KALRO Sciece

 

Introduction

This write-up aimed at providing an overview of the Science centre Kenya program within KALRO. The genesis of this Centre arose from partnership and advocacy for establishment of science centres in every country as Cape Town declaration during the Science Centre World Congress in 2011. Kenya was represented in this event which led to initiation of an interactive Science centre corner in 2012 within KALRO- Biotechnology Centre-Kabete. KALRO later in 2015 approved Science Centre Kenya program establishment as the first interactive science Centre in the country. KALRO being a major, well established Research Organization is worth to start the first Science Centre in Kenya to engage young people; children, youth and general public on science, research, production and services addressing vision 2030 and the four Presidential agenda.

Contribution of Science Centre Kenya

Kenya is a 'young' country, with an estimated 61% of its population being children age 0 to 14 and youth age 15 to 24 (UN 2017). Based on latest UN estimates, the country's youth population is made up of over 9.5 million people, more than 20% of all Kenyans. This is the greatest labor force that should be attracted and empowered through science centres and other programs. Agriculture is significant in Kenya with an employment rate at 37.95 % in 2017 (World Bank 2017 report). Out of total population of youth, only 10% are directly participating in Agricultural sector (World Bank 2014). KALRO’s permanent work force comprise of high percentage above 45yrs thus need to attract young people into agricultural sciences. Science is seen as boring, un-trendy and perceived as difficult, there is more dogmatic, top-down presentation of science rather than participatory and open-minded. Formal teaching has mostly been for exams and with low exposure to science experiences due to limited resources. Due to low engagement in science, there has been slow adoption of science applications, products and services. There is thus need for science centres which play a key role in science awareness and engagement.

Mission and Vision

 

The mission of Science Centre Kenya (SCK) program is to promote science, technology, engineering and maths through interactive science experiences that engage, challenge, and inspire exploration and understanding of the world around us with the vision of a brighter future for Kenya’s youth through STEM.

Programs and Activities

The Science Centre Kenya engage learners; primary, secondary and tertiary learners, professionals and the public through interactive self-experiential exhibits, hands on workshops and amazing science shows in line with school curriculum and extra-informal approaches. SCK runs several interactive programs; Holiday programs; April, August and December, Mentorship program; linking young people to professionals, Design for Change program; children doing projects through a four stage approach of Feel, Imagine, Do and Share (FIDS), Sustainable agriculture; engaging young people into farming from agronomy to harvesting, value addition and agribusiness, outreach program to schools, national and international events. SCK activities cut across; microscopy; see what doctors see, chemistry; reactions, entomology; insects for food, molecular structures, climate change, waste management, irrigation, soil profiles and minerals. Science Centre Kenya has also initiated games approach to science through establishment of a science mini-golf, brain marathon and science based team building activities which highly attract young people into science/agriculture.

Partnerships

KALRO SCK has attracted various partners in achieving collaborative goal; Office of the President, Ministry of Education-Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Irish embassy through Young Scientists Kenya STEM and Innovation program, Centre for Mathematics, Science and Technology Education in Africa (CEMASTEA) through STEM schools program, Australian Embassy and Australian government through Science Circus program and Cornell alliance for science.

Influence of Science Centre Kenya

Science Centre Kenya has influenced Uganda and Tanzania to establish their first science centres. This has been through Science Circus program which held meetings with Ministry of Education in Mwanza-Tanzania and meetings with Uganda National Council for Science and Technology. SCK has also influenced partnerships with the Botswana International University of Science and Technology and various programs in South Africa.

Impact of SCK since its initiation under KALRO

Collectively, studies from around the world show that there is significant evidence for impact of science centres locally and globally(Dierking et al 2002, Leinhardt & Gregg 2002, Winterbotham 2005 and Travers & Glaister 2004).

Establishment of Science Center Kenya in KALRO has impacted learners to be more interested in science making them to change their attitudes from perceiving science to be hard to it being easy, fun and trending. Informal exposure at SCK has enhanced participatory, open-minded approach and narrowed the gap between theory and the application of science. Through monitoring and evaluation, SCK approaches has increased the number of student visitors at Biotechnology Research Institute-Kabete from 2000 in 2013 to 14000 in 2018 and an increase on outreach from 5 schools in 2015 to 57 schools in 2018. The disabled, vulnerable groups and children homes have been attracted to KALRO’s activities and more so innovations. An increase on visitors’ knowledge & understanding of KALRO’s research and science has been noticed. There has been memorable learning experiences with lasting impact on attitudes & behavior and a wide-ranging personal & social impacts and promotion of inter-generational learning from parents to their children. SCK has promoted trust and understanding between the public and our scientific community. Through entry fee, funding for events and programs, SCK has contributed to economic growth.

 

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