Thursday, April 23, 2015

Magnetism Lab

We are finishing up Magnetism in Physical Science. I've done a lot of talking and demonstrating about magnetic force, North-seeking poles and attraction/repulsion, but the best way to learn about magnets is to actually use them. Unfortunately, my school had four magnets and I have about 90 students. What to do?

Luckily I had received some magnets in a care package a while ago-- thanks, Brandy! I've been saving them for this unit and they worked great. With the extra magnets I was able to set up four stations for the students to learn about magnets.

1) Magnetic vs Non-Magnetic Substances
2) North-South orientation in magnets
3) Attraction and repulsion between like and unlike poles
4) Effect of distance on magnetic force

I divided the class into 11 groups and brought them into the lab four groups at a time. The students in class had a homework assignment to work on while they were waiting. It ended up taking an extra period to get all the groups through, but they had an empty period today so it worked out perfectly.

One of my rules was that every student had to use the magnets before leaving the lab. I think this was the first time using magnets for many of the students. I helped them during the lab and they seemed to be getting the material. Plus they were having fun too!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

New PCVs on the way

The PC Health and Environment trainees arrived in Malawi last month. Last week they received their site assignments and went on their site visits.

Guess what-- we are getting a new PCV here in Mulanje! She will be living near the mountains, working in forestry and preventing invasive species.

I went to visit her at her new site. She lives pretty far from the road so it took a while to walk there, but the view was lovely.

It was a really fun visit. We hiked to a waterfall, picked pineapples with a grower, and checked out a tree nursery. We also cooked over an open fire (she has no electricity), made guacamole from some avocados her neighbors brought over, and just had a great time talking about this crazy thing called being a PCV. She is really fun and sweet and I'm happy she's joining our district.

With the arrival of the new PCTs, my 2014 Education group are no longer the newbies. It's fun to think how much i have learned in the time I have been here.

Cape Mac

After Camp Sky ended, most of us headed to Cape Mac for a couple days. Cape Maclear is located along Lake Malawi, southeast of Lilongwe. To access it you have to drive about 10km on a dirt road before the road becomes paved again. After about ten more minutes you start to see signs and lodgings.

We stayed at the Funky Cichlid, a nice little place at the end of the road with private rooms and dorms, a decent bathroom, and a little bar and restaurant with good food and decent prices. You are only a few meters from the water. Here is a view of the lake from the beach:

And here I am getting ready to go swimming. Because it is the lake so it is hot. I'm wearing my favorite chitenje.

Similar to Senga Bay, the lodgings are located in a village, so as you
walk to a restaurant for dinner you might see a goat amble by, and you
will pass mud brick houses with a thatched roofs. As you swim in the water, you might look over and see a woman washing her clothes or her dishes in the lake. It's kind of strange because in the village a woman would never wear shorts (and even trousers are kind of a big deal), but here you go swimming in a bathing suit in full view of the villagers. Weird.

The beach was a bit gravelly, so it wasn't very nice to walk on, but the water was clear and warm to a girl used to the Pacific Ocean. You could hire a boat to take you to the island to go snorkeling, or go jet-skiing or tubing. The costs are steep for a PCV, but for a tourist it is affordable.

Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to enjoy the water. The first night I started to feel odd during dinner, and by the next morning I knew I was sick. I spent the rest of the day either on the toilet (yes, an actual toilet!) or lying in bed, suffering from stomach pains, fever and body aches. I slept most of the day, and tried to drink a lot of water since I was dehydrated and it was very hot. The
next day I felt a lot better, but more people from my group were sick. We decided it was probably the stomach flu because so many of us got ill at different times, and we had all eaten different things.

Despite the stomach bug, I had fun at Cape Mac, and I would like to go
back. It was kind of a pain to get to, but once you are there it is
really nice.

Camp Sky Part Two

Besides academics, the students at Camp Sky did a number of other activities.

On Wednesday the US Deputy Ambassador Michael Gonzales came to speak with students. He told the students about his background coming from a poor family and how he worked hard to put himself through school and
get where he is today. He talked about the American dream and how they
should work for their own Malawian dream. This really seemed to resonate with the kids, and several of the students in my group mentioned his talk throughout the week.

Thursday afternoon we held an Egg Drop. The teams were given various
materials and instructed to build something that would protect an egg.
Then the eggs were dropped from various heights to see which device
was the most successful. It was a fun way to put their physics
knowledge into practice.

In the evenings there were different activities like a Poetry Night, a
Forensics Activity where they solved a pretend murder by comparing
hair samples, fingerprints and interviewing suspects, a Math Night
with various probability games, a screening of Romeo and Juliet (which
is part of their Form 4 syllabus) and a Variety Show. For the Variety Show the students sang and performed skits. Us PCVs got into the act too.  We did a skit about what it is like to ride a mini-bus, and we sang the US National Anthem.

Here is a student performing a song at the Variety Show:

After the evening activities we broke up into our small groups and had
Group Reflection, which was a time for the students to share about their experiences from the day, including their Highs and Lows, and reflect on the theme for the day. Then the kids went to bed and all the PCVs had a staff meeting before we went to bed.

On Friday the students did a volunteer activity where they planted
trees at the local hospital for a windbreak. Then we did a two-hour
session on goal-setting, and a wrap up for the week. Then it was time
for the Disco! The Disco was actually pretty funny. When you take the
most studious kids from each school and put them all together in one camp, you do not end up with a group of party animals. Two campers in my group asked me if they could leave early and go to their rooms to sleep.  A bunch of students were doing Physical Science homework in the corner during the disco. A lot of kids were just sitting at the tables. DJ Andrew had a tough gig trying to please the Malawian students and the PCVs. The PCVs were not too into the Malawian music (although there are a few I like), while the students were not
impressed with the American music. But there is one song that gets everyone dancing-- Malawi's "Chop my Money"!

The next morning it was time for the kids to head home. They hopped in a matola (a truck with an open bed) to be transported to the nearest bus depot. How do you get 72 students into a matola? Very carefully.

The food was great all week, especially the desserts. The staff really outdid themselves with this giant cake they made for us.

And that was Camp Sky. The days were long, but so rewarding. The kids
asked great questions, did their homework, were excited about the
labs, and were just a fun group all around. I had some great
conversations with the students about America, gender roles, science,
computers, and their goals for the future.

Thanks to everyone who donated to Camp Sky! You made this all
possible.  While PC allows PCVs to attend the camp and pays for our
travel expenses, the camp itself it completely funded by donations.
Your donations paid for the facilities, transport for the students,
classroom supplies and lab materials.

Check out the Camp Sky Blog for more photos and posts by the other
PCVs about their experiences during the week.

Camp Sky Part One

Malawian students + PCVs = Camp Sky!

Camp Sky was an amazing week! 72 students from all across Malawi came
to learn about math, english and science to prepare for their Malawi School Certificate Exam (MSCE).  There were also 8 Junior Counselors who had attended camp last year and were selected to come back and assist the new campers. Then add about 20 PCV Teachers/Counselors and you have the Camp Sky team.

This year the camp was held at Kamuzu Academy in the Kasungu District in the Central Region of Malawi. The school was closed for Easter Break so they let us use their wonderful facilities for Camp Sky. The campus had brick buildings, manicured lawns, a huge library, computer labs, science laboratories, a pool, a cafeteria and a football field. They even had a beautiful lake in the center of the campus.  It looked like a university in America.

I was a Teacher Counselor at the camp. I taught lessons during the day, and in the evenings I acted as a Camp Counselor for a group of 9 students, along with my PCV Co-Counselor Devyn and a Junior Counselor named Sinoss. Here is a photo of my group, the Bald Eagles.

I taught Biology from 7:30 to 12:00 each day with my PCV co-teachers Kade and Steph. We covered Genetics and Evolution. It was wonderful to be able to teach such small classes. We taught the students in groups of 18, so the teacher:student ratio was 1:6. We were able to provide individual student assistance and answer lots of questions. I also really enjoyed the co-teaching. It was fun to bounce ideas off each other and I received a lot of good ideas and feedback from them. Plus it was nice to have help with passing things out, erasing the chalkboard, and getting prepped for class. I wish I could teach with them all the time.

After lunch the students attended science and computer labs. I assisted in the Biology and Physical Science labs. For Biology the students were given a different ecosystem (dryland, forest or
lakeshore) and asked to come up with a bird that would be adapted for that environment based on the resources available in the habitat. Then they had to present it to the class.  Here is a group presenting their bird for the dryland habitat.

And one of their birds too:

In Physical Science lab the students did a titration.  They added NaOH to an aqueous solution of HCl with phenolphthalein indicator included. Here is one group after completing their titration.  It was only a very light pink-- a perfect titration!

More Camp Sky to come in part two...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Paști (Orthodox Easter)

Paști fericit (Happy Easter)! Today is Orthodox Easter in Moldova! Paști is the most important celebration annually in Moldova. Traditionally it is celebrated by going to church on Saturday night through early Sunday morning. Once returning home from church, masă (a meal) is served, which usually includes meat, eggs, and dairy products (because Paști marks the end of fasting from those foods).

Last night Mama-G and her son went to church for the whole night and returned at 5:30a, when we all had masă together! I went to the church around 12:45a and was home by 1:30a, when i went back to bed until Mama-G woke me up for masă. 

Church was very similar to when i went to church in Băcioi (standing, singing, holding candles), except that it was at night and people brought baskets of food to be blessed by the priest before eating it for masă. I didn't stay very long because i forgot to wear a head scarf (women are expected to wear head scarves in the church), and i didn't want to offend anyone.

Below are pictures from the Paști observance at my school.

Like in America, they decorate hard boiled eggs in Moldova too. In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches, Easter eggs are dyed red to represent the blood of Christ, shed on the Cross, and the hard shell of the egg symbolizes the sealed Tomb of Christ — the cracking of which symbolizes his resurrection from the dead.

When i got home from China last week, Mama-G had the below items waiting for me in my closet for my Easter gifts! How sweet!!

That's right, this is a mug with a built-in tail straw! :o]

When i got home after being gone again at the end of last week, Mama-G had set up an Easter arrangement for me in my closet! You can see the red-dyed Easter eggs too!

Campanie: Spunem NU fumatului!

PC requires us healthE's to do at least 1 school campaign every year. This year my partner and i did an anti-smoking campaign. It was 2 weeks long and involved many different activities, including a lesson on the dangers of smoking, anti-smoking "badges" pinned on everyone's shirts to be worn every day of the 2 week campaign, anti-smoking/dangers of smoking posters the students made that we hung up in the stairwell so everyone would have to pass by them throughout the days, anti-smoking videos, anti-smoking flyers the students made and hung up around the village - in the magazine (stores), primaria (mayor's office), biserica (church), etc, and tracings of students hand with reasons written in them of why to not smoke and hung up on the wall in the shape of a heart. 

I've never done any kind of campaign before, so it was a learning experience! I'll be more ready for it next year...this year i let my partner kinda take the reigns on it and lead the way, which was good!

The first thing we did was teach a lesson on the dangers of smoking. For the beginning of the lesson i gave all the students one of my "special" cigarettes, which they were all excited about. Then i told them to pull on the orange end, which pulled out a piece of paper with a different cigarette fact per cigarette. Then they read their facts out loud to the class. It was a very successful activity! The students really had fun with it!
Some of the facts:
- There are more than one billion smokers in the world.
- Tobacco use kills 5.4 million people a year - an average of one person every 6 seconds - 
  and accounts for one in 10 adult deaths worldwide.
- Tobacco kills up to half of all users.
- Tobacco use is a risk factor for 6 of the 8 leading causes of death in the world.
- 100 million deaths were caused by tobacco in the 20th century if current trends continue, 
  there will be up to 1 billion deaths in the 21st century.
- Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and diabetes.
- For every person who dies from a smoking-related disease, at least 30 people suffer from 
  smoking-related diseases.
- On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
- Every cigarette a person smokes reduces their life by 10 minutes.
- Cigarettes cause yellowing of teeth, skin wrinkling, and premature graying of hair.
- Smoking slows lung growth in children and adolescents.
- Almost 9 out of 10 types of lung cancer are caused by smoking.
- Smoking causes many types of cancer, including cancers of the throat, mouth cavity, nose, 
  esophagus, stomach, pancreas, kidney, bladder, and cervix, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.
- Non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work are at increased risk of 
  lung cancer by 20-30%, and their heart disease risk by 25-30%.
- A cigarette contains more than 4,000 chemicals, over 40 of which are known to cause cancer.
- 15 billion cigarettes are smoked every day worldwide.
- Cigarettes are the single most traded item on the planet, with approximately 1 trillion being sold 
  to each year.

Another part of the dangers of smoking lesson was i had the students come up to the poster below to match the chemical found in cigarettes with it's correct description. They liked this one a lot too!

Here's the stairwell showcasing the students' anti-smoking posters:

The posters 1 by 1:

And the stairwell again:

And finally the students' hands with their own reasons for not smoking:

Overall, the campaign was pretty successful and the students had fun participating! YAY!!