UNESCO Prize laureate builds science literacy among hard-to-reach Peruvian girls

07 May 2018

The Mini Academy of Science and Technology (MaCTec) from Peru won the 2017 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education. The co-founder and director of MaCTec, Johanna Johnson, shares about recent developments after winning the UNESCO Prize.

This is Valeria. She is from Huancayo, a rural area approximately 300 kilometers from Lima. Every Friday night with her mother, she takes an 8-10 hour bus ride to Lima to attend science workshops at the MaCTec laboratories.

Valeria dreams of becoming an astrobiologist. Since attending her first MaCTec workshop in 2015, she has set up a laboratory in her house to investigate whether living organisms would survive the climate conditions in Mars. She is an inspiration to other Peruvian girls, helping to promote science literacy in her community by replicating our workshops with her peers.

Science illiteracy in Peru is currently critically high. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) ranked Peruvian students at the near bottom in science literacy. MaCTec is focusing on developing Peru’s science literacy by nurturing the curiosity and creativity of Peruvian girls. In doing so, we hope to build a generation of girls and young women like Valeria who will transform the country’s scientific culture and promote innovation.

Discovery

MaCTec has designed a novel method for science education, called Discovery-Peer Learning (DPL). While workshops cover diverse subjects from quantum mechanics, exploring the world of atoms, to genetics, they all have a common objective – to promote girls’ discovery. In all MacTec workshops, girls will discover something new in nature, science, physics or biology.

During these workshops, girls are free to enquire without being afraid to make mistakes. They challenge each other, and even the scientists and the fellows conducting the workshops. Girls work in teams to promote peer learning and teamwork. The application of the DPL method generates joyful learning and interest in the world of science, especially when discoveries are made.

Reaching the hardest-to-reach

The UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education is providing MaCTec with the power to transform the current rate of science illiteracy in Peru. We are currently building the first mobile “Science Museum on Wheels”. The Science Museum on Wheels will visit neighborhoods in Peru, and in particular disadvantaged communities, to benefit the hardest-to-reach.

Many girls in disadvantaged areas are not able to afford the transportation fare to reach the MaCTec labs and attend our workshops. We are therefore bringing the science and the workshops to them starting this Fall. Several private universities have already expressed their support to our efforts. The Science Museum on Wheels will host MaCTec’s science workshops under the direction of well-recognized scientists and employing MaCTec’s DPL method.

We are thrilled and honoured to have been named Laureate of the 2017 UNESCO Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education. Winning the Prize has enabled us to expand our activities and reach more girls in Peru, and will ultimately contribute to increased science literacy in the country. We hope that many more girls will follow on Valeria’s footsteps, taking part in creating the next scientific innovations of the future.

MaCTec is a young organization focused on empowering girls from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds with quality science education, creating a scientific culture that approaches problems based on solid evidence rather than faith or feeling.

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Apply for this year’s Prize before 11 May 2018: