September 28-30, 2015 InnovATE led a workshop in partnership with Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and USAID/Malawi on place-based science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education for university professors, administrators, and ministry officials in Lilongwe, Malawi. The workshop promoted the development of a STEM Education Certificate for secondary school agriculture and science teachers.
Participants were introduced to the concept of place-based STEM education which is designed to provide a way for teachers and communities to prepare children to become participants in local problem-solving. Johanna Cricenti, Program Manager of InnovATE, discussed experiential learning and designing course work and engagement opportunities for entrepreneurial and workforce-ready skills development. After the workshop, one participant said, “Experiential learning is vital to agricultural training and education.”
Dr. George Glasson of Virginia Tech modeled inquiry-by-design pedagogies that engage learners in problem solving. He emphasized the importance of connecting STEM education to local community resources. By example, Mr. Daniel Chinkuntha, an agriculture expert with the Tikondwe Freedom Gardens in Malawi, described how the Freedom Gardens use mobile phones to connect schools with traditional agricultural practices to enhance nutrition and sustainable food security. The participants generated ideas on the courses, resources, and experiences needed for science and agriculture teachers to improve their pedagogy in STEM subjects.
Dr. Josiah Tlou of Virginia Tech led discussions of how the STEM curriculum might be delivered through Open Distance Learning. He presented an update on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) e-schools initiative and the implications of that initiative for Malawi. Dr. Tlou and Dr. Ndalapa Mhango, distance learning specialist, led a discussion of the challenges of implementing technology and distance learning for an agriculture curriculum. The participants generated a list of the resources, infrastructure and skills needed to implement distance learning, and Dr. Tlou led a session on identifying potential funding sources.
Participants left the workshop with a concrete plan and action items for moving forward with a STEM education certification program. One participant said that this workshop was “timely scheduled. We need well qualified STEM teachers to implement the new secondary school curriculum.”