Education in Times of COVID
The new school year was to begin in a mere number of days before the pandemic finally reached the isthmus of Panama. The school year was swiftly postponed and many students returned to a semi summer vacation. I say “semi” because in order to ensure that the students wouldn’t lose the school year entirely they were given work books with lessons for them to work on during the interim until the lockdown and quarantine is lifted. This was a good method to keep students engaged while at home and keep them up to date with their school work. As the pandemic progressed it became clear that that strategy would work for only so long. So in the beginning of July the Ministry of Education has renewed its efforts to keep the students engaged with new digital education platforms and a new teaching initiative for students who live in rural areas with limited access to digital education technologies. On the other hand students who live in urban areas and have access to those digital resources and platforms have continued with classes since the beginning of the pandemic through videoconferencing technology. This disparity is important to highlight in order to think of ways to support those students who don’t have access to these platforms in order to find solutions for them when the next pandemic or other event impedes them from physically attending school. For purposes of investigating this issue I spoke to a few teachers from the two distinct education environments (rural and urban) to hear about their experience with the new virtual pivot that academic institutions have been forced to adopt due to the pandemic. The school of the rural setting is a public school and the school from the urban setting is a private school. Access to education is a problem that the current presidential administration had campaigned on a year ago before the pandemic and the pandemic has shed a light on the urgent need for solutions to this long existing issue.
The professor from the public school told us about his experience with the education pivot in the rural region of Costa Arriba in the Panamanian province of Colón. The last two weeks that school has had its reinitiation have been a trial period according to the Professor. This trial period will be useful in highlighting major issues in reaching students and providing a streamlined education experience that can meet the needs of students as well as their parents. The Ministry of Education has recommended to its teachers that they use applications such as Google Suite, Google Classroom, and ZOOM with their students to direct classes and test taking and manage homework and grading. However these teachers have encountered problems and difficulties in implementing these technologies with their student body. Some of the problems teachers have experienced with their students are economical in nature. The majority of students in this rural coastal region of Panama do not have WiFi or any form of internet in their homes, so they must use cell phone data that they have to pay for through a prepaid card. One virtual classroom session can use almost if not all of the data purchased and for a rural family this becomes costly. For many families that are not working or have lost their job due to the pandemic, this is a cost that they cannot maintain. So their child won’t receive any education for most of the year if the Ministry of Education can’t come up with a viable solution for those who lack access to these platforms and digital arenas.
This economical problem has, to my own surprise, been an issue in the private school as well, though to a lesser degree. According to the two teachers I spoke to, there are parents who have not installed WiFi in their homes and have rejected installing it in order to accommodate the digital pivot and instead have opted to buy prepaid phone cards to use data to give access to the virtual classes directed by the teachers. As we know from the rural experience this is an unsustainable method in receiving a digital education. Another issue, much like in the rural coastal region, is a lack of computers, but to a lesser degree. Some households have one computer but multiple students so everyday there is a conflict over who gets to use it to take their class. Other households have been obligated to buy a computer, and that is under the economic stress that the pandemic economy has put upon households. According to the two teachers I spoke to, who teach 7-9 grade, roughly 10%-15% of their students don’t have all the required equipment and/or technological connectivity to fully participate in the virtual pivot instituted by the school. This is still much better than in the rural area, where teachers said almost all students lack the required equipment and/or technological connectivity to participate fully in classes.
Another problem that teachers at the public school, and once again to a lesser degree in the private school, have had to deal with is lack of training and understanding about the digital platforms. For the rural students and teachers they have had trouble signing on and staying connected on the platforms during class time. For the students it is often because their prepaid mobile data runs out. Sometimes it is due to the weather. If it is cloudy there is poor cell phone reception and therefore the mobile data will be slow or nonexistent.
Teachers on the other hand, upon adopting these digital platforms, due to the recommendations by the Ministry of Education and in the private school’s case by obligation, received little to no instruction and training in the use and utilization of these platforms. If they received instruction it amounted to a brief overview of the platform. Their practice with students and giving classes has served as their training and has made them as comfortable as they can be with the platforms, given the connectivity issues that may persist in the rural setting. The private school teachers have been using these platforms since March, and according to the teachers they have finally established a rhythm and understanding of the platforms that allows them to work a lot smoother. However in the beginning they struggled with the platform and its implementation.
In the midst of all this change and pivoting one of the teachers in the public school has decided to go against the grain and strike his own path to carry out his classes in a way that is compatible with the students level of access and knowledge, as well as his own. Instead of utilizing ZOOM or Google Classroom he has been using WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a messaging and content sharing phone application that is used widely in Panama, as well as the world, as the main communication and instant messaging platform. Since the public school teacher, his students, and their parents were already adept in their use with WhatsApp, it was a natural choice for him in order to save himself trouble reaching and teaching his students. The teacher films himself teaching lessons, which he then uploads to YouTube, and then shares with his students on WhatsApp. He sends photos or PDFs of homework he assigns them and they in return send him photos of their completed work for him to grade. He has told me that he feels that it is successful because of the platform's familiarity and that familiarity doesn’t create a barrier of entry for students so they don’t feel frustrated or disincentivised more than they already are due to the pandemic. These are the solutions that are necessary in these difficult times and during a stage in history where making this digital pivot is essential in carrying out our daily work activities in an effective and inclusive way.
We will be working with the teacher at the public school in Costa Arriba to support him and his students in any way we can in order to improve his content or improve its distribution to his students. We will be following up on a weekly basis with him to see how his pivot is going and how effective it continues to be. This information will be pertinent to our ongoing efforts with our ConectaRoo app and its implementation in the coastal communities of Colón.
Tech in Panama
As the world becomes more connected and digital interconnectivity begins to play a bigger role in all our lives, it has begun to extend its reach to the rural areas of the world; either by its own natural development or brought into these communities as a means to solve a problem. Panama is increasing its digital infrastructure and finding digital solutions to connect people in their private, academic, and work lives. Residential internet access has become accessible to a majority of the population, with 58% (2.4 million) of panamanians being internet users in 2018 and 540,220 having accounts with an internet provider (1). Most people have smartphones and they are relatively cheap to purchase, in 2018 there were 138 cell phones per 100 inhabitants which indicates many Panamanians have multiple phones per person (2). In Panama mobile data coverage is found in most of the populated regions of the country, interestingly enough in 2018 96% of the population (4,009,794 of 4,176,869) had mobile cell phone coverage in spite of only 38% of the national territory actually having cell coverage (Panama has an area of 29,157 square miles or 75,517 square kilometers) (2). Along with all these statistics it doesn’t hurt either that Panama has four major submarine fiber optic lines running through the Panama Canal and 3 others landing on either the Pacific or Caribbean side of the country (3). Recognizing these statistics and seeing the data that is projected for the years to come, it is safe to say that Panama is and will continue to be a beacon of internet connectivity and access in Latin America and the Caribbean. We at Future Scientist are developing an application in order to connect water system users (community members) to a digital means to monitor their payments for the managers of the water system (water committee) and vice versa. We want to bring rural organizational finance management to the digital age. The application is called ConectaRoo, and we think it will transform the way rural water committees collect funds forever.
You may ask, what is the problem we are specifically trying to solve? What galvanized us to develop software like this? Also, if so many people have cell phones in Panama, how are they disconnected or without a bank account to facilitate their finances? The issue in many rural communities in Panama is that water committees have to be self-sustainable in order to have a proper functioning and successful water system. This basically means that they need money in their committee bank account in order to carry out any type of repair, maintenance, addition, or new home connection to the rural aqueduct. This means they need the majority of the community paying their monthly water bill, which in Palenque’s case is $2.00/month. The problem in many of these communities is that people do not pay their monthly bill so the water committees are often without funds; as a result these water committees break up and disintegrate and a community loses its leadership and the water system ends up failing and the community ends up without potable water in their homes. Also, these rural communities don’t have easy access to banking institutions. For example, people who live in Costa Arriba have access to only one ATM machine that is located in Portobelo, and that ATM machine is under surveillance and has a specific time it is available due to the machine having been stolen before. The closest bank is in Sabanitas, which is hours away from many of these communities, and very few people have cars. To give an example let’s go to Palenque, Colón, which is the community where we wish to prototype the application as a way to support the water committee there. After a couple meetings between the water committee and Future Scientist, we’ve been able to frame the issue of water access in the region. Palenque is a community of roughly 100 residences and establishments. For residencies the monthly water bill is $2.00. For businesses it is $5.00. We can estimate that, assuming everyone pays their monthly bill, the committee should be receiving roughly $220.00/month (roughly 6 businesses including schools and other government buildings, and 95 homes. The water committee tells us they’re receiving around $25.00/month on average. That’s a monthly budget difference of $195.00 and a yearly difference of $2,340.00. There is a lot a dedicated rural water committee could do with a yearly budget of $2,365.00. So in order to solve the problem at its root and not allow these inevitable chain of events to occur from lack of funding, we wanted to create a digital system that created transparency and accountability between the community members and the members of the water committee. Assuming a strong work ethic among committee members, if we can assure the water committee’s economic stability, then we eliminate all the problems that would be the result of their disintegration. If the committee works hard, makes improvements and maintains the system with the money they’re receiving, there will be a greater level of trust and confidence between community members and the water committee, thus a great level of cooperation. From our experience in Costa Arriba, the problem is not their work ethic. The water committees we’ve worked with are desperate to work and improve their respective water systems and only complain of the lack of monetary means to do so.
The application works as a digital account monitoring assistant in that the water committee is able to monitor the monthly payments of the community members who are connected to the water system and the community members are able to monitor what the water committee does with those funds. The application is cloud based so all changes and updates to the user and manager accounts are updated in real time. This will also serve in protecting the information from storage failure and unexpected power outages. Our initial implementation of the project will be in the community of Palenque and it will be through a computer program run with Microsoft Access that will create a digital database and can be accessed in the local SENACYT built Infoplaza; which are government funded internet cafés (4), or local business partners with internet access. We want to begin by using computers because we want to first see the impact it has in the collection of funds as well as survey people’s feedback of the program. The final objective is to turn our Access database into a smartphone application. This way it can be integrated even where there isn’t an Infoplaza but there is a strong enough phone signal that people are able to use mobile phone data. It would give the project a farther reach and allow more communities access to the software. Below is a more succinct breakdown of the ConnectaRoo solution as well as an illustration.
ConnectaRoo provides a digital administrative solution:
• Accountability and communication system among users (households) and managers (committee members) by establishing trusted intermediaries (e.g., store owners) to relay financial transactions and notices.
• Transparent cash-based financial transaction documentation to raise baseline level of trust and amplify incremental gains.
• Bidirectional communication to empower communities and increase resilience by sharing information and real-time notification of issues and opportunities.
Current COVID-19 Tech Solutions in Latin America and Panama
Coming back to the still omnipresent topic that is Coronavirus, we’d like to present some examples of how Latin America, Panama, the Panamanian federal government, and the private sector have utilized digital monitoring and video conferencing technology to combat the virus and allow certain sectors of society to continue to function.
A new government initiative in order to get stimulus money out to its citizens was utilized by using the barcodes on citizens’ identification cards as a sort of credit card (5). The stimulus amount granted to Panamanians was deposited to their ID cards and they were able to use their ID as a debit card in order to make purchases at the grocery store. This was a way to get money to Panamanians given the fact that many Panamanians do not have bank accounts.
MEDUCA (Ministerio de Educación, Ministry of Education) as well as private schools in Panama have implemented digital classes for students. They have been utilizing a virtual platform called Titán by a Spanish company called Educaline (6). The platform contains books and other digital content, endorsed by the Ministry of Education for the use in public and private schools. The program has been approved internationally and has been used since before the pandemic in some Panamanian high schools.
In Latin America, the Chinese tech company Huawei has supplied various technological tracking and diagnostic tools for the virus in countries like Honduras and Argentina as well as a tool to understand the genetic makeup of the virus (7). In Argentina they have implemented thermal cameras with AI (artificial intelligence) in the Ezeiza International Airport in order to identify travelers with a high temperature and then sound the alarm of the possible medical risks to ease the detection of the virus. It has been implemented in Honduras as well, Honduras being one of the first in Central America to do so. In Panama, the chinese tech giant has supplied a video conferencing platform as well as a tech support team so that Ministry of Health workers can communicate with Chinese doctors and scientists to share knowledge, practices, and experience about their battle against COVID-19.
As our world globalizes more and more, we will remain further and further connected like never before. Digital connectivity is creating solutions for monitoring and distancing problems in urban settings as much as rural ones. We hope that these technological solutions have a place in these rural regions of the country and that the people can adapt to the change of the way of doing things. We at Future Scientist see this new technology as a valuable problem solving tool of the 21st century and wish to implement it where we can to create long-term solutions for those in need.
Coronavirus in Panama
On Monday, March 9th, 2020, Panama officially recorded its first case of Coronavirus, or COVID-19. As of today, April 25th, 2020, there are 5,338 officially recorded cases nationwide (Ministerio de Salud, 2020, http://minsa.gob.pa/coronavirus-covid19). Since the beginning the Panamanian government, led by Presidente Laurentino “Nito” Cortizo, has ramped up efforts to slow the curve of infected citizens so as not to overwhelm their healthcare infrastructure and capacity. The economy has come to a slow crawl as people are practicing social distancing and self-quarantine. To date, the government has implemented a progressive lockdown strategy to keep people in their homes and have as little movement as possible out in the streets. It began with mandatory curfews in the evening and early mornings and as of now an individual that doesn’t work in an essential job or have a special permit is only allowed to leave their home six hours a week. The government has regulated movement by biological sex and the last number in a person’s identification number. Women are allowed to leave their homes Monday-Wednesday-Friday and men are allowed to leave Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday. Each number 0-9 corresponds to two hours between the hours of 6:30 AM to 7:30 PM that you are allowed to leave your home and be out in public. For example, a man with the last number of 8 in his ID number would be allowed to leave his home Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday between the hours of 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM. Before 7:30 or after 9:30 he risks either being fined or arrested by the police, depending on the circumstances. As the outbreak spreads throughout the country, more and more provinces are becoming affected and the Ministry of Health has increased testing and is finding more cases. Since our work is focused in the province of Colón, specifically the Costa Arriba region, we have been communicating with our counterparts and other community members in the area to get more information as to what is happening in our area of work.
There are currently 128 cases (Ministerio de Salud, 2020, http://minsa.gob.pa/coronavirus-covid19) in the entire province of Colón. The Costa Arriba region so far has only one case in the corregimiento of María Chiquita. We have spoken to several of our counterparts and other community members of the region to get an idea of what they’re experiencing and what measures they are taking to combat the virus and its spread.
Coronavirus in Colón
The general reaction from those who live in Costa Arriba, Colón is that they are taking things seriously, but things are relatively peaceful compared to other regions of the country. The communities have to follow the orders that the federal government has issued but with a general lack of policing in the region there is still a level of flexibility to the law. People are staying at home and avoiding contact with others more than they normally would but they have not practiced social distancing or self-quarantine to the degree of those who live in Panama City or even the city of Colón. People seem to be moving around more or less when they need to and not rigidly following the identification number nor biological sex policy that the government has instituted on a national level. Living in a rural area has acted much like its own form of isolation and people have even mentioned that they are not particularly worried that the virus will have a heavy impact in the region.
Medical personnel have commented that the medical capacity of the region is still stable. The patients that show up to the clinics come for other medical reasons that are not related to COVID-19. There are only a couple cases in María Chiquita (Ministerio de Salud, 2020, http://minsa.gob.pa/coronavirus-covid19) and those are the only cases of the Costa Arriba region. So the clinics further up the coast haven’t had to diagnose any cases and they are functioning as normal. The isolated nature of these communities has served in protecting them too. Since there is only one road that goes up the coast, it is easy for authorities to patrol and set up checkpoints so as not to let people from the cities into the coastal communities. This has been the only real concern of the residents of these communities. They are aware of how badly urban areas are being hit so they don’t want people from those areas trying to escape to more rural regions of the province.
The government, the local governments as well as the federal government, has taken a role in taking care of its citizens during the economic slowdown due to the lockdowns and quarantines. They are handing out food bags as well as stimulus checks to those who are not working or have lost work due to the pandemic. The local governments have taken the biggest role in their respective communities due simply to their geographic proximity to the affected people and the local knowledge they have of every resident’s individual needs.
Small business owners are also playing their part in the quarantine and lockdown. Local supermarkets have begun only tending to customers through the iron gates so that people can still make purchases but can’t enter the building. Some businesses have closed down and are waiting out the pandemic. Some businesses have seen a drop in clientele and others no. Supermarkets for example are still receiving clients because people need food. The local internet cafés are not receiving as many clients because school is out so students aren’t using the internet for school work and people aren’t using their money to spend on internet time when they need to divert it to necessities such as food.
Here in Panama as in the entire world, we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases. The government is utilizing ever increasing controls over the population so as to lower the infection rate and stem the tide of infections per day. Scientists are uniting across the country to aid in the creation of tests and reactives in the test. The population is under strict national decrees and are following them properly, especially in Panama City. With education, discipline, and solidarity, we will beat the virus and return to life as we knew it before.
Future Scientist sees composting as the future of organic waste management for small rural communities. This year we are making it a priority and we are actively working with two communities in Costa Arriba, Colón to make it a reality. After much deliberation in 2019, we have begun to lay the foundation for our community compost project in Palenque, Colón. This year we want to focus on our compost projects that we have lined up for Palenque and Portobelo, Colón. They are very similar in the sense that we want to involve the communities in the projects as the primary caretakers and beneficiaries.
An image of the entire country of Panama. The two points are the two communities of Portobelo and Palenque.
An image of the entire province of Colón. The two points are the communities of Portobelo and Palenque.
An image of the Costa Arriba region of the province of Colón. The two points are the communities of Portobelo and Palenque.
Composting in Jacoba Urriola Solís
In Portobelo we have begun to get quotes for the materials and we have the contractor who will build the site for the creation of the compost. The school will have easier logistics due to the fact that we are working directly with the school and the students. We hope to integrate the community in its contribution to the compost by asking the surrounding houses to bring their organic waste to the compost site and help it to grow. This way it won’t just be the cafeteria that is contributing to the compost pile but rather a more collective effort between community and school. The students will serve as the managers and caretakers of the site. It will serve them as future agricultural scientists and in turn the school will receive nutrient-rich compost for the school crops and the neighbors' houseplants. This will serve as a great way to educate the surrounding community members on organic waste management as well as organic farming. The students will benefit by getting valuable experience in taking care of a large scale organic composting operation that will serve them in their future careers. What Future Scientist will get out of it is data on the amount of waste weight that is lost when composting organic material as well as data on the well-being of households that participate in the composting program. Perhaps with increased awareness in waste management tactics households will do their part in better managing the waste in their communities. These are all things we will see as the project progresses.
Waste Management in Palenque
The goal of the project in Palenque is to educate the community in effective waste management as well as provide them a site in order to use these skills in creating something of community benefit. The compost site would be key in eliminating organic waste from local dumps and converting it into something of real value that could generate a small amount of funds for community use. Ideally we want it to imitate the self-sustainable compost center we visited in La Escuela Vocacional Especial in Panama City (https://basuracero.mupa.gob.pa/iniciativas-y-proyectos/centro-de-aprovechamiento-de-organicos/). This compost center is part of the Municipality’s initiative called BasuraCero (Zero Waste) and it has a rehabilitated work force of ex-convicts trained in organic waste management and composting. To the date the center has processed 160 tons of organic waste that is brought to it from all around the metropolitan area. The site is integrated into the school and students participate in its function and contribute the food scraps from the cafeteria to the compost piles. The site is a fully integrated system, both in collection of organic material to the rehabilitation of its personnel. This is what we hope to achieve in Palenque. We want the town to become a center for organic waste management by eliminating a third of the waste produced in an average panamanian household (http://aaud.gob.pa/plangestion/Docs/ANEXOS/20170731_E%22.214.171.124.5_Propuesta%20Nuevo%20Modelo%20de%20Gestion_v3.pdf), creating a self-sustainable nursery for the selling and exchange of plants and flora, and a economic stimulus for the community where many people don’t have stable work. Here the people and businesses from various neighboring communities can bring their organic waste to be processed, thereby saving them money and time as well as helping them contribute to a cleaner community. In Palenque we have spent a lot of time planting the seeds (pun intended) for this vision that we want to achieve in the community. We have had many meetings among the Future Scientist team as well as the team working directly in Palenque. The team in Palenque consists of myself and Francisco Pizarro from Let’s Do It!-Panamá and we met multiple times in order to develop our strategy for the project’s implementation and how we would both create a solid infrastructure as well as an education program to back it up. In the last week of February, we took our first steps in making this vision a reality.
The coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to our trips to Colón and thereby we won't be able to advance things on the ground. We will be joining the fight against COVID-19. We will be providing content regarding preventive health habits and tips to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic as well as other pertinent information regarding the virus. We will work on creating a greater online presence during our time practicing social distancing and self-quarantine. Stay-tuned for more information in future newsletters, social media posts, and on our website at futurescientist.org.
A new year brings new experiences. Our work here in Future Scientist is no exception. It was no exception either for the boys and girls from El Instituto Nacional de Agropecuaria en Divisa, Veraguas and from the Centro Educativo Jacoba Urriola Solís in Portobelo, Colón. The third week of January (January 19-24) we were invited as guest speakers and facilitators in the Campamento Científico Agropecuario 2020 (Agriculture Science Camp 2020). 34 students participated in the camp as well as other facilitators and speakers from various universities and institutions. The students were immersed in a world of science and were able to interact with that world in a way that they had never experienced before. It gave them perspective on the life of not only a scientist, but a professional. It taught them to value their education and think critically, which is a sought after skill in a growing third world country like Panama.
Campamento Científico Agropecuario 2020
The camp was organized by Ivonne Torres, Ph.D. Ivonne Torres has her doctorate degree in pharmacology and is a professor at the esteemed Universidad de Panamá. Her passion for bringing science to students from rural areas manifested in this science camp that was also funded by la SENACYT (National Secretary of Science, Technology, and Innovation; Secretaría Nacional de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación; senacyt.gob.pa). She wanted the camp to emphasize the scientific method and encapsulate it in a way that would make science palatable to Panamanian high school students and allow them to see examples of how science plays a part in their studies in agriculture. We believe she achieved this goal by introducing students to a scientific environment that seems plucked from a movie but is right in the heart of Panama City. Along with the advanced lab equipment and technology the scientists developing projects and experiments are Panamanian as well. The experience allowed them to see that these aren’t a bunch of foreigners make scientific leaps in their country, but their countryman achieving great things in the name of science.
The majority of the camp was in INDICASAT (Institute of Scientific Investigation and High Technology Services; Instituto de Investigaciones Científicas y Servicios de Alta Tecnología; indicasat.org.pa) where some of the most advanced laboratories in the country call home. Here students heard from actual scientists who have done and are doing important work in the field and in the lab and visited laboratories and conducted experiments in them. The guests scientists are working in projects such as plant disease investigation, alternative agriculture such as vertical farming, and biodiversity in domestic animals. Some experiments the students did were in cow feces analysis to soil sample analysis. It was important that the science in the camp had to do with agriculture as a way to connect to the students and make the work relatable. The students also spent a whole day in the Universidad de Panamá (University of Panama; up.ac.pa), where they met more science professors and did more lab work. This hands on experience with seasoned professionals and advanced lab equipment was once in a lifetime experience for these students, and as such was a great motivational tool to get these students into science or at least motivate them to continue their academic careers.
Future Scientist’s Role
Our role in the science camp was to provide critical thinking and project development seminars for the students in order to develop these skills in problem investigation and sustainable solution creation. Knowing our audience the goal was to be as dynamic as we could be in the 45 minutes we had for our time slot. When speaking to high schoolers it is important to keep them intelligently engaged but also keep the subject matter light and accessible. This is not to say these kids are not intelligent and would not understand complex information. What we mean is that sometimes that level of information can be intimidating for them and you will be able to connect with the students better and keep them engaged if you frame that complexity in a more accessible model. The topics I chose for the camp were the double diamond model for design thinking, the canvas business model for start-ups and new projects, and the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek.
The Double Diamond Model for Design Thinking
Design Thinking is a process used to develop problems, define them succinctly, and create sustainable, long-term solutions. It is similar to the scientific method in that it requires you to ask a question (what is the problem?), investigate that question/problem (experiment, collect, and analyze data), and come to a conclusion about the information you collected (problem statement). The Design Thinking method is a combination of the scientific method and the engineering method in that the scientific method looks to analyze the problem, make an assumption of why the problem exists, and after data collection and analysis you either support your assumption or refute it with your conclusion; the engineering method takes the problem definition and works to find a long-term solution that solves the problem in a sustainable way. So the design thinking process takes these two methods and combines them for the ultimate problem solving methodology.
The Double Diamond takes the Design Thinking methodology and encapsulates it in a useful diagram that is easy to understand. It captures the circular nature of the methodology while also demonstrating the different phases of the process. It is a great illustrative representation of the Design Thinking methodology and this is why I included it in my seminar for the students. When transmitting information to people who haven’t heard of what you’re talking about, it is important to appeal to both the audio and visual learners. You also need a level of dynamism in order to keep them engaged. I did this by including a small activity called “The Party”. In this activity the students swap ideas for a party by using the phrase “Yes, but…” and “Yes, and…”. The two phrases are meant to demonstrate the two classes of thinking necessary for project development: analytic thinking and creative thinking. “Yes, but…” represents the analytic or left-brain thinking whereas “Yes, and…” represents the creative or right-brain thinking. Why is this? “But” is a way of putting the brakes to an idea and stopping to consider it in a way that can be analytical whereas “and” is a motivator to keep spewing out ideas that puts no stops on any idea and allows the creative juices to flow.
The Canvas Business Model
The Canvas Business Model is another diagram useful for projects or start-ups. It is a tool used to identify the key components of your business endeavor. I chose this topic for the second day because the students were instructed to come up with science projects and I thought that the Canvas Business Model can also work with scientific projects as well as entrepreneurial ventures. A scientific investigation also has need for this type of resource identification. A scientific project has costs it needs to identify. It needs funds (revenue) to be realized. Its customers can be considered the people being studied or the people affected by the problem that is being investigated. It requires partnerships and collaboration. It carries out key activities to achieve it’s end goal. It has resources at its disposal for its realization. And it has a purpose or a mission that gave it life in the first place. Now the students that participated were all agriculture students. Some may become scientists and carry out investigations in agronomy, botany, animal science, genetics, horticulture, aquaculture, etc. However some may become involved in agribusiness or any other business for that matter. I repeat, the Canvas Business model is not just for entrepreneurs but for scientists as well. It has such a wide application that I thought it useful for all the students as they become adults and start entering the labor market.
The Golden Circle (simonsinek.com)
The Golden Circle is a motivational tool used to describe how to successfully connect with people in order to motivate them and gain their loyalty. To connect the topic to science, it is important to mention this tool’s connection to biology. One might think that the Golden Circle is psychological, but it is really based on the tenants of biology. This connection is made once you view a cross-section of the human brain and look at how the Golden Circle really reflects the layers of the brain. When we look at the brain we see that it is also separated into three layers. Starting from the inside out: The reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex. The reptilian brain is what drives our instincts. It is our animal brain and when we’re backed into a corner, the reptilian brain can take over and guide us through instinct alone. The limbic brain is the part of the brain that controls our emotions. It is where we can feel things like trust and loyalty. What is fascinating about the reptilian and limbic brain is that they are incapable of understanding language. This is why the “why” part is often the hardest to explain and seems foggy. Words oftentimes cannot capture what we feel or why, and this is usually why the majority of us have a hard time starting with “why”. Simon Sinek argues that few companies and people start with why when speaking to people or advertising a product, whereas the majority will start with “what”. When you start with “why” you connect with that part of the brain that speaks to people’s feelings. When you share your beliefs with someone and they believe as you do, there is an unspeakable bond between you two and a level of trust that is built. This is the sensation that Simon Sinek speaks about and this is the idea I wanted to get across to the students in the Campamento Científico Agropecuario 2020.
Overall the camp was a success. The students spoke highly of our contribution to the camp. We had many students say that our seminars were the most entertaining and dynamic. This was great news because that meant we connected with the students and that we have found a good way to motivate them and connect with them through the educational material we have developed. It was a joy participating in the camp and we will see what other opportunities present themselves as the year progresses.