The UBC Accessible Science Initiative Addressing Global Health


The UBC Accessible Science Initiative Addressing Global Health
The UBC Accessible Science Initiative
Addressing Global Health Issues through
Science Education
Olga M. Pena1,4 ,Tathali Urueta2, Matthew Mayer1,3, ASI Team, Luis Fernando Rodriguez5,
Robert E. Hancock1 & Shafik Dharamsi3,4
Microbiology and Immunology Dept - Faculty of Science1, Curriculum and Pedagogy Dept - Faculty of
Education2, Faculty of Medicine3, Liu Institute for Global Issues4 - University of British Columbia, Vancouver
Canada; Faculty of Science5 - University of Tolima, Ibague Colombia
1. Introduction
3. Results
The education, resources and inspiration necessary for students in low- and middleincome countries to pursue science careers are sometimes minimal. Early science
education is vital for students if they are to pursue science careers, and excitement and
interest can be generated with hands-on science projects that instill a passion for
science in the younger generations. The irony is that science and biotechnology can, in
the long run, help to make dramatic changes to quality of life by helping to break
poverty cycles and by building local scientific capacity to tackle health disparities and
improve health outcomes.
Under the banner of ASI, UBC students travelled to Tolima, Colombia to facilitate the
implementation of a variety of activities to enhance science education in the region in
collaboration with University of Tolima partners.
A. Science Week: Different science activities from biology, chemistry and physics were
delivered to close to 1000 students from approximately 20 different schools in the
Tolima Region in Colombia. These were prepared and delivered by a collaborative
team ASI-UBC Student volunteers in collaboration with UT student volunteers.
Figure 1. National research densities. Researchers per million inhabitants.
Information obtained from Unesco Institute of Statistics 2007
B. Science careers: UBC and UT science undergraduate and graduate students gave
inspirational talks on career opportunities in science to high school students in
Tolima. Topics covered matters ranging from different types of science careers, tips
on early preparation, to the importance of developing leadership skills to be
successful in the process.
2. Materials & Methods
The UBC Accessible Science Initiative (ASI) provides international service-learning
opportunities for students to enact their role as global citizens by working with
students and teachers in under-resourced settings to build local capacity in science
education. During the summer of 2010, a multidisciplinary team of 40 UBC
undergraduate and graduate students collaborated with the University of Tolima (UT) to
develop science activities for high schools and the local community.
C & D. School Teachers Workshops: Produced and prepared by ASI-UBC student
volunteers (Graduate Students) from Faculty of Education and Science, these
workshops were delivered to approximate one hundred school teachers from
approximately 20 different schools in the region of Tolima-Colombia with the help of
students and professors from UT. The aim was to build teaching capacity for promoting
science in a more fun and interactive way.
Colombian Pilot Project
Secondary School
Donation of
equipment and
materials to develop a
science resource
collaboration of
UT-UBC research
General Public
Figure 2.
A. Geographic Localization of Tolima Region
in Colombia.
B. Strategic Colombian Pilot Project Plan.
C. Interactive Science Manual: Written,
translated and edited by ASI-UBC student
volunteers (mainly Graduate Students), this
manual contains several hands-on science
activities based on the Colombian curriculum
for Junior High and High School students.
These activities were designed and informed
by culturally and socially relevant issues, and
adapted for implementation with easily local
available materials. The manual can be used
by school teachers as a guide to prepare
classroom science activities that are
experiential, interactive, fun and easy to learn.
E. Symposium “Ciencia para todos” (Science for everyone): The main objective of this
community-based activity was to raise awareness of the value of science education
among the general public, mainly parents and local government officials. By presenting
(in lay language) examples of local scientific research done at the University of Tolima
and other national and international universities such as UBC, we sought to show how
enhancing science education, research and biotechnology can help to solve health
and social issues.
F. Creating a School Resource Center: Focus Group discussions with school teachers
and professors at the University of Tolima revealed that one of the major problems that
exist is the lack of materials and equipment necessary to develop proper science
teaching and research. Since we are a new organization, we have decided to start
supporting this pillar by creating a “Resource Centre for Schools”. This centre will be
located at the University of Tolima. With the help of our sponsors and supporters, we
intend to provide the materials and equipment that are not easily accessible, but which
are essential to develop different interactive science activities such as elementary
microscopes. School teachers can then use the resource centre to prepare their
classroom activities.
4. Conclusions
This ongoing work demonstrates the utility of transdisciplinary co-creative work, as
well as the importance of international collaborations among universities to address
educational barriers that may enhance future local capacity to combat global health
5. Acknowledgments
ASI Team: Isabel Londono, Ximena Corso, Liliana Quintero, Laura Quintero, Esteban Dominguez, Maria Jose
Athie Martinez, Brianne Burkinshaw, Kendra Swain, Christine Klerian, Disha Raj, Jelena Pistolic, Nicole
Afacan, Amy Yeung, Elena Bredenstain, Eliana Pouchard, Natalia Saenz, Lina Gomez, Freddy Osorio, Susana
Zoghbi, Maryvonne Rosamont-Ursulet, Lina Farfan, Erin Nicholls, Heidrun Sophr, Adam Plumb, Rafael Tovar,
Jorge Rivera, Sara Casallas, Sebastian Arboleda, Jenni Herbin, Florencia Lozano, ASI UBC & UT Volunteers.
• UBC: President Office, VP Research Office, VP Students Office, Faculty of Graduate Studies Office, Faculty
of Science Office, Department of Zoology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
• University of Tolima: Faculty of Science
• Vancouver CARE Society.

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