STEAM Camp 2020
In July, Peace Corps Guinea will hold its third annual STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). During this conference, 32 middle and high school-aged students from 16 different communities, more than half of which will be girls, accompanied by Guinean counterparts, will participate in a variety of hands-on activities, such as science experiments, art projects, and critical-thinking challenges. Activities include jam making, bridge building, theater presentations, solar cooking, and more. Guinean counterparts, assisted by their Volunteer, will lead activities that can be easily reproduced in a village context using affordable, locally-sourced materials. Activities have been designed to enrich students’ scientific comprehension, self-confidence, and entrepreneurial skills in an engaging and safe environment. Volunteers and counterparts will strengthen their own teaching methods through the exchange of ideas and pedagogical techniques. Our measured history has shown that these techniques are then implemented in classrooms all across Guinea, improving the experiential learning opportunities in many more students than those who were in attendance at STEAM Camp. Every year since the first STEAM Camp in 2018, Guinean counterparts have been progressively more involved in helping with the logistics and planning, and we are following a 4-year plan to have the camp be entirely run by Guinean counterparts. Our long term goal is to continue to address the barriers to Guinean students—especially girls— in learning STEAM subjects.
The goal of STEAM camp is to expose students to hands-on, experiential learning in order to enrich their confidence in STEAM and overall critical thinking skills. Most Guinean classrooms do not expose students to experiential learning opportunities, making it difficult for students to fully comprehend the real-world applications of their curriculum. STEAM Camp is an opportunity for students to gain an appreciation of STEAM subjects and to enhance their learning and curiosity towards these subjects in the future, as well as to utilize their critical thinking and problem-solving skills in everyday life. STEAM Camp will motivate students to further their education in these fields and to pursue careers in STEAM. Additionally, our Guinean counterparts will also have the opportunity and the resources to express their creativity and leadership skills by planning and leading activities that they may not have had the chance to do in their community. By practicing these applications and learning from other counterparts, they will be prepared to incorporate experiential learning into their classrooms and lead others in their communities on how to do the same. This will position them as a leader and resource in their community, which will lead to a greater number of teachers being able to reach students who have varied learning styles, and inspire a greater number of students to learn STEAM concepts.
The sustainability of STEAM Camp is broken up into three main components: Guinean counterpart involvement and leadership, relationship building with local businesses, and PCV logistics team transition management. Guinean counterparts are an essential part of STEAM Camp. This year, 13 counterparts have been invited to attend STEAM Camp, a 325% increase from last year’s camp where 4 counterparts attended. All counterparts who have been invited to attend STEAM Camp are leaders and forward-thinking individuals in their communities. After counterparts have been invited to attend, they begin designing a STEAM activity with the assistance of their Volunteer. The counterparts are encouraged to take ownership of the activity and utilize their Volunteer as a resource as needed. This allows them to be fully engaged and immersed in the STEAM concepts, utilize locally available resources, consult other community members, and increases their likelihood to recreate STEAM activities in the classrooms and communities. This ensures that counterparts have the skills needed to create interactive lessons on their own within their communities in the future. Additionally, we have created a 4-year plan to transition ownership of STEAM Camp to be entirely run by Guinean counterparts. During STEAM Camp 2020, this plan includes having activities be run entirely by counterparts, having a selected leader counterpart, and creating a document in French that details how to recreate STEAM activities at site. In the upcoming years, this plan includes inviting leader counterparts to return several years in a row, employing them to help with the logistics and working with local businesses, facilitating more contact between counterparts who attended, and eventually letting counterparts take the lead while Volunteers are there to assist. STEAM Camp 2020 will be our third consecutive year hosting a STEAM Camp. Partnering with the same businesses year after year has allowed us to develop and nurture relationships with local businesses. Through these partnerships and the community's willingness to finance 25% of the project year after year, they have shown significant support for the mission of STEAM. These efforts are worth more than their monetary value, as the students can see that their community is invested in them getting a good education, and therefore invested in the future progress of Guinea. Lastly, our STEAM logistics team has been designed with sustainability in mind. While we would like for STEAM Camp to be counterpart led in the future, we see this vision several years out and therefore have been training new Volunteers on how to plan a successful STEAM Camp. We have utilized counterpart feedback to plan the logistics of this year’s camp, as well as activity preparations and budget. They are also an integral part of the daily programming of the camp.