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Successful Lab_13 Ghana Pilot Leads to Results in a Wellcome Trust International Engagement Award

Lab_13 Ghana, a collaborative science education project developed by the UK-based charity Lightyear Foundation and Ignite! has been awarded a £30,000  Wellcome Trust International Engagement Award. The Award provides crucial funding to fully establish Lab_13 Ghana following an extremely successful pilot project.

The Lab_13 Ghana pilot ran from March to August 2015 at Agape Academy, Jachie, Bostomtwe District, Ghana. It was largely funded via a Kickstarter campaign that, in less than one month, raised over £15,000 from 211 supporters. The project was designed in response to the pressing need for practical hands-on science education in Ghana. Practical science education is rare in Ghana and as a result children are not engaging with the subject; Lab_13 Ghana aims to challenge this by encouraging curiosity and fostering talent in Ghana’s school children.

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Lab_13 Ghana combines the science road-show approach developed by Lightyear Foundation over the last five years in Ghana, with the idea of a dedicated school space where children can explore science and learn by discovery. Lab_13 Ghana builds on the successful model in the UK, developed by Ignite!, to encourage students to think and act like scientists, as well as learning science through practical hands-on experiments. In the words of Rick Hall, founder of Ignite!:Lab_13 Ghana has taken the UK model and adapted and extended it in ways that now offer ideas about how Lab_13 could grow internationally”.

During the six month long pilot, four Scientists in Residence (SiRs), two from the UK and two from Ghana, visited 30 primary schools, involving over 700 students and 65 teachers in hands-on science lessons and workshops. The lessons were designed to answer the questions driven by the children’s curiosity and were sustainable in their use of cheap, locally available material. The workshops allowed teachers to learn the know-how necessary to implement practical examples in their science teaching plans.

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“The ability to solve problems through practical scientific approaches is a prerequisite in the development of generational leaders”, said Saviour Okine, one of the SiRs at Lab_13 Ghana. “Lab_13 Ghana gives students the opportunity to question and to experiment, it provides a space where they can harness the skills they, and Ghana, need for success, growth and positive change“.

 The pilot sparked the interest of the entire local community and has attracted a growing number of teachers, schools and local authorities to be part of the project and to help it flourish. Obed Adjei, Science Master at Future Academy, Adagya said: There has been a tremendous impact on my students from the Lab_13 Ghana project. Not only has Lab_13 helped encourage an interest in science but it has also improved the confidence levels, communication skills and practical abilities of my students.”

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Commenting on the success of Lab_13 Ghana and on the recent Wellcome Trust Award, Helen Latchem, International Engagement Advisor at the Trust, said that the project “moves beyond simply teaching science to really encouraging students to think and behave like scientists, enabling them to investigate the science questions that truly matter to them. We are delighted to support this student-led programme and continue to be impressed by the team and their commitment to ensuring that the programme will be managed locally, in Ghana, in the future.

The Wellcome Trust International Engagement Award will support Lab_13 Ghana for one year, starting from January 2016. During this time, Lab_13 Ghana will reinforce its links with the existing schools and expand its reach to new private and public schools in the region, with the idea of opening new lab spaces in other host schools in Bosomtwe and other areas of Ghana. From September 2015 to January 2016, an interim phase will guarantee continuity of the project. The second phase will be entirely managed by the in-country Ghanaian Advisory Board, with Lightyear Foundation and Ignite! giving support and guidance.

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