Colorado State University’s Little Shop of Physics recently took their passion for no-holds-barred science exploration to southwestern Africa.
The uniquely CSU team, laden with experiment kits, educational materials and as always, enthusiasm, spent their Christmas breaks in the African coastal country of Namibia. They were invited guests of B2Gold, a Canadian mining company with CSU connections.
Alumna a longtime Little Shop fan
Sherri Lytle, a 2000 CSU graduate with a degree in economics, is corporate social responsibility manager at B2Gold Namibia. She arranged to have Little Shop visit the newly built B2Gold Education Center, located near its mine in Otjikoto. The center includes an outdoor classroom, overnight accommodations, physics labs and a game reserve.
Lytle and her family – her three children also went to CSU – had long been familiar with Little Shop and its mission. Lytle first met Little Shop director Brian Jones when her children were in elementary school.
Lytle’s corporate social responsibility team has been busy implementing and developing sustainable projects in several areas since 2012, with the majority of their budget going towards education.
Teacher workshops, kid camps
B2Gold hosted the Little Shop team for three and a half weeks in December and January, for a series of workshops for about 75 teachers across Namibia’s Otjozondjupa region, as well as “kid camps” for about 160 younger Namibian scientists.
The workshops featured hands-on experiments exploring physical concepts like force, pressure and magnetism. The CSU science engagement experts focused on helping the teachers come up with new ways to teach these concepts, in direct connection with existing science curricula.
“The teachers here have excellent formal preparation, and are very passionate about their students,” wrote Little Shop director Jones mid-trip. “We ask them what is their biggest challenge in teaching, and they tell us it’s finding ways to engage their students, to give their students a hands-on experience, to help connect the formal learning to the real world, to find practical applications.”
The teachers left the workshops with new ideas, as well as crates of equipment to bring back to their classrooms.
Continuing the partnership
The Little Shop visit caught the attention of Namibia’s highest education leaders; officials from the Ministry of Education, including Deputy Permanent Secretary Charles Kabajani, visited and observed the Little Shop group during their teacher workshops.
Lytle said she hopes Little Shop will make Namibia an annual stop, “to continue to build and strengthen the educational level of young Namibians in the sciences,” she said.
She added: “All the Little Shoppers donated their time to this amazing cause with big hearts and wide open arms. This project was simply MAGIC!”