One Final Lesson

Yesterday was our last day of school. Our activities of the day were the same as they were on Wednesday but with Dr. Laycock, Andrew, and Dayana constructing Martian Landers and Ralph and I talking about survival on Mars. After sharing ideas between the teams, the  final day was even more successful than the day before it. Both groups were able to charge my fitbit with solar energy (much to my pleasure), generate oxygen using electrolysis, land many of their astronauts successfully, and several students even claimed to hear some static with the crystal radios they made. Even more importantly, the students demonstrated their capacity to learn, and retain, the scientific content that we were teaching when they used some of the knowledge that was talked about last year to help inform their decisions this year for the temperature activity. I am truly in awe of how intelligent the students are and how enthusiastic they are to be learning. I couldn’t be happier that they enjoyed the activities that I helped to create.





After our final activities were over, Fr. Lesley invited us to have a lunch with him and several members of his staff in our honor. I am completely humbled to have a lunch in Haiti that occurred thanks, in part, to some actions that I did. Further, Fr. Lesley did an amazing toast that was quite moving. As a token of our friendship with the school, we exchanged signed posters. The lander activity used posters to illustrate the different means of landing on Mars. During one of the sessions, Dr. Laycock had the ingenious idea of having the students sign the posters so that way before we left, Fr. Lesley and the team could sign and exchange the posters so that each group had a copy as a symbol of our cooperation.





The experience of teaching the Haitian students is something that I will never forget. I am honored to have had this opportunity and want to thank everyone that made it possible. Thank you Dayana and Ralph for helping us lead the lessons and translating for us, Dr. Giles and Connie for having the center be possible, Dr. Lewis for helping me come up with ideas for activities, Andrew for providing technological advise and expertise to advance the activities, Fr. Lesley and his staff for opening up the school to us, and last, but certainly not least, Dr. Laycock for choosing me to join him on this expedition and for trusting me to help make the activities. I hope to be back again.



A Trip to Mars

Today’s trip to school simulated a trip to Mars. After last night’s star party, the students were all riled up and ready to learn about the Red Planet. Due to material constraints, we had to run to separate activities but both entailed researching Mars. Andrew, Dayana, and Dr. Laycock presented an activity about living on Mars. The activity started with students ranking all the planets, and a few everyday objects like ice and soup, based on their temperature so that they knew how cold it would be if they had to live on Mars. That led off on a discussion about atmospheres and how the atmosphere of Mars compares to that of the Earth. At this point, the team illustrated what happens when water interactions with certain kinds of rocks on the surface of Mars, simulated by baking soda, to show why Mars has an atmosphere largely of carbon dioxide. From that point the students were tasked with making sure that oxygen could be produced, electricity made, and that people could communicate if they were on Mars. The students making oxygen had to use electrolysis to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. The students generating electricity implemented solar panels to charge batteries. Finally, the students tasked with communication had to build a crystal radio. We are happy to say that all criteria for immediate survival were met!


Ralph and I had students attempting to land astronauts on Mars. To begin the activity, we discussed Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, the Phoenix Lander, Pathfinder, and the Viking Landers and how they were able to successfully land on the surface of Mars. We had students look at pictures and cards of retro rockets, parachutes, airbags, and the sky crane (used to land Curiosity). Then students were tasked with designing and building a lander of their own that wouldn’t injure our plaster astronauts and they had to do so on a budget of $500 in monopoly money. All items available to be used had a price, even the tools like scissors and tape. I was so impressed with all the different designs and ideas that were produced by the students. I was even more so impressed with how little some were able to spend. While a few astronauts hit a rock on landing or fell out of the lander, a majority made it safely to the ground. While we may have been a little boisterous at times, the sharing of thoughts and ideas was truly what produced the great designs of the landers. I look forward to what tomorrow has to offer.


Day 1 of Activities

Today was the first day of school, not for the students but for the instructors. Andrew, Dr. Laycock, Dayana, Ralph, and I went to the a local school in Les Cayes to teach the students about light. The activity of the day was to make cardboard spectroscopes to view the visible light spectrum. The teams were Dayana and Andrew and Tom and Ralph with Dr. Laycock helping out where needed. The students were excited and ready to learn. The activity began with the students sharing their ideas about light and what they already knew. Then we talked about waves and the electromagnetic spectrum. Students then tried to put together spectroscopes using card board tubes, different diffraction gratings, index cards, tape, paper, and scissors. While students needed some guidance from time to time, they all were ultimately able to construct successful spectroscopes that could separate white light into its spectrum. Throughout the activity, we also talked about how diffraction gratings work, why white light is able to be split, and how spectroscopes can be used for astronomy. I am pleased to say that the students were able to answer all my questions at the end of the activity. I was so impressed by what the students were able to accomplish in an hour and a half. They truly demonstrated how smart and ready to learn they were. I look forward to tomorrow’s activities.IMG_7780IMG_7789

Getting to Work

Tom: As the week moves along, we are now starting to get into the work that we came to Haiti to do. Sean and Mike are beginning to experiment with their chipper and Andrew, Dr. Laycock, and I have started organizing our materials for the outreach activities that we will be doing in the coming days.

We also go the pleasure of meeting, or in seeing again for some, Ralph and Dayana yesterday. Without them then our activities wouldn’t be possible and they are the reason that we are able to do anything at all here in Haiti. They will be our translators, our guides, and our friends over the course of the week.

While we may have begun to work, we have still been having our fun. A second night of spades brought even more enjoyment as we tried playing in teams. Ultimately, Dr. Giles and I may have lost to Andrew and Sean but at least we managed to beat Dr. Laycock and Mike. Today we were treated to fresh coconut picked straight from the tree. A man climb a tree to drop coconuts and then open them with a machete is certainly something that I will never forget.


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An Unforgettable First Impression

As I left for Logan in the morning, I was unsure what the day was going to bring me. All I knew was that I was going to Haiti to carry out several science activities with local children. While I had just spent weeks trying to make sure I had everything that I needed and that the activities were ready to go, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience. After a 4-hour flight to Port-Au-Prince, I disembarked the plane and was immediately hit by the heat and knew at that moment that I was no longer in Massachusetts. As I walked through the airport, I was met by the energetic sounds of a steel drum and a horde of people trying to carry my bags, for a price of course. After traversing the airport, I entered the awaiting van to take us to Les Cayes, not sure what the ride would entail. Dr. Giles had given us a briefing prior to our arrival on what to expect but the trip across the country was indescribable. As we battered along old, worn down, and broken roads and saw unimaginable sites, I was unsure of why I had ever agreed to go on the trip. I was admittedly scared. But as the ride went on, and on, I began to realize I shouldn’t be scared or afraid. I should be hopeful. Hopeful of all I, and everyone else, could potentially do to help. By the time I got to the center and met Connie, I was full of mixed emotions about what the trip would bring and unsure of how I felt. But that night as we played Spades, I knew for certain that felt happy and that I could make it through the week and accomplish what I set out to do. I look forward to what the coming days bring me and I know that everyone else feels the same. – TomIMG_7764