UCA Students Build Relationships in Rwanda

A group of UCA students, faculty and Rwanda Presidential Scholars spent three weeks teaching science lessons to primary students and visiting sites of the Rwanda genocide.

The students interacted with teachers and conducted hands-on, inquiry-based science activities with fifth graders at a school in Kigali. They led several science experiments including  an activity about water molecules and an experiment about electricity . The experiments showed Rwandan teachers creative and inexpensive ways to teach their subjects.

Leah Horton, resident master in the STEM Residential College and biology lecturer, said there are plans to visit the school next year.

“We are very excited about the relationship we are building between UCA and the Intwali Primary School and plan to expand our program with them to include not only science education, but social studies and music as well,” Horton said. “… In addition to science education, there is a need to increase the reading materials available to the students in their classrooms and the library. We took several books this year and plan to continue to contribute to the literacy needs at Intwali.”

The group provided the primary school with English textbooks, leisure reading material and science education information.

Dr. Jayme Milsap Stone, director of learning communities and history instructor, said the additional need for English textbooks and leisure reading materials offers UCA students another avenue for service-learning.

“This opportunity for a long-term and sustainable relationship between Intwali Primary School and UCA’s Residential Colleges quickly became where the students have elected to focus their teaching talents next year,” she said.

Students also visited the Twa people who live in Kanembwe in northwestern Rwanda. They witnessed the many challenges the Twa people face. The students have partnered with their host, Eros Visions, to address some of those challenges. The Gusangira Project will help the Twa people develop sustainable means of preserving food through a five-year plan.

“Simple canning techniques and the construction of rocket stoves offers a blend of science and society that has the potential to transform the lives of the people of Kanembwe—a small repayment given how the people have forever transformed my life and work,” Stone said.

The study abroad trip has transformed the way Horton will instruct her classes, she said.

“My experience in Rwanda has shown me that my classes need to be more interdisciplinary,” she explained. “… I want them to understand that these classes are not hoops they have to jump through to get to the next stage in their lives. I want them to engage in their education and to understand why these concepts – from cellular respiration to conservation, from cancer development to clean water, from the central dogma of molecular biology to bioethics – are so important. An understanding and passion for the ideas and process of science – integrated with history, art, music, etc. – will put these students in the best possible positions to make positive, meaningful contributions to their own communities and communities around the world.”

Learn more about the study abroad trip to Rwanda.