Monday, June 14, 2010

Introductions Are In Order

Hello and welcome to my blog for my Global Poverty & Practice project. I'm going to repost a little bit of an introduction to what I'm doing here, so if you've already read it elsewhere, you can skip right to the last couple paragraphs.

We have a minor at Berkeley called Global Poverty & Practice. It's not like most minors. You do take your 4-5 classes, but that's not enough. You have to do a practice. Something in real life. You're supposed to go out into the world and help alleviate poverty (or at least learn about it first-hand so that you can do the real work soon in the future with knowledge of what kinds of things are going on). They encourage you to go abroad, and that's just what I'm doing.

The students in the minor are involved in a diverse range of projects, from self-led to student-run to NGO-directed, from creating crops for sustenance farming to helping medical teams service remote villages to fighting disease in urban slums. And me? I'm going to be working in education. My practice project is going to be improving science education in a couple of rural schools by making it more interactive.

Sometimes when I hear myself talk about it in comparison to all these other things people are doing, I wonder if it seems like my project is much too narrowly focused. But, to paraphrase and contextualize the Pareto principle, 80% of the problems come from 20% of the causes. You just have to pick the right 20% to fix. There was a study done in rural China that showed how the presence of a science lab in a school, even after controlling for financial differences and student self-selection, was correlated with students attending school for 1.8 more years. If a little science lab can encourage some interest and keep students in school, isn't it worth having?

At any rate, I've been working on finding/modifying/writing lab protocols, lessons, and questions for some of the simple experiments I've picked. So far, I've got a DNA extraction, chlorophyll chromatography, electrolysis, and that bullseye lab we did in Mr. Robinson's physics class in high school, as well as a few others based on things we did in biotech class. I've tried to use labs for which supplies are inexpensive and easy to find, and modified the procedures and materials where necessary to make them that way. Even if I can get more expensive equipment, I'm shying away from that, because I would like other schools to be able to implement these labs in the future if they work well.

So that's the general overview of what my project is about. I'm going to be posting mainly about the project here, so if you want other details about India and the rest of my trip, you'll have to visit my normal blog. I'm really excited for this, and I hope I'll be able to convey to you the whole experience. Enjoy the journey!


  1. Love it! You are doing something I would like to do! So, you are a hero for me! ;D
    Take care, Samata, and keep on writing your blog! :*

  2. Awwww, thanks Annamaria! I'm glad I got the opportunity to do this too :)

    I will keep writing as long as my wireless internet thingy keeps working, so keep reading! :D