Mali has been an absolutely incredible experience so far and unfortunately my time is winding down as I will be leaving Bamako in only 3 days :(. My time teaching the students at iNERDE’s Colonie de Vacances STEM has been one that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. The students are incredibly bright and very motivated to learn and they have given me a lot of personal inspiration. After seeing how well the camp has been going, and hearing how interested the local educators and students are to bring iNERDE to more schools next year, I know that iNERDE has also already inspired many people and implanted something indelible that will blossom and grow for years to come. On the horizon I truly believe that iNERDE’s program will expand rapidly beyond Mali, and, in time and with the effort of many visionary and determined Africans educators, reach country after country on the continent.
We had started my first day of teaching with a lesson on renewable energy, teaching the students about how solar, wind, and hydropower can convert energy from natural sources into electrical energy that we use to power our homes. We followed up this lesson with the theory behind how cars function mechanically. As a neat supplement to the lesson we were able to find an episode of The Magic School Bus in French (Le Bus Magique) that had the characters traveling through the different components of a car and explaining how everything worked. The students loved it.
As a challenge that afternoon, we made the students put on their engineer thinking caps and build a solar-powered toy car. Later that night, we had a student, Mohamed Sogodogo, come stop by Mohamed Kante’s house here in Bamako. Sogodogo (as he goes by) was so interested in the solar cars that we had learned about earlier that day that he wanted to come by and learn more about them. I felt inspired by his intense desire to learn, having walked a long way to Mohamed’s house for the sole purpose of furthering his knowledge. We gathered together some parts from the cars that we had built that day and allowed Sogodogo to bring them home over the weekend to explore his engineering creativity. Sogodogo has told me that when he grows up he wants to not only be a computer engineer, but a journalist as well. He is going to be a busy guy!
Outside of the classroom we have been very busy as well. Just this past weekend we attended a meeting with a group of teachers and students from the Marcina region of Mali. They had heard about iNERDE and wanted us to come discuss our mission and share our vision with them. We were expecting a small sit down meeting with maybe three or four individuals from their group. We arrived outside a lecture hall at the Université de Bamako. There were about 75 people sitting behind a row of tables towards the front. I thought to myself, “Oh, we’re going to be attending a lecture or a group meeting”. I had never imagined that simply through word-of-mouth 75 people would show up to hear about iNERDE. It was mind blowing. The group was intrigued by our vision and expressed great eagerness to have iNERDE teach at their schools next year.
The sights of Mali have been unforgettable. Last weekend we traveled to the local market to buy food for the coming weeks. Think of downtown Manhattan and its bustling streets and that is what the market is like (except replace the skyscrapers with produce and meat stands, and the cars with motorcycles). I have never seen more people running around in such a small spot in my life! “Grocery shopping” here is a little bit different than what I have been accustomed to in the United States. Usually it takes me about an hour, at most, an hour and a half, to go grocery shopping. Here food shopping is a marathon (and I just ran one, so I’m not exaggerating). It was a hectic, but amazing experience.
I haven’t kept up my daily routine of running, but I haven’t missed it. Aside from my marathon trip to the market, the students have been giving me plenty of running to do. During a lunch break this past week we taught the students the classic game “Duck, Duck, Goose” – a new experience among many in their iNERDE STEM summer camp. They loved it and they love to play it tirelessly!