This July, Peace Corps Guinea will host its second annual STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Camp. During this 4-day conference, students will participate in a variety of hands-on, experiential activities led by Guinean counterparts in collaboration with volunteers in their community. Each of the 14 participating communities will select two star middle or high-school students to attend, with at least one of the students being female. Activities were designed by Guinean counterparts with volunteers to promote critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving through experiential learning. Projected activities range from science experiments to art projects and use affordable, locally-available materials to be easily reproducible in the village context. Students will design batteries from potatoes, fabricate reusable market bags to replace single-use plastic bags, and analyze the cost of malaria cases in their community. Though the planned activities span the STEAM fields, they are united by the theme of “Future Leaders”. Conversations taking place throughout the conference will be centered around shaping Guinea’s youth through innovative ways of thinking and empowering girls to pursue STEAM fields. By providing an encouraging environment conducive to learning, this camp is geared towards providing a crash course to all participants on the importance of the STEAM fields and the foundation to continue forward with them beyond the camp. Beyond benefitting the students themselves, Peace Corps STEAM Camp 2020 will serve as a platform for teachers and volunteers to exchange innovative ideas and pedagogical techniques, which will then be implemented in classrooms throughout Guinea.
The STEAM Camp is an opportunity to provide an otherwise largely absent style of education to Guinean students, in collaboration with Guinean professionals. It is centered around fostering critical thinking, self-confidence, and creativity for more than 25 star students, at least half of whom will be girls. In an effort to make the STEAM Camp sustainable and lasting, each step of the planning and the camp itself will be done in collaboration with Guinean counterparts. Each of these counterparts are educational leaders serving in under-served schools across the country, and their experience varies across all of the STEAM sectors. With this expertise and their familiarity with the Guinean educational system, counterparts are responsible for creating and leading the hands-on activities taking place throughout the 4-day camp. Beyond leading formal activities throughout the camp, they are also encouraged and given time to share their teaching initiatives, methods, and successes. This will take the form of counterpart breakout sessions focused on promoting gender equity in the classroom, incorporating hands-on learning with locally- sourced materials and teaching study skills to better support students. These breakout sessions will also provide time for counterparts to exchange information and tips to reproduce camp activities in their village’s context. Following the camp itself, counterparts are further charged to spread the lessons learned to their community. This will encourage the development of these techniques both inside and outside of the school environment. Before the end of the camp, counterparts will formulate an action plan for creating extracurriculars, inter-school projects, and other strategies to encourage the development of STEAM skills. Having worked with local counterparts for the past years’ camps, the development of this year’s camp has been planned and shaped around counterpart feedback from the previous year. Several counterparts who have participated in the previous years’ camp have been invited back, with one star counterpart serving as leader counterpart. To address gender inequity in Guinea, the camp’s requirement to have at least 50% girls ensures an equal opportunity that is often missing in girls’ education, especially within STEM fields. This sets an example for schools and communities across the country and encourages collaboration and camaraderie across the strict gender line that exists here. Furthermore, the girls in attendance will see role models in the form of both female Guinean counterparts and female Volunteers. Volunteers and counterparts will work together to create a safe space for the participating students and to encourage discussion on gender. Sessions specific on gender issues in STEAM fields will also be held.