This summer a group of PhD students from the London Centre of Nanotechnology (LCN) and the Institute of Education (IoE), including i-sense PhD student, Dounia Cherkaoui, ran a two week summer school for refugees, young migrants, and asylum seeking students at UCL.
The course, which was founded by Safe Khan and is now in its second year, aimed to help the students improve their science, computing and English language skills.
The team led by Safe Khan, Maeve McLaughlin, Jonathon Fouchard, Ana Lisica, Massimiliano Ramsay and Alex Pakpour-Tabrizi built on the success of the pilot event in 2018, which was possible thanks to essential funding from the Ogden Trust and UCL Widening Participation. This year the programme was expanded to a two week, day time course for 40 students, compared with the pilot programme that originally catered to 24 students over eight evening classes.
i-sense PhD student, Dounia Cherkaoui says: “It was great to participate in the summer school and spend some time with such curious and enthusiastic students who were genuinely wanted to practice their English and learning about science.
“It was a unique opportunity to reach out to these young migrants who aspire to study science, but had to interrupt their studies.”
What activities did the students take part in?
The English team, led by Michael Beaney and Jumana Al-Waeli (IoE) with support from some teacher volunteers, held classes each morning. During the lessons, the students learned important basics, practiced with each other, and were introduced to the science and IT concepts they would be tackling later in the day.
The first IT session, led by Muslihah Albakri, involved teaching students basic computing skills that will be useful for their school work and future employment; including setting up email addresses, and navigating Microsoft Office (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). This was followed by a second lesson that was dedicated to writing CVs, allowing the students to explore any relevant experiences they may have had applying for jobs, or questions around job applications.
To introduce the students to the basics of computing and robotics, we teamed up with George Walker who supplied us with some OhBots!, the official teaching robot of Microsoft. The students were taught how to use the Scratch coding language to control the movements and speech of the robots.
During the experimental physics lesson, the students assembled DIY microscopes and got creative with their phone cameras to successfully obtain images with 20x magnification. While in the biology focussed lesson, the students extracted DNA from strawberries and bananas.
“I liked meeting many PhD students for physics which was very inspiring. I really liked the friendly environment in the class,” said one student. While another mentioned: “My favourite part of the summer school was when we extracted DNA.”
The students showed off their exploits from the previous two weeks to each other, additional PhD students and teachers, funders and even some of the student’s parents.
The summer school is preparing for its third year of operation, following positive feedback from students and volunteers involved. If you would like to support the summer school, either through volunteering your time and expertise, or through funding, please contact Safe Khan (firstname.lastname@example.org).