After many Science workshops in Africa and South America, which we have given as Senior Science Advisors for students and teachers, we realized that teaching of science should not end at the school gate, but be put into practice in the lives of the students.
Students study at their school for example the application of electric current in simple circuits to produce light or to drive an electric motor. At home, however, many of the students have no access to electricity to generate light in the dark for learning. In order to see something, many families use kerosene lanterns that produce poisonous gases and pose a major fire hazard. As the houses are close to each other and constructed of wood and flammable materials, the outbreak of a fire has disastrous consequences. The hospitals in such settlements report of severe burns especially in infants.
Therefore we have equipped some schools in Namibia, Guatemala, Kenya, Chile and Peru with a 10 Watt Solar Light System, consisting of a solar charging station and mobile LED lanterns. After school lessons – about basic knowledge of electricity – the students learn how to use solar cells, rechargeable batteries and LEDs to build their own light for reading.
The students take the mobile LED lanterns home and when the batteries are discharged after about 30 hours of light for reading they can be recharged at school the next morning. The charging station is managed by a group of students who may also carry out simple repairs.
The durability of the system is designed for at least five years, so that by a system price of 200 USD, each of the participating ten students and their families will have safe light at home for a price of 20 USD. Now students have the opportunity to learn or to read during the evening to improve their education.
A USB-adapter also allows the charging of cell phones and other electronic devices that require 5 Volts.
Since the Siemens Foundation supports our “Solar Light for Learning” project, we are now able to equip more schools with such a system.
When carrying out scientific projects in developing countries, it is important to establish a link between Indigenous Knowledge and modern scientific knowledge. One example is the cultural significance of light for the Incas on the one hand and the influence of electric light on the development in the industrialized countries on the other hand.
Dieter Arnold studied chemistry and physical education in Göttingen (Germany) and was a a teacher at the Wilhelmsgymnasium in Kassel. From 1991 to 1999 he worked as a teacher at the German International School Cape Town / South Africa. Since 2001 he supported as a consultant the education department Kassel and after his retirement in 2008 he is a regular lecturer at science teacher training in schools in Germany and abroad. Furthermore, Dieter Arnold developed experimental sets and themes boxes for science classes and operates a website for teachers and students in the area of science (www.dfu-cockpit.de).