Ghana Together works with our Ghanaian friends of Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered and managed non-profit, to improve social, educational, and health conditions in Axim, Ghana. Together we accomplish projects, connect WHH to resourceful individuals and organizations, and create sustainable programs. We make a real difference to real people in a local, grassroots effort. Our website at tells our story.

Feb 5, 2012

JHS Science Resource Center (probably part 1—this could turn into a book...)

Well, I’ve seen a few JHS Science Resource Center classes in action now. How I wish I could just transport the many scientific types among our friends for an hour or two!

Here’s what happened Thursday. Seventy-four JHS students (one class from the Methodist School) walked up the hill to the WHH facility at about 9:00 in the morning.


Thirty-six went to the Science Resource Center, with its storeroom filled with creative and interesting materials for them to do their experiments with---their “science practicum.”

They gathered, six to a table, to learn about measuring “mass.” The classroom teacher tried to explain mass, but it kind of went by them (and me). So, they had a rock and they were supposed to estimate the “mass” of the rock and then weigh (?) the rock to determine its mass in grams. I asked one guy if mass were the pull of gravity on the rock. He said “No, that is weight. Mass is what is inside the rock.” OK, maybe it is. Darned if I know. Personally, I am not so good on science definitions!

But, the fun part came when they started to weigh the rock. (Jerome, HELP---do you “weigh” mass? Yikes, I’ve probably screwed them up already). Anyway they put the rock on the nice scales Jerome provided. I went up to one table with a seemingly solid, durable, unfinished wood top. I pulled out my camera pouch and asked them to estimate the mass in grams. They all passed it around and solemnly made what sounded like wild guesses to me. So, we weighed that. They were way off. But then we tried a bunch of items---a ruler, a notebook, a plastic beaker type thing, a basin of water...they got closer and closer to a reasonable estimate. They were very excited---remember this is absolutely new to a third year junior high class! Much giggling, teasing, clapping for the person who got the closest estimation. By the end they were “getting” the idea of estimating and then least on that day. This class has been coming since Jerome left in September and it’s obvious they are really “into” it.
I loved it that Science Room Supervisor Eric ordered everyone to put down their exercise books, put down their pens. Then, he held up his hands and said, “You may use only your hands and your minds.” They actually had a hard time doing it---they are so engrained to take incredibly detailed notes from what the teacher says and what is written on the blackboard. We carefully piled the exercise books on the end of the table, neatly, so that quelled their anxiety about losing their exercise book, which, because they have nothing much else in the way of textbooks or reference books, is their educational lifeline, literally.

One child's well-used and worn exercise book---her ticket to her future
But meanwhile, what about the other thirty-eight? They went into the “big classroom” and their Information & Computer Technology (ICT) teacher wrote down on the whiteboard what they were to learn and they copied into their exercise books: “Microsoft XP”, “Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet”, “Microsoft Word”, “Power Point”... etc. There was no computer in sight. Just these words on the whiteboard. I doubt if few if any had the faintest idea what these terms meant. Probably most have not really seen a computer except in passing and certainly haven’t touched or used one. Sigh. But, by writing the words down and being able to memorize them, they will be able to write them in their JHS exam that will be the ticket to senior high school. And once there....  After sometime, they all switched and the ICT children got to do science.

Some things need fixing. On this project, we are not at the tipping point yet, in my estimation, but we’re getting closer, thanks to the enthusiasm of the children themselves in no small part and the incredible dedication of Eric Jim, and a few other teachers. A few schools are committed, and their students just bound up the road. They are fairly large, strong children physically. Some bring food---rice mostly---in little containers and take a break to eat. But some of the schools feel the walk is too much---transportation is the ever-present challenge. James and I will be “making the rounds” as he puts it next week to the various school administrators, etc. to see what can be done. Stay tuned...I have much to learn.

There was a similar class yesterday---Saturday. Yes they come up on Saturdays, their day off, for science, and so does Eric. Give him the “Science Prize”, please someone!

Meanwhile—a correction. I was informed by a Ghanaian that the World Cup reference should have been the Africa Cup. Tonight is the game between Tunisia and Ghana for something or other in the Africa Cup. And for you Ghanaians who keep reminding me: I am WELL AWARE that Ghana beat the US in the World Cup in the past, but I have forgiven all of you for that long ago.