Julie Brown is head of Practical Action's education team in the UK, which produces teaching resources for teachers of Science and Design & Technology.
Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org/schools
Posts by Julie
We are very proud to announce that our very own Bren Hellier, Education Officer for Practical Action was recently shortlisted for Think Global’s ‘Global Educator of the year’ award. We already know she is amazing but it was great to have this recognised by such a prestigious organisation which works with teachers and young people in the UK to help them develop their understanding of global issues and the action they can take towards a more just and sustainable world.
Jo Cox, Head of Science at Redmoor Academy who nominated Bren said:
“Having worked with Bren on a couple of occasions her passion for her work is inspiring and she clearly understands what teachers and pupils want from a resource. Teachers who use her material will like me tell you they are both creative and clear, taking pupils on a journey starting with engaging their interest in a global problem then really making them feel that through their own actions now and in the future they could be part of the solution. Her resources have inspired a significant number of my students to take an interest in humanitarian engineering. She is generous, committed and full of vitality and a genuine pleasure to work with – a truly inspirational global teacher!”
To find out more about Bren’s work and who else was shortlisted please go to Global Educator of the Year 2016
To see Bren’s work for yourself please do take a look at her latest fabulous Design for a Better World challenge. Produced to celebrate Practical Action’s 50th Anniversary it includes a competition for pupils aged 11-14. We are asking pupils for their most innovative designs that could help us achieve the Global Goals and will share 50 of these on our website.
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University, Birmingham, West Midlands B15, UK, Birmingham
July 4th, 2016
8 schools, 90 girls, 15 volunteers from industry; loads of junk modelling material, water and a Practical Action STEM challenge …the perfect combination for a National Women in Engineering and the Build Environment Day event at Birmingham City University. #NWED2016
The girls had an engineering challenge…to build a model house strong enough to ‘Beat the Flood’. With support from women working in the engineering sector, they had two hours to research the needs of different communities on a fictitious island; test different structures and material, then design and build a model. The model was then tested outside Millennium Point by standing in water and having water poured on it!
Based on Practical Action’s work on flood proof housing in Bangladesh the girls found out all sorts of things about engineering, team work and some of the challenges faced by people in Bangladesh that they didn’t realise before.
‘Before today I didn’t know engineering could be about helping people in other countries’’
‘’I really like all working together…we didn’t know each other until today’’
‘’We had a plan, but then we didn’t have the materials we needed so we had to adjust our design.’’
‘That team over there copied our design!’
‘That doesn’t work, why we don’t try…’
‘I wish we could do more things like this is school’
‘How can we make the base more stable?’
The teachers and mentors were impressed with how well the girls worked together and some of the solutions they came up with. Everyone enjoyed testing the models outside!
For a set of materials to run this challenge in your school and for other STEM challenges please go to www.practicalaction.org/stem
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Big Bang Fair last week . Young people from around the country were really engaged in finding out just what STEM was all about the potential STEM careers that they could go into.
One stand that particularly impressed me was the Tomorrow’s Engineers, where pupils had the opportunity to see how engineers are involved in both disaster risk reduction, and saving lives post disaster. A career in International Development may not be one that may particularly springs to mind when teachers/pupils think of STEM, but it is a path that many pupils find inspiring. It was great to see this organisation promoting the social side of engineering, which is something we have been told girls find appealing about our own support materials, particularly our STEM challenges.
It was also good to see so many of the CREST awards projects on display linked to sustainable and global issues such as energy saving devises and flood-proof buildings, and to hear the pupils speak so passionately about their project (even whilst munching crisps!!)
Well worth a visit so if you didn’t manage to take pupils there this year I would strongly recommend you look at it for 2017…hope to see you there!No Comments » | Add your comment
We were delighted to see what a high profile our schools resources have in the new ‘Science and Global Citizenship guide’ from Oxfam. Written in conjunction with the Association of Science Education (ASE) the new guide explains the benefits of a global citizenship approach to science and has practical ideas for implementing it in topics such as water, energy , climate change and ecosystems.
The guide contains reference to 10 of Practical Action’s science resources, some of which were written with the ASE as part of the DFID funded Global Learning programme. Old favourites like Moja Island are in there together with the more recent Global upd8s and Plastics challenge.
We would like to thank the Oxfam education team and the ASE for putting this together, and including our materials. We believe it is a useful guide for primary and secondary teachers in the UK.No Comments » | Add your comment
That’s one of the questions we want children in the UK to be thinking about and discussing in schools. Our new teaching resource ‘Energy and the Global Goals’ enables them to do just that; helping them develop an understanding of why energy access is so important in global poverty reduction, something we at Practical Action passionately believe in!
Comprising of two very hands on, engaging activities suitable for 7-14 year old children our resource is just one of a package of resources entitled ‘ World’s largest lesson’ which helps children understand what the global goals are all about and why they are key to ending world poverty. The package includes assembly material and videos as well as lessons linked to every Global Goal.
So why not have a look and see how through your teaching you can get children more engaged in and excited about this UN initiative.
Here’s a great video on the global goals below, and you can find lots more on the website.No Comments » | Add your comment
‘We invited experts on land fill into our school to talk to them about technology justice’
So said one student from Poland when asked what the action was they took following a science project they did in school. The project was inspired by their teacher who had been on a teacher training programme run in Poland by the NGO CEO as part of an EC project Practical Action is leading on called Make the Link. The teacher had used the materials provided as part of the training and given pupils aa starting point of looking at how science can be used to improve lives in the developing as well as the developed world. Students were encouraged to pursue their own interests and work on a project, a novel approach in Poland. They got very keen on biogas, loved our #techjustice marvellous microbes video
Projects varied from designing solar phone chargers to drying herbs and building a wind turbine. Pupils had clearly got really engaged with the project, had taken ownership of it and at the same time learnt a lot about the lives of others. One teachers said ‘ I like that the students really understood the problem. We saw compassion, empathy, and a side of character of pupils we wouldn’t normally see.’ This was echoed by another teachers who said, ‘ I think students really changed their approach, we noticed a difference in their way of thinking…that science is about real people’.
Teachers really felt that the global approach was a huge benefit in helping pupils make connections between their own actions and what happens in the developing world.
‘Raising global awareness makes students realise some complicated interdependences and know that what we do here has impact on other people in developing countries’
When asked what feeling they had during the project the students said things like:
‘We were surprised in the beginning that our lives are so different to people in Africa. By doing this project we not only learnt how to make solar power but found out what life is like in another place’. Hubert (15 year old boy)
‘We were surprised that some people don’t have basic things like toilets. We complain a lot about a lot of things but really we don’t have a lot to complain about. It has made us want to find solutions’ Justyna (14 year old girl)
The students had all come together to share their projects with each other. First at a small gathering organised by our Polish partners CEO to gain information for a publication on good practice, then to attend a much bigger event where over 200 schools in Poland set up stands to share their work with pupils , teachers and people from industry.
The ‘killer’ quote for me that showed the real impact of the great work in Poland was from Patryja, 15. When an evaluator asked him ‘what does technology justice mean to you?, he replied:
‘Technology justice means that in other countries people don’t have the technology we have that they still need. This made us ask…why? It bothered us as in our opinion is not fair. The conclusion was that we respect more what we have, and want to try and help others get what they need.’
If that doesn’t demonstrate the impact of our work on the future generation I don’t know what does!!
To view materials ( but in English) that inspired these students go to www.practicalaction.org/schoolsNo Comments » | Add your comment
Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
May 26th, 2015
I am very proud to be able to say that our Beat the Flood challenge recently won an award for the Best STEM resource for pupils, from the European organisation Scientix. As a result it will be translated into all 24 European languages. In addition we recently went to an event in Brussels and presented to over 50 head teachers from around Europe.
To find more great science resources from other European organisations, and opportunities to network with science teachers across Europe take a look at the Scientix website.
All around the UK are villages and towns with community centres, but just imagine how valued that community centre would be if it was not just a community centre but also a school, and a place of safety. The Multi-purpose Community Centre and School in Saghata, Giabandha, is one such place.
Most of the time the building is used as a school and this is what it was being used for when I visited it. The place was full of incredibly well-behaved, delightful children from 5-18 years old. When I walked into a classroom they all got up to say good morning to me, and were clearly very proud of their ability to speak English, and to recite traditional English rhymes.‘Early to bed , early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise’ was a firm favourite. Several of the children were able to tell me a little bit about their lives. Playing football is obviously a popular pastime in Bangladesh!
BUT…this is a school with a difference, if you look closely at the buildings you will see they are all raised from the ground on plinths and made of brick. This is a flood-proof school. When the floods do arrive however it stops becoming a school and is a place of safety for the local community. The classrooms become places where people and animals can stay until the flood subsides. This Centre was clearly the hub of the community and is making a big difference to the lives of the people who live there irrespective of flooding.No Comments » | Add your comment
Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
March 11th, 2015
We have all heard that saving, ‘give a man a fish and he will have food for a day, teach him to fish and he will have food for a lifetime’. At Practical Action we take this a step further, we would teach a man to fish and provide all the equipment he needs to do that as well!
In my recent visit to Bangladesh it was this expression that came to mind when I met a lovely family were keen to tell me how their lives had been made much better as a result of their involvement in a Practical Action project.
Hagera is a lady who had been given training and equipment from Practical Action as part of the Shiree project about 3 years before. She had learnt how to make a range of different snacks to sell to local shops and door to door. She was proudly wearing the Practical Action apron she had been given at the time. What made this story a bit special however was that recently she had trained her 19 year old son Allakba to also get involved in the business. He told me that if he didn’t make snacks he would have to be a labourer. As a labourer he would make 100 Taka a day ( about 90p) , but by making snacks he could make 300-500 Taka. He was a very happy and in fact he didn’t stop smiling the whole time I was there!
Hagera and her son showed me how they made the snacks and then with typical Bangladeshi hospitality invited my colleague and myself to taste them…and they were delicious. My favourite was a snack called jhuri, it is similar to a hard chip that tasted both salty and sweet at the same time, not like anything I had ever had before but really yummy.
In terms of the difference Practical Action’ had made to their lives Hagera told me that in the three years they had managed to buy a cow and the materials to build a house, which was obviously a huge thing. She clearly felt very blessed and grateful for both what she and her son had managed to achieve so far and that as a result of our input they had a bright future to look forward to.
Another ‘proud to work for Practical Action’ moment for me, and a family I will never forget.No Comments » | Add your comment
Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
December 3rd, 2014
Having been to the amazing biogas plant at Gaibandha a while ago I decided ‘Marvellous Microbes’ would be a good title for the science video I am going to be producing for school pupils. The video will be one of three illustrating that access to technologies like biogas is important part of technology justice.
We could learn a lot from the engineers in Bangladesh, who have made good use of a by-product (the biogas) from a waste collection system designed primarily to reduce the hazard caused by kitchen waste being dumped in the street. The system is well managed, it is a definite benefit to the community and the staff are incredibly dedicated. Within the process itself the microbes are the star of the show! Microbes break down the kitchen waste from 1,000 households producing two really useful products, fertiliser and biogas. The biogas is used by 25 household to cook food and the fertiliser is in the form of slurry, some of which is then used to make compost.
If you are interested in more details please read on. The process goes like this!
- First of all you need buy in from the community, so a team of three lovely ladies go from door to door encouraging households to get involved in the scheme and pay a small fee to have their kitchen scraps collected. They told me that mostly people do this because they understand it is better for the community as a whole to not have waste dumped in the street, and the only other option is to walk quite a distance to larger bins. In this site just over 1,000 households have joined in. Like me (!) these ladies have their targets to reach and are constantly signing up more. The plant itself could manage waste from about 2,000 households in total so there is a way to go.
- Kitchen waste is collected every day by vendors. One vendor I spoke to has worked here for 4 years. He much prefers working here as he can look through the waste and if he finds anything that can be reused he can take it and sell it, this could be something like a small plate. By doing this he can increase his income by about 50% . He told me that most precious thing he found was a locket which he didn’t sell but gave to his daughter.
- Kitchen waste is also sorted by ladies at the landfill site. They spend up to 5 hours a day separating it out from general waste. Not a job many people would like but they said they were happy because they have work and the are given safety equipment.
- The kitchen scraps collected in these two different ways are then put into the digester and mixed with water where the marvellous microbes get to work. Conditions for these anaerobic digesters are perfect, The right pH, temperature, moisture and oxygen levels mean that in 15-20 days the kitchen scraps have changed to fertiliser that can be used as slurry and converted into compost, plus lovely biogas. Slurry is used in the plant itself and surrounding fields, in fact I was told the biogas plant is known as the ‘green garden’ because the plants in it grow so well. The compost is sold on to generate a small income for the plant.
- Biogas is piped out of the plant to 25 lucky households. They receive the biogas gas three times a day. Women who are lucky enough to get biogas for cooking much prefer it to the more traditional stoves because it is cleaner, and also food doesn’t have to be watched to the same degree, reducing drudgery as it allows the women time to do other things whilst the food is cooking. The plant has the capacity to provide biogas for up to 50 households, the limiting factor being the cost of building the pipes.
I came away feeling …what a great idea, basically a win win situation.
To find out more about Practical Action’s work on biogas go to www.practicalaction.org/biogas-fuel
For a technical brief on biogas to use with pupils go to practicalacton.org/technical-briefs-schools-energy
…And watch out for that Marvellous Microbes video coming soon on Youtube!1 Comment » | Add your comment
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