Las Cayes, Haiti, is a city of 70,000 where only 65% of children attend school, and only half of those will complete 6th grade. Teachers lack support, resources, and training to implement any curriculum at all beyond the basics. Children grow up without access to science education, and completely without any scientist or engineer role models from their own community. Efforts by the international community to provide aid to Haiti have largely foundered because the country lacks both human and physical infrastructure. Teachers in Haiti tell us that they need help with training in current best-practice evidence-based teaching methods.
Our partner school wants to form lasting relationships with educators, scientists, and students in the nearby US in order to provide clear role models for their own students. It is next-to impossible for teachers in Haiti to enthuse their pupils about science if the kids have never personally met anyone known to have benefitted from scientific progress. Parents and families of students are eager for their children to encounter positive role models from STEM career paths. Children respond strongly to individuals with whom they can readily identify. Providing program team members who fit this description is a key element that we bring to this challenge.
Haitian elementary schools are seeking new ways to enthuse children about science, so they will grow up better able to engage the outside world on their own terms. College- age Haitian students working with advisors and volunteers from UMass Lowell have developed and tested an activity- based curriculum in astronomy, space, and earth science. The principal and faculty of our partner school in Les Cayes, Haiti are now eager to become a regional center for training teachers to implement active learning practices, and deepen their ability to teach science. The project also aims to connect US children with their Haitian peers.