WRITTEN BY SHERI BASTIEN
ON LEG FIVE, FROM ARUBA TO PANAMA
Today the crew had an exciting outreach opportunity as we had the privilege of visiting school children in Guna Yala and facilitated activities on plastic pollution, including a play (to overcome language barriers) about the plastic pollution problem and where the issue stems from.
A highlight of the day was a 5 minute clean up of the playground area.
We also had the opportunity to carry out STEM outreach with about 20 students who had the opportunity to create their very own Foldscope! Foldscope is an origami-based microscope that is inexpensive, portable, durable, and gives the same optical quality as a conventional microscope that was developed by the Prakash Lab at Stanford University, who with support from the Moore Foundation generously donated a box of Foldscopes.
Given that students indicated that they had not heard of a microscope previously, our introductory workshop involved Foldscope assembly and viewing a prepared sample. We were fortunate to have Spanish translation by crew member Sofia Nogues and support from the rest of the team as well. The speed with which the students grasped the principles of assembly including punching out the parts, connecting the couplers and glass ball lenses and folding the edges neatly was truly impressive. They were clearly interested and engaged, in spite of the fact that this was their holiday!
Our hope is that their teacher will follow up and help the students to collect and prepare samples to investigate the plastics issue further, for instance marine debris including fibers, or marine life such as plankton who may have ingested microplastics. This can be a very confronting, consciousness-raising activity that can spark some discussion about the extent of the issue and what youth as the next generation of scientists, policy makers and leaders can do to take action.
Foldscope is a game changing frugal tool that not only makes science accessible to many that would otherwise have to rely on a textbook, it holds potential to unleash their curiosity and demonstrates that you don’t need access to expensive equipment to become a great scientist. We enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the students and hope their Foldscope experience will contribute in some way to increasing their interest in science and raising awareness about the issue of plastics in their communities.
Photo credits: Sheri Bastien & eXXpedition