SHAPE, in the SHAPE Project is an acronym which stands for Shaping Healthy Attitudes and Protecting the Environment. It was a public engagement with science project which connects high school pupils in Ghana with tertiary level students and STEM professionals to work together on a 12months challenge. This Wellcome Trust funded SHAPE project was one of the earliest projects organised by GhScientific.
For the SHAPE Project pilot, 104 junior high school pupils were recruited from 16 private and public schools and placed in 8 teams. Teams were tasked with identifying health conditions with environmental triggers and coming up with innovative solutions to reducing these environmental triggers. Each team was then paired with two university students to serve as project ambassadors to support with the development of their solutions. They each then had a professional to serve as their designated mentor to further advise on the scientific content of their chosen project.
Th SHAPE project was launched in December 2015 at the annual meeting of the Ghana Science Association with representatives from the various schools, invited guests and selected media houses. The theme at the meeting was; National Development Through Scientific Innovation, and the SHAPE project served as a showcase of how the scientific community can engage with the public to promote an interest in research.
Science education in Ghana has historically been challenging due to a lack of innovation in lessons and minimal translation of theory into practise. Many public schools are without laboratories and pupils are often left to their imagination. By engaging pupils with projects such as SHAPE project, they have an opportunity to better appreciate a future with Science. Bearing this in mind, it was important to train and build capacity in the teams to better prepare them for the task at hand.
We formed a partnership with the Grameen foundation to provide volunteers as part of a Google international outreach program to run these capacity building workshops. The teams were taken through the scientific method of conducting research including data collection and analysis. Other sessions were aimed at developing communication and presentation skills including presenting with PowerPoint and poster preparation with a final workshop on time management, idea generation and team work. The last week of the workshops were held with the ambassadors and teachers on effective project management.
Through partnership with the Ghana Science Association, we had a network of professionals to support the project and the teams had the chance to visit a number of research departments including the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. The Multimedia Group, one of the largest media houses in Ghana also supported the project by providing a media platform to publicise the project. Their support led to interviews of the individual teams which was aired on a weekly basis and also the opportunity to speak on the need for public engagement with science through the SHAPE project during their morning breakfast show.
With teams formed and workshops completed, the pupils were ready to take on the challenge. They met regularly over the course of the SHAPE project to research on their selected topics and put together their findings which was showcased at the closing ceremony. The projects from the 8 teams were as follows:
- Team: The Sparkling Stars of Science
Project: The Effect of Carbon Cycle Disruptions
- Team: The Blessed Blue Kings
Project: Impact of Poor Human Waste Disposal
- Team: Scholars of Nativity
Project: You Are What You Breathe
- Team: The Eco-Warriors
Project: Alternative Solid Waste Management
- Team: Agents of Change
Project: A Story of Water, Waste and Market Places
- Team: Brainstormers
Project: Creating Sustainable Environment Clubs
- Team: Youth Environment Activists
Project: Alternative Approaches to Reducing the Impact of Mosquitoes on Health
- Team: St.Maurice Champions
Project: Air Pollution In Urban Communities
The closing Ceremony
In a room full of students, teachers, parents, invited guests and professionals from the scientific community, the teams took it in turn to showcase their various projects to the audience and a panel of judges. They also put together poster presentations of their work. The impact of the capacity building workshops and success of the project was evident in the final presentations from the various teams at the closing ceremony. Their growth over the course of the project came through as they confidently shared and answered questions on their chosen health condition, identified environmental triggers and their innovative solutions to reducing the impact of these environmental triggers on health. Awards were presented to Most Practical Project, the Most Innovative Project and the Best Poster Presentation. A final award went to the Best Teacher.
The SHAPE project set out to show that by equipping pupils with the right tools and resources they could excel in their ability regardless of their background and that’s what the pupils exhibited. It also set out to encourage more higher education students and STEM professionals to take up public engagement with science and to finally promote collaborations on STEM educational projects for maximum impact. Based on the success of the pilot, GhScientific intends to run the project annually to give the opportunity to as many pupils as possible. The project diary is available online at shape.ghscientific.com.