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December 2008 - January 2009


Spotlight

Imperial College London sends its Science undergraduates to inspire poor kids in Samar (Philippines)

Five Imperial College university students were chosen from hundreds of applicants to visit and teach science and mathematics to the pupils of Balud Elementary School of Barangay Balud in Basey, Samar. Steven Chambers, a math major from Imperial, spearheaded the project through the Imperial BlueCube, a philanthropic trust he founded.

BlueCube received a grant from the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 to finance the UK students’ travel to underprivileged schools in developing regions, and help with teaching and development as part of the celebration of the centenary of Imperial College London.

The Imperial students were: Neha Obhrai (UK, Aeronautical Engineering), Emma Thompson (UK/USA, MSc Physics) Ambarish Dash (India, Maths), Adam Aziz (UK/Libya, Civil Engineering) and Kristina Östman (Sweden, Physics). They taught students various topics in an atmosphere of fun and learning. Topics ranged from learning numbers and calculations to lessons in chemistry, physics, earth science, astronomy and biology.

They brought science apparatus, gadgets and materials, which were eventually donated to the school. The lessons were rigorously prepared and reviewed for appropriateness to the learning level and comprehension of the students. The classes were highly interactive, with the children doing hands-on learning. To their delight, some lessons were approached through magic tricks by making soda cans stand on their side or pinching a balloon without bursting. They also enjoyed launching bottle rockets which flew very high as they learned physics.

The voluntary student-teachers from London also made use of the beach to teach wind, density and energy. The kids learned astronomy by acting as planets of the solar system and learned chemistry by acting as molecules. Film showing on laptops aided in teaching other subjects.

Imperial College London, which celebrated its centenary in 2007, is a renowned university that has consistently proven its relevance to the modern world by reaching out to the poorest of the poor through its science. Its research and projects have benefited those who need them most, especially in the areas of health, medicine, engineering and technology. It is no surprise that even their undergraduate students are already at the forefront of action against global problems.

Steven Chambers, the brain behind this project, epitomizes what an Imperial student should be: exceptional in the academe with a deep knowledge of global problems. He has been translating this knowledge into action by bringing Imperial's science to Samar for the past three years. He himself has been teaching there every year.

Balud Project Achievements

The Balud Project has achieved considerably in various areas of education infrastructure. There are new desks for the students, renovation of the buildings including repainting and electrical rewiring, donations of instructional and science materials, satellite dish and television carrying the knowledge channel, audio-visual materials and children's movies, books, musical instruments for its rhythm band, participation in local conferences and seminars of teachers and community leaders, assistance to its art groups (dance and drawing) and funding of its major extra-curricular activities.

The project aims for Balud School to become a model school and a center of excellence for rural elementary education.

Needless to say, the tiny pupils were always in awe at the lessons of their foreign teachers. They even requested that these teachers stay longer; they found many of the lessons interesting, informative and fun. The local Department of Education also invited teachers from the other schools to observe all the science demonstrations. Everyone learned from the activities. At the end of the lessons, some children cried when they learned that their Imperial teachers had to go back to the UK.

The Imperial teachers were not only great mentors but also role models to these young students. As one local parent said, they did not only bring the gift of knowledge, but also the gift of life, love and inspiration to the poor children of Samar.

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