The Little Shop of Physics brings its work to Namibia, Africa

Allec Brust

Brian Jones and students working with infared thermometers. (Photo courtesy of )
Brian Jones and students working with infrared thermometers. (Photo courtesy of Brian Jones.)

The Little Shop of Physics, based out of the Colorado State University College of Natural Sciences, focuses on creating interactive science experiences for K-12 students across Colorado. However, last summer, the Little Shop reached far beyond the boundaries of Colorado to teach science to kids in Namibia, Africa.

When asked about the experience in Africa, Little Shop of Physics Director Brian Jones was excited to share the work he and his team did with fourth graders in Africa, calling the experience “epic.”

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“It is a three-part project,” Jones said about the logistics of the program. “First, we talk with the teachers and get to know what materials they need. We then create these kits, send them to Namibia, and then go there and show the teachers how they can do hands-on science in the classroom, because its very difficult to go in some cases.”

The kits that Jones and his team create are versatile, comprised of cost-efficient tools that can be used for multiple electricity-driven experiments. The goal is to create an interactive learning environment that teaches children better than the traditional classroom lecture setting.

Sheila Ferguson, another Little Shop of Physics member, said the learning experience in Namibia was special, and that it spanned beyond the lines of learning.

“Something very special was the opportunity to work with a group of learners who had never been away from their villages before,” Ferguson wrote in an email to the Collegian. “They seemed very shy and were very quiet, even during meals and free time. After our team interacted with them for a few hours, they were laughing, chatting among themselves, sharing ideas with us about science and asking about opportunities to attend college.”

Sheila went on to explain that the experience was nothing less than magical. According to Ferguson, it was all thanks to Sherri Lyttle, the Corporate Social Responsibility Manager for the B2Gold mine in Namibia and a CSU alumna.

“Sherri has shared information with me about B2Gold, and I have never heard of anything like it,” Ferguson wrote. “They really care about the communities they work in and want to improve the lives of the people there.”

Both Lyttle and Brian said they believe the kits they use in their teaching are beneficial because of how they are built and provided to their students. Although the children in Namibia live in a completely different culture, they were eager to learn from American teachers and absorbed the material very well.

When asked about the most memorable parts of the Namibian experience, Lyttle could not talk enough about the students she got to work with.

“We met three students in the last group of learners that were passionate about going to college to get engineering or physics degrees,” Lyttle said. “They wanted to know everything they could to prepare for college and possibly attend universities in the United States, including CSU.”

Collegian Reporter Allec Brust can be reached at news@collegian.com or via Twitter @brustyyy.

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