STEMAZing staff and Honduran Teachers

STEMAZing staff and Honduran Teachers illuminated by the primary colors as part of a science lesson.

The primary colors many of us learned in elementary school are incorrect, at least from a physics point-of-view.

Last month, as DaNel Hogan and Carmen Barnes set out from Tucson to Honduras to teach this perspective to science teachers, they came to a realization.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, we may have just assumed that they taught it wrong here as well’,” Hogan said. 

But they assumed correctly, the Honduran science teachers taught their students the three primary colors are red, blue and yellow, whereas light actually comes in the form of red, blue and green. One science teacher even owned a book that said so, but crossed it out because she believed the book to be incorrect. 

This is one of many lessons Hogan and Barnes learned on their science-teaching trip to Central America that showed proper education extends beyond culture or language. 

Hogan taught physics for nine years, including Catalina Foothills High School. 

The Office of the Pima County School Superintendent allowed her to develop the STEMAZing Project for local teachers. Barnes is a local preschool teacher who often works with Hogan.

For five years, STEMAZing has provided workshops for local science teachers, laying out the resources on how to inspire students in the fields of science, engineering, technology and mathematics. With STEMAZing, Hogan has taught science teachers throughout Tucson, Idaho, Liberia and now Honduras. 

“It was a fantastic trip, of course,” Hogan said. “I think we had a little better of an idea what we were doing because it was our second year going, but it was still challenging.” 

Last year, the Chiminike Children’s Museum in Tegucigalpa, Honduras asked STEMAZing to visit and teach local science teachers. 

“I don’t speak Spanish,” Hogan said. “But I was like, ‘Yeah, sure!’”

Barnes provided translations for Hogan and the educational materials, and the U.S. Embassy provided funding for the trip. For five days last year, the duo taught science teachers new ways to educate their classes.

“Only five days in Honduras was not enough time,” Hogan said. “So this year we spent 10 days. The embassy doesn’t usually send people back for a second time, but they allowed us to, so of course we went again.” 

Hogan and Barnes left for Honduras on Aug. 18, and provided three full-day science education workshops to over 90 local educators.

“Every experience we had with the teachers was wonderful,” Barnes said. “Just seeing the excitement in their eyes when we taught them ways to better engage their students made it worth it.” 

Barnes also said one of the best aspects of the trip is that while helping the museum staff and teachers, they are also teaching hundreds of students by proxy. 

As an added bonus, STEMAZing always brings materials for teachers to take home from their lessons. In this situation, they gave the Honduran teachers different colored lights for the primary colors lesson. Funding from the U.S. Embassy helped with the cost.

“A lot of things about teaching are universal, such as the lack of resources to teach our students, unfortunately,” Hogan said. “It’s obviously different from Liberia to Honduras to the U.S., but it’s not that different.” 

Hogan and Barnes are already working on proposals for next year. They hope to bring offline coding and robotic activities to Honduras, since many there do not have access to computers or the internet.

“We really love the people there,” Hogan said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re so excited to come back.” 

As for bringing STEMAZing to other countries, Hogan and Barnes both gave a resounding “Yes.” In fact, they already have. Last year they also went to Nogales to learn how to best engage Spanish and English speakers together. 

Barnes particularly wants to bring STEMAZing to Puerto Rico to help the island’s convalescence in the wake of Hurricane Maria. 

“Since we’ve been doing this is Honduras, it’s been working fine,” Barnes said. “So why wouldn’t it work in other Central American countries? If I get to go teach in Puerto Rico, that would be like fulfilling my dream.” 

STEMAZing is actively looking for contacts and groups working in other Spanish-speaking countries to help spread the benefits of effective science education. 

“There’s another universal thing we learned,” Barnes said. “All teachers enjoy being treated like professionals.” 

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