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DESARROLLA GUATEMALA STEM EMPOWERMENT BLOG 3 | UNDERGRADUATE FELLOWS

Updated: Sep 7, 2019

Isabella Leon

It’s hard to believe that we have been in Guatemala for three weeks now. The concept of time is unique here to say the least. Some mornings I wake up and feel like it was only a week ago that I was getting on the plane about to embark on this two month adventure. Other days it feels like we have been here for two months and it’s hard to believe that we have five weeks left here. I still can’t decide if that is a long or short time.

The best piece of advice that was ever given to me was “Planning is great; always have a plan…Just be open to the fact that things will probably never go as planned and that’s ok; it may even be better” and this has never been more true than here in Guatemala. Our group started our second week of lessons last Monday. We were supposed to teach the girls the different circuit elements that they would be using to build their flashlights. We had a late class and admittedly had not prepared the material as well as we could have. The girls were not understanding the formulas to solve for equivalent resistances. In light of this, we changed our lesson plan the next morning and included an activity about learning to add fractions. We had not originally anticipated this and while it would have been easier to gloss over the math or ignore it all together; I’m glad that we chose to teach these girls more and they actually became even more interested in our class because of this.

Even on our weekend travel adventures we find that we almost never stick to our original plans. This past weekend We wanted to go on a hike in the town of San Juan. The day ended up being too foggy and rainy to go hiking and San Juan proved much farther to get to than originally expected. We found ourselves admittedly a little lost in a town called Santiago along the lake. We were originally very discouraged but then we found a café then ended up having the best coffee I have had in a long time. We got to know the town on Santiago that was not filled with tourists and it has become our favorite place along the lake.

In the three weeks that we have been here we have taught these girls the concepts of current, voltage, resistance, and electric charge, what Ohm’s law is and how to calculate equivalent resistance, how to build and connect all of the elements of a circuit, and what the process of Human Centered Design is. On paper, our project describes an engineering curriculum centered around building a low-cost, reusable flashlight and a STEM Empowerment curriculum focusing on career planning, confidence, and learning about women in STEM. It’s funny though because I am supposed to be teaching these girls about empowerment and I think that by teaching and living with these girls they are empowering me in many of the same ways. While everything that goes on inside of the classroom is great, and I love seeing the girl’s faces light up when we tell them what we will be learning at the beginning of each class; I think what is going on outside of the classroom is equally, if not more, significant.

The girls are incredibly encouraging and constantly ask us questions. They have taught us how to play soccer, weave baskets, and walked us through a Mayan dance. The love of learning that I have witnessed from most of these girls inside and outside of the classroom has not only served as a big motivator for me to teach them as much as possible over these eight weeks, but it has made me admire and strive to have that same passion in everything I do. After class one day three girls came up to me and asked what languages I spoke. They were so excited that we ended up talking for an extra twenty minutes while they asked me how to say phrases in French. Watching these girls be so interested in languages like English and French when Spanish is already their second language was very humbling to me. I have been trying to learn as much as possible from these girls: about how to be more relaxed and flexible, how to love learning more, and how to be a true friend. All I can hope for now is that I can return the favor to them in these next five weeks.


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