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  • Elizabeth Barrett-Zahn

STEM Exploration at Huu Nghi

Arrived at Huu Nghi School and was greeted by a large poster announcing my arrival and upcoming workshops! Spent some time arranging the supplies that I carried half way around the world in a large suitcase. I was worried about bringing in the dried bees and actually wrapped them up several times and stuffed them inside a collection of cups hoping they wouldn't be confiscated as contraband!

The bees and microscopes were truly the biggest hit with the kids and even the teachers and instructors. In preparation, I had asked for hand lenses for each student but when I arrived, I was told they had none. Actually they seem to have no science supplies at all. Three microscopes and some bees in petri dishes became a thrilling experience. It is a cherished

moment to see children and adults experience wonder!


Day one was filled with an exciting warm-up activity where the students had to support a heavy book using only 10 index cards. After some disconcerting moments by all teams, the kids started coming up with workable plans and were successful in their variety of methods. This is such an interesting warm-up because it allows the students to come up with several workable methods to complete the task. In the States, I would use this to also raise questions of using observations of successful methods as not cheating but using smart sense. To make the challenge even harder the children were asked to support the book/s with the least amount of cards!


We try to encourage the idea of selecting best practices and then improving upon them. The language deficit here made it difficult to have these rich conversations. It really made me think about how far we have come in our science lab lessons where students more comfortably will use observation, evaluation of benefits, and then add their own twist to solve problems. Emphasizing innovation. Promoting curiosity.


These students in grades 1-3 then learned about bees and flowers. Trying to make it as hands-on as possible, I set up the three microscopes and had all the children experience using the scopes. Just as in the States, you can tell when a child has focused the scope and can truly see something with clarity! The face, the look, the gasp is always the same! No matter what the language is - it is joy!

Next, the students, dissected flowers. Although they loved taking the flowers apart, I am not sure how much of the vocabulary and understanding of reproductive parts of the flower were getting through. We talked about stamen, pistil, pollen, eggs and the purpose of moving pollen from flower to flower. And why bees play such an important role.

Finally, the students created their own anatomically correct flower model. The arts and crafts teacher was there, so some of the flowers had a beautiful artistic flare. One interesting thing was that I had asked for tape but that seemed to be in short supply so it was suggested that we use glue guns. My initial reaction was - NO KIDS CAN'T USE GLUE GUNS! But that seemed to be the preferred method. So the gluing began, with the occasional scream of pain as a child hot glued themselves. They were just told to go put some water on it, and get back to work. That would surely have been a different story in the States!

All in all, it was a memorable 3 1/2 hours and as I've learned before, "Kids are Kids no matter where in the world they are!" Thanks HNS Younger Grades.

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