Friday, June 4, 2010

Saving the World

I usually try to post at least every couple days, but I've been AWOL for a little while. Let me tell you the reason. Within a week's time, I'm going to be leaving for India. I'm going there of course to visit family, but I have a second reason as well.

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. I'll go into more detail later, but I should also let you know: I'm planning on creating a new blog for me to talk about my project while I'm there. I won't abandon this one of course, but all posts to do with that experience will probably go there (and possibly be duplicated here). More info will come when I've decided what exactly to do. Ciao for now!

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