Tell us about yourself.
Hello, my name is Angelina Zhang. I am a rising sophomore at Wellesley College and as of right now, my plans are to major in chemistry and political science. My interest in chemistry started in high school because of an amazing high school teacher. I am lucky to have had a good foundation and the Wellesley chemistry professors have only added and expanded upon that. My interest in political science stems from my interest in domestic and international affairs. I think it is important to be aware of both how the events happening around us impact us and how our choices impact those around us.
Is this the first time you have been outside of the US? If not, where have you travelled to?
The last time I’ve traveled outside of the United States was when I was twelve. My family had just received our Green Cards after twelve years, so they decided it was finally time to visit our relatives in China. I have though, lived in six different states in the United States and have had the opportunity to travel to different places within the US.
What prompted your interest in working with The Exploratory?
I have always been invested in fostering an interest in STEM in younger students. In high school, I was part of an organization called SciNOW. Statistics showed that there was a declined interest in science and math as students moved from elementary (primary) to middle (junior high) and then to high (secondary) school where interest was the lowest. SciNOW’s mission was to tackle that problem by fostering and sustained interest in STEM from the elementary level. So, as high school club members, we started science clubs in elementary schools in our district that emphasized hands on activities.
Working with elementary school students is very eye opening. They are filled with so much potential because they are still enthusiastic, less aware of the bureaucracy of the school system, and genuinely curious. The kids I worked with learned the answers to their questions and then asked more.
The Exploratory’s statement STEM + Love = A Better World resonates with me because I think it’s true. With science and math, people are able to design and create things that help solve problems and build communities. It teaches you how to look at things from multiple perspectives and how to work with people. The work the Exploratory is doing by providing resources and training to students and teachers and emphasizing active participation through experimentation, is something that I think is important.
What were you working on with STEMKit this past year?
I am part of the Chemistry Curriculum Team. As part of that team, we worked on reworking some of the chemistry curriculum to fit a be more picture based (pictocals) instead of English based. That way, language would become less of a barrier in using STEMKits. I was also part of the group that redesigned and built the kits for this summer. This past school year, we were also supplying a numerous amount of kits to organizations in Nigeria along with Alaska, so we had to create a product that was portable and usable. Of course, after this summer, I look forward to adapting the kits to include the information that I have learned in my stay in Nsawam.
What do you hope to gain from this internship?
I wanted to see the Exploratory clubs in action and get a sense of how the kits we were making at Wellesley were actually being used by the teachers and students the kits were supposed to serve. While working with STEMKit over the school year, a lot of the work we were doing felt abstract because I was not really sure what would happen to the kits. A lot of things look and feel good in the lab, but when they are actually implemented, they change in ways that can be unexpected. Being able to take part in this internship will really help me contextualize all of that.
I am also interested in learning about K-12 education system outside of a Western perspective. I have an idea of what a version of primary and secondary education looks like and I know that it is not the same elsewhere.
On a personal level, I have never really had an opportunity to travel outside of the United States before and I really wanted to experience something new and perhaps slightly outside of my comfort zone. I want to be more comfortable navigating and engaging with people in situations I am not used to. Furthermore, I am eager to experience all the culture that Ghana has to offer. As nerve wracking as it is to be in a new place, it is also exciting. I am looking forward to learning about Ghana from the students, teachers, neighbors, and Exploratory staff.
What are your experiences and impressions of Ghana so far?
One thing is for certain, the people are friendly, and the view is beautiful!
Everyone greets each other with a ‘good morning’ and ‘good afternoon’, even to strangers on the streets. The people we have met, the Exploratory Team (Priscilla, Saviour, Christian, and Favor), Portia and her family, and all the teachers and students at the different schools, have welcomed us with open arms and bright smiles. Priscilla, especially, has been a gem. She has helped us navigate our way through Nsawam and teach us about Ghana and her culture. Without her, I would definitely be really, really lost.
I have also enjoyed a few Ghanaian dishes such as banku, fufuu, and jollof, which are all delicious. The tilapia on the street corner is both tender and full of flavor. Priscilla also makes an amazing sobolo drink that’s perfect for a hot day.
Of course, one cannot experience Ghana without riding a trotro (a mode of public transportation).
However, the highlight of it all is meeting all the teachers and the enthusiastic students. One of the exploratory clubs in Accra greeted us with songs and chants. They were curious, excited and ready to learn. I also am astonished by the teachers who have dedicate so much time and effort towards keeping their science clubs running. It’s always humbling when talking to these educators because it is so easy to see just how much they care about their students. It makes me extremely grateful for the devoted teachers and professors that have helped me through in my education.
What do you plan to accomplish in the next few weeks?
So far, we currently have plans to teach the STEMKits in both a primary and junior high school in Nsawam. With this these students, we hope to be able to experience what goes on in a classroom and how the students utilize the kits. If scheduling works out, we hope to do the same with a school in Pokuase as well. For the students in schools we are unable to engage in directly, we are hoping to show the teachers of the Exploratory clubs how to use the kits and provide the supplies to them as well.
Emma and I have also realized that while our kits are appropriate for the primary level students, they are lacking in JHS subjects. We are hoping that the JHS teachers will help us come up with topics they would like to see potentially future STEMKits. With those topics, we hope to outline a few experiments to present to them in the teacher training in August. With their feedback, we plan to create and update experiments to fit the needs of the JHS students better.