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Online tool ‘Kenyanizes’ science for Kenya kids

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Children engage in an experiment at Funke Science's tent at the 2014 Storymoja Festival. Photo: Funke ScienceAn on line platform is giving Kenya Kids a chance to learn science in a simple and fun way.

Known as FunKe Science, the platform enables children to experience science through experiments and engaging activities.

Started last year, FunKe Science aims to change the negative attitude towards science beginning with how it is taught.

“When we were carrying out science activities at the Storymoja Hay Festival, we noticed how excited children and their parents were by what we were doing. We noticed that there was a disconnect somewhere and that children needed to be taught science in a more engaging way,” explains co-founder of FunKe Science, Tracey Shiundu.

Started by a group of science lovers and graduates, FunKe Science also hopes to change children's mentality towards the subject.

“We also noticed how children do not understand the practicality of science therefore creating a gap and this is no surprise because even comparing with our campus days, there were more students in the arts than there were in the sciences,” remarks Tracey.

“We are not necessarily seeking to change their mindsets so that everyone is getting into science, rather what we want to do is ensure that every child understands what is happening,” adds the co-founder.

On of the ways FunKe Science carries out its work is through school visits.

“Once a school calls upon us we visit schools and teach them scientific concepts through fun experiments,” says Tracey. Among the schools they have visited are Makini and Loreto Msongari.

The school visits which normally target primary school going children are one hour long sessions and sees he children divided into age groups or classes.

The prices for the school visits vary depending on how many children are in a session. For a group of thrity children or more one will be charged Sh500 per child. One-on-one personal sessions are also offered but at a higher fee of Sh1500 per child.

Apart from schools, they have also showcased their experiments at the Storymoja Festival. They have also done social work activities at a social center in Lang'ata and at the Supermamas charity event for kids with cerebral palsy.

FunKe Science regards its different approach to teaching the subject as one of the things that sets them apart from how science is taught in school.

“You will find that the way science is taught, it focuses too much on textbooks,” says Tracey. She goes on to add that FunKe Science is trying to “Kenyanize” the way the subject is taught.

“By contextualizing science to something kids are familiar  with. For instance in our school visits, we do experiments with everyday materials children know like sufurias, mwikos, flour,water sugar,” remarks the co-founder.

This year, FunKe Science has a number of plans they want to carry out. The first of these is a science fest.

“We would like to have a big science fest whereby a system develops such that children are able to exchange ideas and learn from one another,” said Tracey.

For the fest, they plan to target primary school children so that they can “break a niche”, build themselves around these children and “grow with them”.

Another plan for the year are estate visits.

“During the holidays we would like to visit an estate and enact these science concepts that they have been learning in school,” comments Tracey. In April they would like to visitone in Lang'ata.

In addition to the science fest and holiday estate visits, the on line platform also has plans to develop a “kid-friendly” on line game that will reinforce scientific concepts taught.

Parents can also play a role in getting children to like science.

“It's more of your attititude towards it and letting your child be,” advises Tracey.

“I give an example my co-founder Dennis, a geologist who while applying for the Google Tech Entrepreneur program  learned that one of the director's daughters love rocks. The parent has no idea about geology but since they met Dennis, they have been urging him to bring rocks fro the daughter.” narrates Tracey. She goes on to add that basically one just requires a positive attititude.

In the long term, FunKe Science would to see a change in the way science is taught in schools but Tracey does acknowledge though that this would be a challenge.

“In order to make science more practical in the way it is taught, there would need to be a lot of investment in equipment which can come in as a challenge,” notes Tracey who is quick to add though that e-learning platforms may just be the answer.

“Our dream therefore is to just encourage more African scientists who come up with the solutions to African problems,” concludes Tracey.

FunKe Science has its offices at the C4DLab on University of Nairobi's Chiromo Campus. For more information on FunKe Science, call Tracey Shiundu on 0726 116 976. FunKe Science can also be reached by visiting their website-http://funkescience.co.ke, their Facebook page-FunKe Science, following them on Twitter-@funkescience or checking out their YouTube Channel-FunKe Science

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