Peace Corps Guinea will hold its third annual STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Camp this summer. This year’s STEAM Camp has grown to accept 30 Guinean students, 12 Guinean Professionals, and 20 Peace Corps Volunteers. Guided by this year’s theme, Reinvent Your World, attendees will participate in a variety of hands-on activities, including one where they collect trash to create their own soccer nets (Soccer Nets Made Out of Water Sachets) and another where the students will learn to dye their own fabric for economic gain or self-expression (Dying Fabrics). Other activities include science experiments, resourceful art projects, and critical-thinking challenges such as a potato battery demonstration, a bridge-building competition, and a forensic science mystery activity. Guinean counterparts will lead experiments with Volunteers as assistants to enrich students’ scientific comprehension, improve self-confidence, and develop leadership skills. All materials used in the activities will be available at the village level, meaning that they will be reproducible when students and counterparts return to their home villages. Additionally, three Guinean counterparts who attended previous years’ camps will be helping with the logistics of this year’s camp, working to develop the organizational skills that will be needed to lead the camp themselves in the future. Accommodations, food, and transportation for all Volunteers, students, and counterparts will be provided.
Peace Corps Guinea’s STEAM Camp is an opportunity to bridge varying degrees of education and culture in collaboration with Guineans. STEAM Camp will focus on amplifying scientific knowledge, self-confidence, and critical thinking for as many as 30 students from 15 schools, at least half of whom will be girls. We have designed the camp in collaboration with as many as 12 Guinean professionals who work closely with their communities and/or serve in under-resourced schools across the country. With their pioneering and educational expertise, the invited teaching and entrepreneurial professionals will work with their community’s Volunteer in constructing creative, interactive lessons that incorporate and put scientific theory into practice. For the STEAM camp, community contribution goes beyond the 25% required by Peace Corps funding. These are students who are excited about STEAM topics and show an aptitude for leadership so that they can be change-makers in their own communities. Additionally, counterparts have played active roles with STEAM camp, planning activities that address problems they see in their community such as The Dangers of Smoking and Becoming Waste Management Leaders in your Communities, which teaches students how to build eco-bricks out of trash. In fact, this year all of our activities are 100% counterpart-lead, a first for STEAM camps.
While the camp focuses on the students, the Guinean counterparts have many opportunities to learn and share ideas too. The activities that they decide to present are issues or topics that they care about and have professional experience in. They work with their Volunteer to brainstorm ways to make lessons more active and hands-on to demonstrate experiential learning, which reinforces creative and effective teaching practices and encourages both Guinean professionals and students to practice these same initiatives within their communities. Additionally, the leader counterpart runs daily breakout sessions with the other counterparts. These breakout sessions are usually focused on topics such as gender in STEAM fields, using local materials in hands-on activities, or study skills to better support students where each person can share their experiences and brainstorm solutions together. In this way, the more experienced can lend advice to the others and the less experienced might present alternative ways of approaching topics. Finally, teachers will develop action plans and will be given the opportunity with adequate guidance and support to design activities for students in the form of after school STEAM clubs, STEAM mini-camps, interschool STEAM projects, programs and competitions in their communities.
Since most Guinean classrooms are disproportionately filled with boys, the fact that 50% of attendees will be girls will be a new experience for some students and teachers. This is intentional. It raises the community’s and school’s awareness of the issue of gender equity and provides both boys and girls with the equal opportunity to understand and succeed in STEAM fields. We also have female presenters to serve as role models for all attendees. Volunteers will serve as allies, focusing efforts on creating a safe space where girls are supported.