Science allows me to look at approaches to solve the real-world problems

  I become excited when I read of young global citizens coming up with inovative solutions to a global issue affecting people. Here’s an example fg a positive outcome driven by the inspiration of a student barely out of primary school.

HIGHLANDS RANCH, COLO. — In many ways, Gitanjali Rao is a typical 11-year-old: energetic and chatty, with a smile that lights up her face. She can also talk easily about carbon nanotubes, Arduino processors, the reactions between lead acetate and chloride, and how to think through a long-term design process – from concept to experimentation and building. Plus, she’s driven to come up with real solutions to big problems.

Last month, Gitanjali earned the top prize at the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge. She invented a portable device that can test for lead in water, which she presented to a panel of scientists and school administrators from around the country.

Project Sparked By Water Crisis In Michigan

The city of Flint, Michigan, has been facing a water emergency because there was too much lead in its water. This story inspired her work.

Kathleen Shafer is a researcher in plastics technologies at 3M, a company that makes thousands of different products, from post-it notes and scotch tape to medical devices and software. Shafer was paired with Gitanjali over the summer as a mentor. She says that Gitanjali has a “passion for making a difference through her innovation.”

Inspired To Solve “Real-World Problems”

For Gitanjali, coming up with an innovative solution is the reason science is her favorite subject. “Science allows me to look at approaches to solve the real-world problems out there,” she says.

Gitanjali focused on water testing as she learned more about the situation in Flint, Michigan. She heard about how limited the options were for people to determine if their water was contaminated.

“I hadn’t thought about creating a device until I saw my parents try to test for lead in our water,” Gitanjali says. “I realized it wasn’t a very reliable process, since they were using test strips.” Some strips labeled their water as safe and others showed that lead was present. The more accurate option was both expensive and time-consuming. It involved collecting samples and sending them to be looked at by professionals.

“I wanted to do something to change this not only for my parents, but for the residents of Flint and places like Flint around the world,” says Gitanjali.

Brainstorming The Best Solution To Problem

She started with brainstorming. She quickly realized that her initial idea – coming up with a way to remove lead from water, possibly by finding a bacterium that could remove it – wasn’t very practical and might introduce other hazardous chemicals into water.

She stumbled onto the idea of carbon nanotube sensors – chemical sensors at the atomic scale – after reading about them on a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) website. She discovered an article about how useful the sensors are for detecting hazardous gases. When an atom loses or gains an electron, it becomes an ion. This means it has a positive or negative electric charge. These ions are put into the tiny nanotubes with certain gases in them. The ions and the gases then interact, combining together to form compounds, which can be tested.

A Work In Progress For Girl

The article got Gitanjali thinking. Why couldn’t she use the same idea to test for lead in water? She started researching carbon nanotubes as well as the properties of lead and what sort of chemical would react with it. She also considered options to receive and transmit the data before settling on an Arduino processor, a programmable computer chip.

Gitanjali then moved from brainstorming to experimentation. She decided on lead acetate as the most common compound of lead found in water and chloride as the ion she would introduce to react with the lead acetate. Also, she chose to work with “buckypaper,” a thin sheet made from carbon nanotubes that she could fold and cut. Gitanjali then started making the first model for her project.

Device Named After A Greek Goddess

The result: Tethys, named for the Greek goddess of fresh water. It’s a small blue housing that Gitanjali built using her school’s 3-D printer. It has computer chips and a battery inside, a disposable cartridge that can be dipped in water, and a Bluetooth device that transmits the data to a phone. A free app, which Gitanjali designed with support from her computer science teacher, gives instant results.

The process wasn’t always easy, though, and that’s what Gitanjali says she emphasizes most to other children who might want to invent or innovate. Failure is part of the process. “Failure is just another step to success,”she says.

A  Few Roadblocks Along The Way

In the course of developing Tethys, Gitanjali hit numerous roadblocks. But Shafer, her 3M mentor, helped with developing the device and cutting her presentation down to five minutes, which Gitanjali says was a challenge.

Shafer notes that she’s a big fan of competitions like this one, because they make connections between children and working scientists. It allows students to envision what a career could look like and see that scientists aren’t one-dimensional.

11-Year-Old Also Awarded $25,000 cheque

Gitanjali is quick to credit not only her teachers with helping her, but also her parents, who she says have constantly supported and encouraged her “crazy ideas.”

Along with the honor of winning the competition, which is open to fifth- to eighth-graders, Gitanjali received a check for $25,000, which she plans to use to further develop her device and get production started (her goal is for it to be commercially available within a year). She also wants to donate to the Children’s Kindness Network and save for college.

She already has big plans for the future, studying diseases and genetics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge.

For now, she’s already thought of the next challenge she wants to try to solve: the growing problem of adolescent depression. And she has a working concept for what she wants to create. She calls it a “happiness detector.”

Newsela

http://bit.ly/2AW6Y48

BUMS HIGH RANK SUBMISSION TO CLIMATE CHANGE REVIEW 2017

Source: BUMS High Rank Submission to Climate Change Review 2017

Sometimes highly politicised issues need another platform to allow us ordinary folk to digest the nitty gritty, the base elements that affect us all.

Coral Bleach, on behalf of the Billionaires United Mining Service, writes for those who know that climate change is real and affects people, not just ordinary people but those in the 1% of the world’s population who garner most of the world’s wealth.

“This is a paradigm example of coal investile dysfunction”

“We will @TurnbullMalcolm, but only if the research focus is on to protect our effluence!”

Follow Coral @TheCoalDiggers for more incite and illuminating discussion

What makes a great global project?

As part of Global Leadership Week I’m took my first steps to enter the real time world of connected learning.

I was to start a Twitter Chat on Global Projects  using the hashtag @globalprojects   

Now if you’ve hosted a real time chat you’ll know that countdown time is quite a tense one.  Is everything in place. Will I sound cool? Will I have followers?

But just 15 minutes before my start time I decided to search my hashtag.  Yes, it had already been used, which meant I’d be bringing people into the discussion who would have no idea what I was doing. Mad rush to change that hashtag to … #glopro  This one sounded on trend! Continue reading

Switched on Schools

Being the change you wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhil.

Two schools across the country are showing leadership in environmental ansd sustainable change. Agents of societal change, students from Freemantle Senior High School and Melbourne Girls College are partnering with local community, influencing policy makers and through change leadership, are intrinsically motivated to make a difference. Pedagogical transformation to an otherwise outdated and uninspiring curriculum has led these students to deeper learning and more ambitious expectations about their own future.

In 2012, Freemantle SHS became the first Carbon Neutral High School in Australia by reducing their fossil fuel use, implementing renewable energy projects and capturing carbon emissions through tree planting and using a ‘whole-school’ approach and with the help of community partnerships, Freemantle SCS, cut their carbon emissions by over 15% in the first three years of the Carbon Neutral Project.

Watch their video: Champion, audit, partner, action, repeat 

With the aim of making their school carbon neutral

Melbourne Girls’ College is an award winning sustainable school, proudly partnering with the City of Yarra with the ambition to be Carbon Neutral by 2020. MGC is the 2015 recipient of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, receiving funding to put plans into action and now boasts an interactive PV solar array, pedal and ergo generators, a microhydroturbine and solar powered seal fountain with a strategy to reduce energy use to achieve their goal.

I had the pleasure of visiting Melbourne Girls’ College during a student led sustainability conference late last year. The passion, co-learning and collaborative culture among students from a number of schools involved in the conference was inspiring.

The MGC students also held an action to celebrate their school’s pledge and send a message to decision makers to follow their lead and power all schools and Australia with 100% renewable energy !

Huge congratulations to the MGC environment team, students, staff and parents for leading the way and adopting the pledge !

Victorian schools are encouraged to adopt renewable energy practices with the help of Sustainability Victoria, but so far none have achieved carbon neutral status.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training said two-thirds of schools’ total energy use was consumed outside of school hours. It also estimated that as much as 40 per cent of all energy use in schools is not essential.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What is most impressive is that both schools have leadership teams that enable student led deep learning.  The students experience the CNP at South Fremantle SHS in all learning areas. It is embedded deeply in the school curriculum, for example in sustainability themes in Science, Marine and Ocean, and Earth and Environment studies. It is embedded in qualifications such as our students’ achievements and hands on experience in conservation through endorsed community programs such as the Rio Tinto Earth Assist Program. It is equally embedded in community service; since 2008 South FreemantleSCS students have propagated and planted over 29,000 trees in the school grounds, in the Wheatbelt and in bush-fire affected Toodyay via our ‘Seed to Tree’ project.

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

By involving students in deep learning they become active in caring for our planet’s future, applying their learning in meaningful ways inside the school and outside in the community. South Fremantle SHS is one of only two schools in WA nominated to participate in STELR, a national initiative that encourages students’ participation in Maths and Sciences with a particular focus on renewable energy. Twenty one students attended the 2013 Australian Youth Climate Coalition Event – ‘Start the Switch’ workshops, mentoring and training in sustainability leadership.

It makes me so proud to know that young people are doing great things to make positive change in their schools and communities. These are the global citizens of tomorrow, TODAY.

Taking climate action: Global Goal 13:

What is Global Goal 13?

“Climate action” sounds like a vague term. But it basically means doing your part to keep the planet clean and healthy. Ok, still not clear?

Channel your inner hippy for a moment… Continue reading

The A in STEAM and climate change. 

We are hearing much about STEM but I’m advocating for the rightful inclusion of the Arts and a place for STEAM.

I am wanting to hear from schools where leadership and educators have supported their learners to respond artistically to the issues surrounding climate change.  This may be in the form of the visual arts, music, theatre, dance, literature and or cinema.

Hoping to be proven wrong, it is my feeling that educators do not highlight climate change in the curriculum.  It’s not a hot topic (pardon the pun).  Traditionally slotted into the curriculum under Science and Geography, many educators are insufficiently informed, too fearful of tackling what they see as a controversial topic or both.  The links to many issues of global significance can be traced to the warming of the planet.

In the sphere beyond the classroom I’ve come across a group called CLIMARTE and a theatre troupe called ClimActs.

CLIMARTE’S mission is to harness the creative power of the arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change.  Climarte will present their ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 festival which will run from 19 April to 14 May 2017. 

ClimActs is an Australian theatre troupe playing a role of peaceful protest to support demands for social justice and human rights.  Using striking spectacle as well as satire to communicate and educate on the urgency of climate change, each act has been carefully created to address an aspect of the climate debate. For instance, the Climate Guardians represent selfless and fearless care and guardianship, the Coal Diggers epitomise the recklessness and insatiable greed of vested interests.

The Climate Guardian Angels in peaceful protest at the COP21 talks in Paris 2015

 

School leaders and educators, don’t forget the A in STEAM and broaden the opportunities for young people to find their voice and respond to the concerns of their generation.

Don’t forget to contact me if your school is already taking this approach.

 

Marilyn Snider is an Australian global education activist who promotes a dynamic, self-directed approach where learners explore real world issues and challenges whilst delving into deeper and more satisfying conceptual understandings. Creativity, critical analysis and action are hallmarks of her work. www.bethinkglobal.com.au

 

 

Raising the roof with recycled rubbish

 

In 2016, I visited NGO Husk’s community and school hub in Kompheim, Cambodia where I worked with local people in the sewing room and classrooms. Fiona and Anthony Jaensch warmly welcomed our group and shared the programs for building well being, literacy, financial skills and environmental conservation.

In an article written by Kezia Parkins and published in the Phnom Penh Post, Fiona and Anthony tackle environmental and societal issues in partnership with the local community. 

Continue reading

Doing, Sharing and Learning

I’m heading down a different path today.

kogo

KOGO which stands for Knit One, Give One, started out as a small group who wanted to knit for others. In the first year, 180 scarves were knitted and distributed to those experiencing homelessness. Enabling others to be protected from the cold and to experience the self worth that comes from being valued, the group has grown over  to over 5000 knitters and crocheters in 12 years.  They come from all walks of life and they vary in age – the youngest being an 11 year old girl and our oldest being over 100.  In 2015, the not-for-profit organisation distributed 65,500 hand knitted winter woollies to the most vulnerable in our community through 250 community partner organisations.
What’s the point of ALL this?

Let me give some background…

Caritas Australia calls upon Catholic Social Teaching to guide its work.  No human being should have their dignity or freedom compromised.  The common good is reached when we work together to improve the wellbeing of people in our society and the wider world. 

The Global Perspectives Framework highlights global values and attitudes and mentions a commitment to upholding the rights and dignity of all people and maintaining a sense of personal identity and self esteem.

Partnerships for action work best when those whose skill base can be shared, find those who will gain value from that skill.  Generosity of effort can make an immeasurable difference to someone else.  The benefits are mutual.

In KOGO’s work, the principles of ‘the dignity of the person’ and  ‘the common good’ apply. KOGO’s values are global values and action starts right at their own front door.

 

 

 

 

 

Aha Hardy

Many months ago I came across a TED talk by Elora Hardy.  I marvelled at her attitude to designing stuctures in bamboo.

Magical houses made of bamboo   Take a look at this inspiring TED TALK
Elora Hardy’s designed her dream house was when she was nine.
She shares the potential of bamboo, as both a sustainable resource and a spark for the imagination.

Elora’s housebuilding a sustainable future

Then months later a friend was inspiring me with talk of our proposed visit to Bali and a visit to Green School.  We checked out a TED talk about this unique school built by John Hardy but still the penny hadn’t dropped.

You know when you have that AHA moment.  Well that happened!!

John is Elora’s father.

 

 

 

 

Should we apply the system of Gacaca to bullies in schools?

An experiment in justice

The national court system was unable to handle the aftermath of trialling perpetrators following the genocide in Rwanda.

Another system hand to be found to supplement the overcrowded justice system.  Rwanda embarked on an ambitious justice and reconciliation process at grassroots level with the ultimate aim of all Rwandans once again living side by side in peace.

The Rwandan government in 2005 re-established the traditional community court system called “Gacaca” (pronounced GA-CHA-CHA).

Watch this video and decide whether the principles of Gacaca could be applied to handling bullying in schools.

Gacaca: the people’s court