We are a group of Jordanians helping kids and Syrian refugees in Jordan receive proper education. Ask Us Anything.
Hi, we are Farah, Hamza, and Shorouq, and in 2011 we started the Scientific Culture Society which provides educational programs to public schools and underprivileged communities. Through our Fun Science Program we've worked with 300 Syrian refugee youth and over 500 public school students so far. Next we're taking this a step further and are about to launch the Science League.
The Science League is a program modeled after the boy scouts, where kids will be required to do science projects in order to earn badges. Through this we give these kids the freedom to explore themselves and work on their projects with their own hands, something not available for kids in Jordan, especially Syrian refugees.
We have already worked with Jordanian kids in the worst schools you could imagine! One time, a school principal refused to open up the school on a Saturday for us to give the kids a workshop, and asked for a bribe! Yes, sometimes, it does get that bad, but we manage.
Similar programs might be available to kids in rich countries, but not in Jordan, and the crises that neighboring countries are going through are not making things any easier.
We have a campaign page on indiegogo for The Science League but regardless we will still continue in our work with children in Jordan. Ask Us Anything!
EDIT: Here is proof. Thanks. Extra proof.
EDIT2: Here are some pictures of us teaching these kids.
EDIT3: Our artwork! http://imgur.com/a/iw0yR
- So far, we feel we have made an impact with all the kids we could reach, but we need to help more in the future.
- Our org does offer internships and volunteers in any country if they happen to reside in Jordan atm or can help from outside Jordan. Our first internship student will arrive soon in Jordan from Sweden, so that's a yes.
Thank you so much for your support! Education is usually neglected and people seem to think there are more important things although it is the foundation of good, achieving, human beings!
No question, just want to applaud your efforts. Well done!
Many thanks <3
How acceptive and receptive are the kids to 'modern' ideas ? They have grown up in a radical neighbourhood. Do you find 'resistance' or drop outs ? Are those kids acceptable of ideas like democracy and human rights ? Doesn't their religious prejudice make your task harder ?
We found that most of them are very accepting.Although one time, the kids had just finished a DIY solar cooker project, and since the solar cookers are made of boxes, one team had a solar cooker that looked exactly like Al-Ka'ba... They even added a yellow strap at the middle to make it look more like Al-Ka'ba. After trying the projects out, that particular group managed to raise the temperature to the highest and cook delicious marshmallows. When we asked the others why this group won, some said they used more reflective material, some said they used more black paper and black absorbed heat... AND THEN ONE BOY JUMPED AND SAID 'IT'S BECAUSE IT LOOKS LIKE AL-KA'ABA'. That day was a bit disappointing to me personally, because that's not the damn scientific method!
But generally, kids are more open than older generations when it comes to democracy and human rights. The girls who participated in our latest project discussed the idea of finding life outside Earth and that life could have evolved on a distant planet very freely.
Have you taught them about the evolution of cell phones?
So far, no. But the program we are raising money for will feature a communication technology badge about cellphones, radios, media, etc.
I feel like explaining how phones evolved is a great way to explain evolution.
Possibly, although mutation doesn't have a parallel since cell phone changes are not as random and thus the process of natural selection is different altogether, so it might be a bit misleading. Thanks for the suggestion.
A lot of religious people can't grasp evolution what so ever. It's like a different way for people to think about it with respect to their individual thoughts.
That's one of the problems we will have to struggle with in the program. Evolution is quite necessary for any student to know about, be it school or university students.
Is there pressure from conservatives there to not teach Evolution, or is it possible to just hand-wave it away as "gods plan" to placate them?
Yes, there is huge pressure from conservatives. But as it is an integral part of science, we will not yield to them. Also, as evolution is so important to uni and school students alike, and most of our volunteers are uni students, we are sure to give them adequate training on how to handle the evolution issue. We plan on taking them to trips to collect fossils as well because we do have rich diversity in Jordan and many personally collectable fossils, as it is part of evolution and biology.
My wife and I are landing in Amman on the 12th of Oct. Is there any help you might need from two Americans? There or even not being there.
Hello, and we're glad to hear you are coming to visit Amman! What would really help is if you could donate or share the campaign with people who are interested. Just knowing that you support us is enough, and if you'd like, we could meet up with you and have a friendly gathering when you reach Amman.
How are you funded , besides the indiegogo campaign?
Keep up the good work :)
Usually, some foundations help us get basic funds for one or two workshops, or a series of workshops, such as our last one that was sponsored by UNESCO.
But for the project to be ongoing, we will have fees (which will be considerably cheap) after the first one and a half years (because if we raise all money we need from the campaign, we'll be able to especially help kids who cannot pay fees at all). Also, schools, orgs, and big philanthropists can pay for the fees of students in especially vulnerable areas. Foundations will usually pay all fees for Syrian refugees.
The idea behind the fee is to give the project a sense of formality (so parents won't tell their kids to pass the workshop "because it's free") and maintain money for future projects.
How are you guys planning to enhance and improve the scientific education in the Jordanian public schools in the near future?
We have designed a special program for that called "The Science League", which works as a badge system (kinda pokemon-ish). Kids aged 6-18 will have to do after school projects to earn certain badges. Each project can take up to a month with our volunteers meeting them each Saturday. They can do as many projects as they want every year, and to level up they will have to do a science project and present it at our org's annual science festival.
These extra-curriculum experiments and projects will teach kids how to plan, work in teams, and use theoretical ideas practically. All hands on, all fun.
And to make sure we are having a good impact, students can stay in the program throughout their school life, and after the age of 18, they can join us as volunteers.
Wow. Teachers are great people, but teachers like you are truly the greatest! I feel your open ended science project plan is very useful, because it can inspire them to examine their world and try to better it. If I have a question it's simply this:
Do you receive any funding? From whom?
How many people do you employ? How many students do you have?
My favorite science projects have always been dealing with growing plants and/or examining local flora and fauna.
Keep it up!
Great questions! The funding we received in the past was from foundations and organizations such as UN Women, UNESCO, and AMIDEAST. They funded a number of great workshops, but we do not receive direct funding for the entire program.
Currently, we have a number of university students in our team, including myself, Shorouq, Laura (specialized in developing curriculum), Farah (volunteer manager), and around 10 basic volunteers that help us on one workshop or the other. So far, 700+ students have befitted from our workshops, and most of them asked us to kindly come back for another workshops. Of these, 300 are Syrian refugee children, and 500 are students in public, poor schools.
We had a similar project to that! On our Trip to Moon Europa workshop, one team was assigned the duty to provide food supplies and plant in space on one of Jupiter's moons! So they made a solar cooker and experimented with in hydroculture!
Correct me if I'm wrong, and perhaps this is a bit off topic, but I've read that many thousands of Palestinian refugees live in Jordan. Despite the fact that they have lived in Jordan for generations, and most now alive were born in Jordan, they do not have Jordanian citizenship and thus are restricted in the jobs they can get and property they can own.
Is this true? Have you ever worked with Palestinian refugees in Jordan? As a humanitarian issue, is this talked about much in Jordan? Do you ever see an end to it?
Over half the population of Jordan are descendants of Palestinian refugees. They have Jordanian citizenship and full rights. The queen is one of these people, and they number in the millions, not thousands. You argree probably thinking about Lebanon, not Jordan.
Hi! I myself come from parents whose parents were refugees from Palestine. My father is originally from Yaffa and my mother from Qada' Yaffa. They both have citizenship and we, as many other Palestinian refugees, enjoy the civil rights of any other Jordanian. However, some have it pretty hard, and do not have citizenship, especially if the father still resides in the occupied territories, because Jordan does not grant citizenship so easily if the father is non-Jordanian... only if the mother is non-Jordanian. Others still live in poor camps although they may have access to jobs and healthcare. The number of those residing in camps (that they have now transformed into houses and big towns) is hard to state (but apx. 338,000) and are given almost full healthcare and education, but are limited due to poverty and not gov't orders. However, Jordan is the only country in the middle east that fully integrated Palestinian (1948). Some still face discrimination despite being full Jordanian citizens.
However, needless to say, their status is better than Syrian refugees at the moment. That does not mean it's "perfect".
And yes, many of the kids we worked with are from Palestinian descent such as myself. And I see an end to the discrimination issue very soon, because Palestinians have become a major and vital part of Jordan and Jordanian culture. Even though both my parents are from Palestinian descent, they both work as university professors at two different Unis in Jordan. You could say that the majority of Palestinians in Jordan were given citizenship. Those who don't are estimated to be 167,000+.
Has the kids basic knowledge gone down since the situation escalated?
Yes, many Syrian kids do not go to school anymore or get any proper education. And since the economy of Jordan has hit a wall recently, many schools don't have proper classrooms or resources to teach the children properly, not to mention around 600 students in highschool are illiterate, and turned in their final exam papers empty.
What we noticed really happens, is that the kids have hidden talents. They have great potential, but are rarely ever given the chance to unleash it and do projects themselves outside the boring school curriculum that even misses out on properly teaching evolution to 10th graders.
So the answer would be yes.
What is your organizations stand on anti-Semitism?
We do not encourage hate toward other people in any way possible. Only love and fun science!
Good. I have seen the good work the Boy Scouts of Afghanistan do, and it is nice knowing there are other organizations that have positive, constructive avenues for the youth in the Middle East. I wish you the best of luck.
We appreciate your support. I'm sure there are many other organizations that do their best and spread coexistence, but they need a push forward.
Would you share something of your backgrounds?
Hamza Arsbi, Psychology graduate. Focused on learning methods and education. Awarded the US Presidential Award for community service, 3 fellowships. Co authored a book on the relationship of science, religion and philosophy.
Shorouq Zahra, studying English Literature at the same uni, loves cats, and discovered that she is also good at teaching kids. Spent childhood in Leipzig, Germany. Part-time translator, also worked with the Humans of Amman project as a translator (built on the Humans of New York photography project).
Farah Abu Hamdan, half Circassian half Durzi girl living in Jordan, currently studying Psychological Counseling at University of Jordan. Worked as a soccer team coach at Albakaa camp. Our current volunteer manager who puts things together, and also a big cat enthusiast! :3
And some more!
How can we help besides a cash donation? Are there any classroom supplies that we could send?
Classroom supplies are not a problem. And we were working on another "portable lab" program.
You can help by sharing the link with interested friends and keeping this topic running. Many thanks!
EDIT: Your help might be needed in phase 2. You could provide us with your email and we will keep you updated.
You are doing good work and I commend you for it, but I have a question completely unrelated to education: can you please post some pictures of Jordanian cuisine? Bonus points if you can describe the flavors.
The national dish is mansaf. It is a traditional bedouin dish made with lamb yogurt, lamb meat, rice, and according to tradition is eaten with your hands (no spoon). The defining taste is in the yogurt, which should be slightly sour and very powerful. The smell of lamb should stay on your fingers for days.
For dessert you have kunafa, which consists of soft white cheese converted in burnt sugar. The taste is very sweet, crunchy, and hot on your tongue.
Thank you so much for this. That mansaf looks amazing! I need to go find a Jordanian restaurant.
No need! Look up the recipe and enjoy doing it at home. ;)
How can I help?
Hello, SuperNinjaBot! Currently, you can help by donating on our indiegogo or spreading the word with interested friends. If you live in Jordan, you can also help by becoming a volunteer in the near future. Even if you are based outside Jordan and would like to help, you cam PM your contact info to us!
My buddy is studying abroad in Jordan right now. If I gave you his contact info (or gave him yours) do you think you could give him an opportunity to hang out with you guys and maybe help out with your work a little? He is in Amman.
No doubt! You could PM his contact info to us, and we'll invite him over for coffee!
Ooops. Just edited the original post.
If you check our facebook page, and go to albums, you can see all our pictures working with kids.
I've been looking for volunteer opportunities similar to this in Lebanon or Jordan for next summer... I would love to come over and help out! As a volunteer teacher, I wouldn't need any certifications right? I've found the cert courses too expensive to justify, especially if I don't go into teaching English. Are you based in Amman or a different city?
Hello. We are based in Amman. As a volunteer in general, you would only need to get our training course which we give to all volunteers. Yes, we are based in Amman but work in many other cities. Please PM me your contact info!
Do you accept applications?
For internships or volunteer work or expert services? And yes, but it depends on where you live and what you are applying for.
I'm a student at northeastern university, which has been kind of the flagship for "co-operative education" or "co-ops". Co-ops are generally 5-6 month paid internships that are treated in most ways like an entry level position, the caveat being that companies understand their employee will go back to school after the 6 month period is finished.
Northeastern currently has excellent programs in Jordan--I spent two months in Amman last summer, learning Arabic. If your program is getting larger, I urge you to outreach at Northeastern, Drexel and anywhere else with a co-op program; you may be flooded with applications like mine come November.
Wonderful! Thank you for the great info, and I hope you enjoyed your stay in Jordan. .^
If there is any way that I can help, will you guys PM me??
That is my question.
Sure! Please PM us with your email and we will keep you updated. Currently, you can help with sharing the campaign or donating. In the future (phase 2), there might be good opportunities for you to help even if you reside outside Jordan.
Are you teaching them how to garden? Many schools do not, and I believe it to be very important.
Yep! The program will feature a badge especially for botany and not only how to garden, but also how to market food. We are planning to name that badge "Khudarji" which is a Jordanian word for the person who farms and sells crops, fruits, and vegetables. The name has a negative meaning sometimes, because many think "Khudarjis" are necessarily poor and uneducated people. We mean to prove otherwise!
Recently, we gave kids aged 5-8 workshops on the importance of organic food, and gave them samples of organic and commercial juices. They had to find out which are which and why.
You guys are awesome.
What kind of education do you give them . islamic education or western education ?
LOL, that is by far the funniest question! Neither. We give them scientific education (not sure if that is what you mean by Western). Science knows no religion or ideology. It is simply science.
I think he is referring to the notion that an education can only be gained in a classroom setting, teaching subjects like English, Math, Science, etc.
There is discussion about whether or not this sort of education is right for the developing world. Maybe the more traditional forms of education in their culture have more to offer realistically rather than an education aimed at training people to join the work force in the developed countries.
That said, I don't think it applies to your situation.
If that is what is meant by the question, then the answer would be that we are not working toward giving the kids science workshops that alienate them from their society, but rather workshops that help them put their knowledge into action and help the Jordanian society get better, as well as helping Syrian refugee children get along with Jordanian kids and blend in, so to enjoy the program as well without having to face discrimination based on religion, gender, or ethnicity.
I think there is some real value in what you are doing, thank you for sharing with us.
Thank you for all your support. <3
The Syrian conflict and its effects on neighboring countries such as Jordan are major, and these children have nothing to do with any of that. They just want to grow up in a world where they're capable of finding some livelihood or at the very least pursue interests such as science. We do this because we enjoy helping, and we care about these children, and we assume there are others like us out there.
Oh plus, one of the main reasons for extremism and Jordanian youth joining ISIS, for example, is because no one ever points them toward the right direction. We want to help them graduate school hoping to positively impact society, not run rampage shootings at innocent people.
Because one day the s**t might hit the fan in your country too, and you'd want people like our excellent "science league" friends looking out for your kids.
Anyway all kids are important. No matter their race, creed or nationality. Thats why evolution made adults, to make sure the kids grow. (Well you get my drift anyway)
Thanks! Are you an actual actual wizard?
In any case, I think what you're doing is awesome, and I wish you guys the best! Education seems to be one of the most significant dividing factors in socioeconomic progression, and these children deserve a shot to earn a proper education towards a good future in which they can support their families and lead amazing lives that can make a difference in our society!
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