to 15 children we worked on three different science experiments. The first one was on computing volumes of geometrical shapes. Each pupil received a stencil with two shapes that they had to cut and fit together in the right way. Doing so, we obtained cubes and cylinders in different sizes and each child filled up one of them with black beans. The children were asked to determine whether both of their containers fit the same content, or whether one had a greater volume capacity than the other. When trying to transfer the beans from one container into the other, the children often were surprised that the same amount of beans didn't fit in the second shape, or the vice versa. The children learned that geometric volumes can differ greatly. I have to admit that I was also really astonished the first time we did the experiment
The second workshop was about temperature, in which the children constructed their own thermometer. They used a common glass bottle, filled it with red-colored water, put a straw in the neck and closed the space between neck and straw with plasticine. Then we put the thermometers one after the other into very cold and then into very hot water and waited until the level in the straw moved down in the first case and up in the second case. That is the very same principle that the Italian Galileo Galilei used centuries ago for experiments and visualizes the extension of liquids very well. The children enjoyed this project very much.
The third and last experiment I led was about pH. When cooking red cabbage it gives a nice color to the water which contains a great indicator for acids and bases. When adding different substances the water shifts its colour to blue and green indicating bases as bicarbonate or backing powder, or to red when you add acids like the juice of a lemon or vinegar. It is easy but the colors that you get are clear and bright and I am astonished every time again that this is possible by using a simple vegetable. The children were in awe of their new knowledge about pH testing.
As you see, conducting the workshops doesn’t require you to know what is happening on the molecular level into great finite detail. The general idea was to make the children understand that there is far more behind the obvious things in life and that they should not get betrayed by what they see in the first moment... A great lesson for life in general.
It was hard to say goodbye to all the children that probably started to like me and call me “prof” when they saw me strolling through the streets of the village. But the good thing is that the children and any new volunteer can easily go on with these workshops. I conducted the experiments with the teachers as well. I’m leaving all the materials they need at Open Windows. Now it's time to think big and wait until the first Nobel Prize goes to one of the children of Open Windows Foundation in Guatemala.
Thanks to Teresa, Luisa, all the teachers and the donators for their support. Thank you children for all the smiles you gave me. I hope I can come back soon.