GeoBus Without Borders
GeoBus Without Borders launched in the first week of October 2023 at the Geological Survey of Namibia (GSN) in Windhoek.
The project is based on GeoBus St Andrews – an outreach program from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of St Andrews that provides teachers with practical ideas and resources for hands-on delivery of Earth science concepts in their schools.
GeoBus Without Borders takes this successful approach to professional learning and applies it in other countries where teachers face similar challenges when delivering lessons in Earth science topics.
The courses introduce educators to low cost, engaging activities and teaching methods while connecting research, industry, and schools to highlight Earth science career opportunities using current research in teaching packages. The similarities between the school curriculum in Scotland and that of Namibia ensure that practical ideas which are successful for engaging students in Earth science topics in Scotland are suitable for use in schools in Namibia.
The Scottish-based GeoBus team of Lynn Daley and Lauren Urquhart were joined by Dr Catherine Rose (senior lecturer at the University and member of the GRIND Central Science Team) and Lola Mors (Laidlaw intern and undergraduate student from the University of St Andrews). The programme of workshops was developed in close collaboration with Josephine Uushona, Senior Geoscientist and Outreach Coordinator for GSN.
On Monday 2 October, the team delivered three workshops for members of staff from GSN to facilitate future outreach visits across the country. The following two days saw 24 teachers from across Namibia taking part in 6 workshops that introduced curriculum-linked Earth science concepts through every-day objects and experiments. Workshops included activities such as cookie mining to explain sourcing of critical minerals in the production of smartphones, cores through layered biscuits to explain geological time, and more.
The full list of workshops was: Fluvial Processes, Monitoring Volcanoes, Coring Through Time, Earthquake Building Challenge, Introduction to Plate Tectonics and Rock Powered Smart Phone.
The feedback from the teachers was overwhelmingly positive, with lots of creative ideas to transfer the ideas to school grounds and classrooms as well as to minimise costs, for example using colourful, local clays instead of playdoh for modelling of rock layers.
Josephine Uushona reflected on the experience: “As someone who aspires to communicate and educate in the field of geoscience, this workshop was truly enlightening. The exercises presented were straightforward, practical, creative, and easily relatable. They provide effective tools to simplify complex scientific concepts that often pose challenges for both learners and teachers.
“This initiative is truly remarkable and has inspired me. I now feel even more motivated to collaborate with teachers and empower them to embrace innovation, helping them discover more ways to make their lessons more engaging and comprehensible for their students.”
The three days of workshops in Windhoek were an important step to developing a network of science and geography educators across Namibia.
GeoBus Without Borders hopes to build on this network to deliver further regional workshops in Namibia to reach teachers who do not have the means to travel up to 900km to Windhoek, and to provide them with the tools to deliver low cost, hands-on activities to help students understand Earth science topics. The aim is to make GeoBus self-sustaining in Namibia before bringing these practical, interactive ideas to other countries.
GeoBus St Andrews has been running since 2012 and has reached more than 80,000 students from over 250 schools across Scotland and inspired the launch of a sister project at University College London in 2016. In 2022, the project evolved to provide high quality professional learning courses for teachers across Scotland to support them in teaching engaging and interactive lessons on Earth science topics.
None of this work would have been possible without the generous support of GRIND NEO Energy, and the Laidlaw Foundation.
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