Global Citizens of Canada is a series that highlights Canadians who dedicate their lives to helping people outside Canadian borders. At a time when some world leaders are encouraging people to look inward, Global Citizen knows that only if we look outward, beyond ourselves, can we make the world a better place.
Growing up in the Philippines, Dr. Mayrose Salvador saw the effects of drinking dirty water firsthand.
“You drink from ... the river and [when you get sick] you blame the spirits,” she told Global Citizen. “It’s [actually] the microbes.”
And that is one of the reasons she founded the Toronto-based charity Pueblo Science, an organization that works to improve science education around the world.
“I believe that science education is a long-lasting way to solve poverty and problems that the populations in those rural areas are currently facing,” Salvador said.
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Salvador used the issue of clean drinking water as an example because it’s something that affects many countries in development.
“If you can get those kids thinking about those kinds of problems and where they’re coming from, then you get them to think of solutions as well as identifying the problem and avoid the cost of it.”
Pueblo Science doesn’t use vague scientific ideas to train their teachers.
In fact, their approach is all about developing teaching science kits that are affordable and locally available. They provide training to teachers on how to use those kits in the classroom.
“Sometimes we do teach them how to make ice cream or extract essential oils from local plants, then they can use that to put food on the table,” Salvador said. “You show them that they can do chemistry/physics experiments without fancy equipment, just using what’s available around them.”
Salvador said that some teachers have even started making ice cream with local flavours to sell to the community. Teachers have raised funds for their schools or sold ice cream to supplement their income. Best of all, they’ve used this experiment to teach science to their students.
Now 38 years old, Salvador said that she would visit the Philippines every year and the education seemed the same as it was when she was a child.
“It was about time that we did something to change that,” she said.
So Salvador and her colleague Dr. Cynthia Goh started Pueblo Science.
The idea came about when Salvador was participating in a program offered in the Impact Centre (formerly Institute for Optical Sciences) at the University of Toronto. The program, Techno, helps grad or post-doc students transform ideas generally related to sciences to market. Salvador had wanted to give back to the Philippines for a long time.
Results from the survey ‘Out-of-School Children and Youth in the Philippines’ released by the Philippine Statistics Authority revealed that about 4 million Filipino children and youth were out of school in 2013.
Out of the 4 million, 22.9% had been married, another 19.2% reported insufficient family income as reason for not sending children to school and 9.1% were not interested in attending school.
It was during the Techno program that Pueblo Science figured out that if they trained the teachers, they would able to create a more sustainable change and ultimately change the way science education was being taught around the world.
Scott McAuley works with the Impact Centre and has known Salvador for many years.
“I think her take on science education is pretty unique, the focus on training the teachers I think is very important, as well as the focus on making the science accessible through hands-on experiments,” he told Global Citizen.
Pueblo Science starts by creating a curriculum in partner with education ministries. Next, they train their volunteers in Canada who are usually experts in the field. Then, they travel to their destination where they set up shop for three days.
They convene in the most central location and generally train between 120-140 teachers. The emphasis of the training is on the pedagogy, as well as how to do activities, where to find materials and how they can get them in their local communities. Salvador says they make it a lot of fun.
McAuley has worked as a volunteer for Pueblo Science too. He visited the Philippines with them a few years ago.
“The teachers really get into it. It’s a lot of fun. And some of the hands-on demonstrations — they love it. It’s fun. It was a really cool experience.”
Over the past seven years Pueblo has delivered their teaching workshops across the Philippines, Thailand, been to India and Bolivia, Guyana and Jamaica to over 2,800 teachers.
Right now, Pueblo Science has not yet evaluated the full impact of their science education programs, but the difference they are making in some ways is already evident.
“You do get the report directly from the teachers that it’s making an impact in their community. It’s getting the students excited and asking for more of those kinds of activities,” Salvador said.
She also added that they’ve gotten reports from the ground that teachers are now creating their own kits, as well as training other teachers that have not attended the Pueblo Science program, which is one way to make a more sustainable impact.
One of their goals is to make it sustainable in each country they visit. And they are looking to expand.
Global Citizen campaigns on education in a variety of ways. Just like Salvador, you can take action.