#IAmNYAS: Reshu Aryal Dhungana
Learn how the Director of Habeli Outdoor Learning Center in Kathmandu, Nepal, is working to foster a sense of global citizenship in young learners through STEM education.
As Director of Member Reshu Aryal Dhungana focuses on the role of hands-on learning in comprehensive education. And in her role as a Board Member at Teach for Nepal, she is working to end educational inequity in Nepal by strengthening the public school system. Read on to hear how Reshu has been making a difference with the Global STEM Alliance, bringing opportunities to engage in hands-on scientific exploration to children in Nepal's rural public schools.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I am personally very interested in exploring the ways in which we can infuse outdoor learning opportunities and hands-on scientific explorations into education in rural public schools in Nepal. I believe in delving deep to understand the intricacies of the natural sciences, and making the best use of available resources to find innovative ways to make life easier and more gratifying. Immersion in nature makes the most sense for children in Nepal. Climate change, compounded by poverty and poor governance, makes lives very difficult for rural communities. My main project right now is focused on raising funds to pilot small learning projects that are context-specific and will help children explore their natural surroundings in a scientific way.
What has been one of the most rewarding moments of your career?
I played a key role in setting up one of the most progressive early childhood education centers in Nepal. It places science at the core of its pedagogical approach and trains children as young as three years of age to think about phenomena around them in a more scientific way. These methods are rooted in the scientific traditions of teaching and learning applied at the Children's Center at Caltech, an early childhood education center focusing on scientific explorations.
With advice and mentoring from educators there, we designed the school and the academic program to have early-grade children involved in all varieties of learning activities. For example, the children plant rice and corn, starting from seeds, and make predictions about what might happen with the seeds. Then they witness the growth of the seedlings over time until they yield crops, which the children harvest and eat. Along the way, children prove and disprove theories for what would and wouldn't work and applied their theories about growth and harvest as the process unfolds. This compelled me to consider outdoor learning and inquiry-based teaching for children of all age groups. Incorporating scientific methods into teaching and learning allows for tinkering and play and discoveries, which most children in Nepal are denied by the existing education style.
My personal definition of science is...the process of learning through experimentation; trial and error; the use of tools and equipment; self-correction and new discoveries. Science, to me, is also the understanding of how the natural world around us operates and the process of understanding how we might create solutions to challenges we face by exploring the potential of the world around us so that we can make changes for the better.
Tell us a little about your work with the Global STEM Alliance.
I wanted students to participate in the Global STEM Alliance's Imagining Tomorrow: H20 Challenge because water is a resource that all Nepali children must understand if they are going to be able to take on the challenges of a future filled with vulnerabilities because of climate change. Not just that, the potential for clean energy is very much dependent on how we make use of the water flowing down from the Himalayas. Habeli Outdoor Learning Center has a focus on making water more comprehensible to children. It also hosts one of the main water sources for a town of 700 people living at the bottom of the hill, all of whom depend on the protection of the ecology around the Center in order to have quality drinking water in their town.
So when I saw this challenge, I thought I would have a public school we are working with help us bring this opportunity to the children in a small town in the Nuwakot district, near the Habeli Outdoor Learning Center. I also wanted students in rural Nuwakot, devastated by the recent earthquakes, to get the sense that the world is within their reach, if only they get some help from educators and commit to taking charge of their own learning. I wanted to play a part in making children in a small town in Nepal understand their value as global citizens, whether rich or poor, and in taking part in thinking about their role in a healthier and better anticipated and managed future.
I could sense that because the challenge was being organized by the Academy, it would involve scientific, inquiry-based methods, which would greatly benefit our children, who have little or no exposure to such approaches. As an educator, I also wanted to learn from a community of educators like those at Academy, who are dedicated to foregrounding scientific thinking in children and empowering them to become problem solvers and innovators. Our participation in the challenge and connecting to the Academy was a great learning opportunity for me, as well as for the children and other colleagues involved in the project.
We've been celebrating inspiring mentors like Reshu all through January, which is National Mentoring Month. Check out the Academy's mentoring opportunities, and let us know if you would like to get involved, by visiting the Global STEM Alliance's website!And view some fantastic photos of Reshu and the young people she worked with on the Imagining Tomorrow: H2O Challenge below: