Updated: Sep 7, 2019

Adrienne Hawkes

For those of you who do not know, before coming on this trip, Isabella, Libby, and I took a semester-long course to prepare for our project. In this class, we learned how to make a flashlight using a method called ‘Human Centered Design,’ a process used to identify problems in a community and design a solution based strictly upon the needs of that community.

Before arriving to the project site, our team had planned to make water-bottle flashlights with the girls for the “STEM” part of our project and do 6 workshops on STEM Empowerment for the “Empowerment” part of our project. When we arrived, we quickly realized this was not going to work. Using the Human Centered Design process that we had just learned, we assessed this group of girls and concluded that they were more equipped for a different sort of program. We made some major adjustments to our curriculum and closely intertwined the empowerment curriculum with the flashlight curriculum.

Our goal is no longer to simply give these girls a water-bottle flashlight and STEM Empowerment workshops. We are focusing our resources on empowering these girls by teaching them the power of self-assessment, community-assessment, and confidence. Through this, we hope to give the girls the tools that will need to become compassionate, conscientious, leaders in their communities while simultaneously giving them a tangible way to apply what they are learning through building a flashlight. This means that we are teaching them to use Human Centered Design to analyze the problems in their own communities and create a flashlight using materials from their everyday lives.

Now about our week…

This week our dear students left the school for their two-week break. To avoid sitting on our lazy bums our team collaborated with Guatemalan university students. Over the course of three days we taught these University students the process of ‘Human Centered Design’ and the electricity concepts needed to construct the same flashlight we are creating at our home institution. We trained these students so that they may replicate our project once we have left Guatemala. It was an amazing experience. Not only was it exciting to see other people interested in continuing our work in this beautiful country, but also, teaching the university students helped us learn so much more about our own project. It is one thing to teach 79 girls a curriculum; it is another to fully communicate all the ideas and work behind developing a curriculum. In communicating this, I was given a chance to grasp the exciting nature of our work more fully. I cannot wait to see how this project continues and is expanded after we leave. Very exciting stuff!!!

The last day of the week was insane. It was filled with meetings and such, but it was by far my favorite day. Beyond what felt like 30 meetings, we had the unexpected, yet exciting, opportunity to teach at another Institute. In 3.5 hours, we taught a condensed version of our 5-week curriculum and built 20 flashlights with 18 boys and 2 girls. Because we were short on time, we had each student build a water bottle flashlight. Still, it was so fascinating to see their imaginations come to life in the work that they were doing. For example, one boy decided to put the lightbulbs on the side of his water bottle, across from the light switch, instead of the normal location that we had thought of. He then cut out a door for the batteries so that he could easily access them when they died. Another student put the lightbulbs in a circle on the end of the water bottle instead of a line. Though the atmosphere of the class was very different from our normal all-girl classes, and it was initially overwhelming, the experience ended up being amazing. It was our first time completing this many flashlights and Libby, Isabella, and I all feel that we are much more prepared to complete the curriculum with our girls now.

This week was a wonderful learning experience that helped me become much more adept with the material we are teaching. This week was also filled with pizza, another earthquake, and more of the stunning, Guatemalan mountains that will never cease to amaze me. But now, I miss our students and cannot wait to see them in one more, short week.


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