Orgs bring Math closer to the People through People’s Science School

By Nyrene Paranga

Various organizations, under the initiative of Agham Youth, embarked to the community of Brgy. Tatalon, Quezon City this July in a reach-out educational activity called People’s Science School (PSS) 2016.

Every year, the program of PSS is created based on the requests and needs of the selected community. The event previously covered various topics such as medicinal plants, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) awareness, first aid training and power rates discussion for previous years’ programs.

“I think that what makes PSS stand out from other orgs’ activities is the rationale behind it — that we want to address the root cause of the problem of the people in the community,” said event head Hazel Rodelas. This year, People’s Science School (PSS) transpired as a series of Saturday sessions of math teaching for students and adults, that culminated with a disaster risk management seminar and a simple “graduation” rite.

THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE

This year’s PSS opened with a basic mass integration conducted by the organizers to determine the specific needs of the community, with representatives from Agham Youth’s partner organizations taking part. The organizations involved were Samahan ng Maralitang Kababaihang Nagkakaisa (SAMAKANA) Gabriela — Tatalon, UP Pre-Medical Honor Society, UP Education Society, UP Math Majors’ Circle and Polytechnic University of the Philippines chapter of Agham Youth. The integration took the form of an assessment with participants having focused group discussions (FGDs) with cluster leaders from SAMAKANA-Gabriela and local students from Grades Seven and Eight. From the results of their interviews, key science education needs were identified which then formed the basis of the modules to be taught to the community.

MAGIC IN MATHEMATICS

The actual teaching sessions started on July 16 with free math classes for Grades Seven and Eight. Students gathered at the Multipurpose Hall at the third floor of Senior Citizen Building. The students were divided into groups according to their grade level, but only tables separated each group as they share the well-lit and air-conditioned space.

The Grade 7 group learned from Sigmund and Robert, volunteers from PUP Agham Youth while the Grade 8 students from Vincent, a volunteer from the UP MMC. Unexpectedly, some students in Grades 9 and 10 also attended the event. Despite their surprise arrival, these students were also accommodated and assigned a volunteer, Albert, to teach them.

The volunteers used teaching aids such as colorful cut-outs and fun games. However, most of the students still struggled during the discussions. Some of them couldn’t keep up with the basic exercises. This could be due to the lack of knowledge or practice of basic math taught in elementary school.

Nathaniel, a Grade 7 student, said that he wasn’t good in math in school. But he listened well and participated in discussions. The students found some concepts difficult, but they were willing to learn. Albert constantly reminded that the students that the only solution to their difficulties is constant practice.

There are even less privileged children in Tatalon in terms of education. There is a growing number of out-of-school youth in the community. These children were not able to finish high school or college because their families can’t afford to send them. After they stopped going to school, they would find jobs or start their own families too early.

Nanay Badet, chairperson of Gabriela — Tatalon, also hoped that this activity could show children the importance of giving back to the community. “Kahit simpleng libreng pagtuturo lang, nakita nilang malaki ang naitulong para sa kanila. Karamihan, ang mga pangarap kasi ngayon ng mga bata [ay] para sasarili at pamilya lang,” she said. “Pero pa’no na ‘yong para sa bayan? Sana matutunan din ng mga kabataan ‘yong halaga ng pagbalik sa kapwa tulad ng ganitong activity.”

The favorite part of the students were the magic tricks performed by Sigmund and Robert. They used card tricks and disappearing ink to charm the students into seeing the beauty of science. “Napakaraming magic sa Math,” said Robert. He went on about how he used different concepts from math, chemistry and other sciences to create magic tricks and to simply have fun.

MATHEMATICS FOR THE PEOPLE

Math isn’t only for students in school, but a constant part of people’s daily lives. The following week, community housewives and women from various households in Tatalon took part in the adult math class.

Based on the previous assessment, the adults wanted to learn more about math concepts such as fractions and percent as well as balancing budgets. The participants learned about fractions and its operations, the concept of percent conversion and utilizing these concepts to achieve more effective budgeting. These concepts are useful for situations like simple household budgeting to business planning.

Julie, a local organizer from Gabriela, remarked that the PSS teachers were able to carry out focused teaching of these important mathematics in Filipino language unlike in formal schools, where Math is taught in English and making it more difficult to understand.

However, she also noted that the PSS volunteers needed to learn more on how to adjust with their students who mostly did not even finish high school or even elementary, observing that the teachers sometimes used jargon while talking quickly about the topic. Through activities such as the PSS, science students from privileged universities like UP learn how to level themselves with the people from the lower strata of society who, by their social situation and the current backward conditions of Philippine society, are unable to access and appreciate fully the knowledge that should have otherwise been.

Stories of the women whom the student-teachers immersed with reveal a lot in this respect. According to Nanay Rosefe, a local Gabriela organizer, many adult residents of Tatalon weren’t able to finish higher education due to lack of financial resources. Many parents are raising their families through low-paying and unstable jobs. Nanay Badet hinted of being a victim of domestic violence before turning to Gabriela for help. When she started volunteering, she found that she could still lead a meaningful life even though she hadn’t finished higher education.

SCIENCE AND MATH FOR THE PEOPLE

The last Saturday marked the “graduation” rites where the participants from the previous discussions were given certificates. It also marked the culminating lecture on disaster risk reduction, considering that Tatalon was determined to be a flood-prone area.

According to Hazel, Agham Youth conducts PSS every year as their way of making science and technology serve the people, especially those communities that cannot access S&T education. Agham Youth opened up PSS for other organizations for the first time this year, thus allowing more science students to take part in the event.

“For the coming years, we envision People’s Science School as a unifying activity for other organizations in and outside the College of Science,” said Hazel. “We want to institutionalize it by forming a formal alliance with different interested organizations.”

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