Anne O’Shea – Teacher and owner of Self Study Science – Science lessons that you can do at home
How did you get started? What was your inspiration and why did you want to do it?
Self Study Science was developed to help students who have limited access to education, to learn science by themselves. My target audience is refugee students, firstly because their education has been interrupted, and also because they are not always entitled to education in their new country, or the new country does not have the capacity to include them.
Their level of education prior to leaving their countries ranges from high secondary school to no education.
I record videos of myself doing the experiments, and write worksheets to help them. I aim to teach the scientific method, observation and recording observations, recording results and graphing them, thinking like a scientist and the design of a fair test.
English is not the students’ first language, but usually they can understand English better than they can read or write in English. Therefore videos with spoken English is a good starting place for their self-study.
How it all started and why I set up the website?
For the past few years I have volunteered as a teacher in the Greek islands. The students are refugees from various countries. Some live in camps, and are not enrolled in Greek schools as there is no capacity to take all of them.
NGOs run educational projects, and I worked in Gekko school in Lesvos, which was set up by the NGO Together for Better Days. In February 2020, the school was closed for safety reasons (many protests against refugees and volunteers).
In March all education facilities in Greece were closed due to Coronavirus. Recently the situation has become more unstable as the main camp (Moria) burned down and many people were homeless, had lost all their possessions and are now living in tents. Education will be put on hold for these children.
Electricity experiment: The science programme that I was following in Greece was developed by Science United Project using equipment donated by them.
How this website will work to educate?
In general, students living in refugee camps do have access to smartphones and wifi or data. Some NGOs (such as Action for Education) raise money to donate data to their students while face-to-face education is closed in their projects. Students have been supplementing their learning using the internet, outside of class time.
My goal is to reach the students through their volunteer teachers and others that interact directly with them and their families. I have used my contacts and some social media groups so far, but I could do more with this. I am part of an Educational sharing group (RefugeeEd) who meet online every so often. The coordinator of this group has shared my website with the Red Cross in Athens who work with refugees.
Technical details about my website
- Started work: May 2020
- Launched: late June 2020
- Marketing: I sent emails to my contacts in the voluntary sector, NGOs and posted to some Social Media sites: late July 2020 (Facebook only so far)
- Type of site: WordPress.com
- Time that site has been live when writing this: 2.5 months
- Budget: Self-funded. Very low-cost model – materials for teaching (such as mini whiteboard) can be reused; the website hosting fee is the only expense. It is a free website so will not generate an income and the main input is time.
- I am the sole person working on the site. A Facebook post resulted in someone offering to translate a vocabulary list into Greek.
Mistakes I’ve learnt from
- Underestimating the time to add content and make videos and edit them.
- Lack of motivation when adding content (no deadlines mean less productivity, and lots of writing can be tedious).
- Perfectionism (it will never be finished to perfection so the time to upload takes much longer). I am not happy with how I sound on the video.
Things that work for me to keep going
- Tell people your idea, who will encourage you and ask you how it is going, it’s good motivation!
- Set targets each week so that you get (at least) some of them completed.
- Keep advertising your site, and keep adding material to keep people interested.
Good results & benefits so far
- Learning how to make and edit videos is fun. Learning how to put the website together is interesting.
- I do not need to travel to educate the students.
My website goals for the future
The website is in its early stages. I launched it with only two experiments, with a view to updating weekly with new experiments.
I haven’t reached my goal yet – to communicate directly with students. A former colleague who teaches English in Cambodia was planning to use the lessons from my Facebook post.
When travel is safe again, I will travel to try to connect the site with teachers and students.
I will accept contributions from others to add to the site with content or translation of vocabulary lists. I look forward to getting feedback, especially from students.
Thanks Anne for telling us how you built your WordPress website and are developing your teaching resources. I wish you all the best and I’m sure that your teaching website will help many people all over the world learning more about science, especially in these difficult circumstances.
You can find out more about Anne, her science projects and teaching methods at SelfStudyScience.com
If you have any comments or questions for Anne please leave them below
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