Sometimes, all the sweat, blood, and tears of being a Peace Corps volunteer can pay off in one amazing day.  For me, that day was the Journée Science-Filles I organized for my school , held on May 1, 2012. This activity brought together the girls from my joint middle and high school for a day filled with games, science experiments, and sensitization sessions to promote women’s health and girls’ interest in science. My hope was to give the girls an exciting and fun look into how science affects their lives and futures- and hopefully inspire them to stay in school and pursue their career goals (many of my students want to become doctors).

The girls were extremely excited about the event - especially when we told them no boys were allowed, even more especially when we told them they could come wearing whatever they wanted (instead of school uniforms), most especially when they heard I had three other American volunteers coming out to help for the event.  Out of the 120 total girls who attend my school, 104 showed for the big day! We started with a long opening ceremony, allowing the representatives of the community and teachers to share a few words.  Finally, when everyone had had their say, we moved the girls outside for a few games.  The races and challenges were followed by science experiments and demonstrations including volcanoes, card houses, DNA extractions, and homemade lava lamps.  Later we split the girls up for special sessions on Women’s Health and HIV/AIDS, for which they seemed to show much interest.  The day ended with a few more games and a gift raffle, followed by a small ceremony where each girl received a certificate for participating in the entire activity.  On the surveys the girls completed at the end of the event, every single one marked “OUI,” in the response to the question, “Did you have fun today?” The favorite activities of the day were across the board, with some girls preferring the experiments, some liking the games, others writing down the “SIDA” (AIDS) session as their favorite.

After the “Remise des Certificats,” however, the day wasn’t over.  For the holiday, (and apparently in the honor of the American volunteers who had come to help for the Girls & Science day) the teachers of Lafou had organized a soccer match against the teacher of Thangel-Bouri, a village about 15k north of us.  My co-facilitators and I, as honored guests at the soccer match, were given special seats as I watched my colleagues play soccer, avoiding the occasional cow that ran onto the field.  After the game, we retreated, exhausted, back to my house.  Cooking a meal and getting clean, we recounted our favorite parts of the day together, and politely declined several invitations to go out to the “Soirée dansante” (dance party with students) that was being held later that night.  Looking at the success of the event and looking to the future, we plan to recreate the Journée Science-Filles on a larger scale, perhaps even over several days.  Still, reaching over a hundred girls in one day with exciting activities on science was extremely rewarding and, hopefully, effective.  The girls seemed to enjoy it, and after all, that’s what’s most important. Vive les sciences! And, as my students say every morning before they raise the flag, “Vive le glorieux peuple de Guinée!”

My excellent, amazing helpers were Kelsey Hanks (Education volunteer- English Teacher), Juliette Keeley (Education Volunteer – Math Teacher), and Aprille Knox (Public Health Volunter).  I COULD NOT have done it without them! Photos from the event can be found here:

Photo Side Note:  You might catch a glimpse of an ugly black eye that I’m sporting during this event.  I crashed on my bike two days before the big fete, and I received some nasty scabs and bruises as a result. In the future, I’ll try to break more carefully when going downhill on unpaved roads, especially on weekends before I plan on hosting large events!