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What is TASTE?

We are a charity aiming to transform science education in rural Uganda by giving students the chance to perform experiments in lessons.

On this site you can find out why this is important, and how our mobile teaching laboratory will help to improve the situation.

Latest news

World Science Day 2014

The team at TASTE are really excited by this year’s theme for UNESCO’s World Science Day for Peace and Development: Quality Science Education: ensuring a sustainable future for all.

Our mobile science lab brings practical science education to 1400 students in rural Uganda, who would otherwise be limited to learning by rote words on a blackboard. Engaging, high-quality science education is essential for the sustainable development of any country, because it allows young people to aspire and grow up to be engineers, doctors, researchers or inventors.

Sustainability is one of our key principles at TASTE, so in support of this year’s World Science Day, we wanted to share three ways that we commit to making our impact as sustainable and wide-reaching as possible:

1. Capacity building, not aid

teacher training stopwatch

We do not donate science equipment or money directly to schools. Instead, we visit schools with our well-equipped mobile lab and trained, enthusiastic staff, who can engage both students and their teachers with our lessons. We visit each school around ten times a year to deliver jam-packed lessons, workshops and mock exams. Through these we are building up a relationship with teachers and students over time. This ensures that the results of our work do not end when we leave a school at the end of the day.

We also provide regular teacher training workshops for free,  introducing teachers from our partner schools to the TASTE practical lessons we would be teaching for the upcoming term. Many teachers that we work with have very little experience of practical science, and they value this opportunity to develop their own skills and experience in a way that can benefit their students. In the picture above, TASTE’s lab assistant John Kasujja shows Hakiza Francis, a biology teacher, how to read a digital stopwatch.

2. Giving girls the same opportunities

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Why is gender equality in science important? Why particularly in Africa? Although many Ugandans are strong advocates for gender equality, there is still a long way to go – particularly in scientific fields. While interviewing a candidate for the post of TASTE teacher, we asked how he would ensure that girls are fully included in our lessons. His reply was that there was no need, because girls are naturally not good at science. Unfortunately his view is not an uncommon one in Uganda.

So what are we doing about it? We focus on gender equality in all aspects of our work. For example, our teachers and lab assistants are trained to alternate between girls and boys when asking students to speak in class. All of our staff are encouraged to actively challenge gender stereotypes if they are brought up in our lessons. Recently the UK government launched a campaign encouraging girls into maths and physics, Your Life,  which TASTE would like to see replicated in Africa.

For now, TASTE lessons are interwoven with applications to the Ugandan daily life so that everyone can relate to them. For example, most Ugandan children help their families with cooking on charcoal stoves and are therefore familiar with the concept of heat. We draw on this for our first year lesson on conduction and insulation, linking experiments to safety tips in the kitchen. We also hold career workshops bringing together students from different schools. There is strong evidence in the recent King’s College London ASPIRES report suggesting that to be able to appreciate science, young people need to know what careers science can offer them. Our careers speakers also draw on their own experiences, explaining  how science gives people transferable skills useful for many careers, not just in science.

3. Open and replicable

We are committed to sharing all our resources freely – whether it is logistical information about how to run a mobile lab, maps of the local area, or the lesson plans for our practical syllabus.

If you have ever heard of off-road driving, there you will have an idea of what we mean by off-the-map teaching. TASTE teaches at schools that are not on Google Map or even known to the local education authorities. They are only usually known by local villagers and TASTE found them through word-of-mouth and a motorcycle.  So that the whole world knows about them, we continue to share information about these schools as well as adding their GPS coordinates to OpenStreetMap.

With a simple model that enables different schools to use the same resources and expertise, TASTE is ultimately an idea that we encourage others to take up to help their local area.  All you need is a science truck, science teachers and a vision for boosting an  economy by developing its people’s skills, knowledge and aspiration. Like a sister version of the Institute of Physics’ Lab in a Lorry for the UK, this can set a new growth in science education for the whole of Africa. We also often get emails from different African countries asking for tips on how to run a mobile lab, and we tell them what we know. See one of our partner schools’ head teacher Samuel on TASTE for a candid account of how we began.

To enable this growth, TASTE is preparing to publish our lesson plans online as open data.  We pride ourselves on lessons that are not only tailored to the challenges of a developing country, but also illustrate scientific theory, instruct on scientific thinking and inspire tomorrow’s leaders. To do this, we work with qualified teachers, professional scientists and sister charities such as the LightYear Foundation.  As we are continually improving our lessons to better engage young people facing ‘third world problems’, we are always looking out for ideas, supporters and volunteers. Do get in touch – info@tasteforscience.org

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A TASTE tea-party!

Chloe Vince has recently joined TASTE as part of the new volunteer team. She has been fundraising by holding a charity tea party for friends and family.

When it came to coming up with fundraising ideas for TASTE, the obvious answer was to start in the tastiest way we know how… baking!

At the beginning this month we held the first (of possibly many more!) TASTE tea-parties. After many evenings of frantic whipping, dipping, mixing and baking ahead of the day, we sat down with our family and friends on a Saturday afternoon to a delicious array of cakes, scones, sweets and sandwiches.

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We asked all of our guests to donate to charity what they thought the afternoon was worth, and with huge thanks to our very generous family and friends, we managed to raise a grand total of £275. An afternoon very well spent!

We will be launching some ‘how to’ packs in the next few months with some hints and tips of how you can run your own fundraising events at home or at work, so do keep your eyes peeled for updates. In the meantime, let us know any fundraising events you have had – we would love to see your pictures! Send them to us on Facebook or Twitter @tasteforscience.

Welcome to the new TASTE team!

A lot of changes have been happening at TASTE-HQ in the last few months, and we are looking forward to catching you up with all our new developments over the coming weeks. The first big announcement to make is that we have now finished recruiting for our first ever ‘brand-new-and-shiny’ executive team!

A number of the original trustees for TASTE have come to their penultimate years of their demanding PhDs and have left the trustee board so they can focus fully on their studies. The remaining trustees, Amy and Lina, have since been busy recruiting for a new executive team to take TASTE forward.

So without further ado *drumroll please* voila! … Here is the brand new team!

 

The new team members come from really diverse backgrounds, from finance to marketing, and from fundraising to teaching, with each member contributing their own expertise and skills to the future of TASTE. The one thing they all have in common however, is the shared vision of our work; ‘to create a generation of scientifically literate and enthusiastic school leavers with the potential to transform Africa.’

The first-ever new team meeting took place this weekend at the Southbank Centre. Unfortunately two of the members could not make the meeting, but the rest of us spent a really successful afternoon plotting and scheming about our future plans. We are really looking forward to sharing these plans with you – as well as everything else we discussed – on the blog over the next few weeks. We have also been fundraising in a really tasty way (hint!) so be sure to keep checking back to find out about everything that has been going on!

Biochemistry, Brains and Baganda

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The Biochemical Society is a learned society that brings biochemists together to foster collaboration. Education is a major part of the society’s mission and it has been a significant supporter of TASTE, contributing towards our initial costs last year, and recently confirming a grant to help us run the programme for longer.

Students attending the A* Masterclass. Photo credit: Jane Thomson

Students attending the A* Masterclass. Photo credit: Jane Thomson

But the society’s support for science education in Uganda goes beyond simply making grants, it also runs the A* Science Club scheme, designed to provide an outlet for enthusiastic students’ scientific passions.

We were fortunate to be able to help out at one of their “A* Masterclasses” earlier this year, run by Dr. Nick Dixon and Jane Thomson. The subject? Neuroscience and the brain.

Students see what a real (goat) brain looks like

Students got the chance to look at an actual (goat) brain

It featured a talk from Professor Sadiq Yusuf, who teaches the neurogenetics of Drosophila at Kampala University, as well as many hands-on activities designed to get students thinking about how our brains really work.

We could tell that students really enjoyed the day of science, and that these science clubs are making an important contribution to science education in Uganda. We hope to be able to continue to collaborate with this exciting program. You can read more about the day over on the BiochemSoc Blog, and some more background to the project in this article.

Today, we have a guest post with the Biochemical Society describing some of our work so far and the challenges we face. Have a look!