Little Scientists: Why have you come here to study?
Happy Nkhonya: When I was hired as an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College, I had a Bachelor of Education (Child & Family Studies) and needed a master’s degree to fully qualify to teach as a lecturer at the university level.
Immediately, I started searching for countries with a well-developed early childhood education system where I could go and study for my master’s degree. I chose Australia and in 2017, I applied for an Australian Government Scholarship and was successful. So, here I am in Australia to study for the Master of Early Childhood as an Australian Awards scholar.
LS: How did you find out about the Little Scientists program?
HN: After completing a unit, ECED 827: Learning through mathematics, science and technology, I was fascinated to discover the multiple opportunities for me to ignite young children’s passion for and interest in STEM subjects, particularly girls who are underrepresented in STEM subjects in higher levels of education in my country.
While the unit equipped me with the theoretical knowledge and skills on how to plan and provide young children with experiences to develop their STEM knowledge and skills, I felt I needed to have more practical exposure on how I could facilitate early STEM experiences with young children. I started searching online for short-term STEM training workshops and came across the Little Scientists program. When I enquired to my fellow Australian students, they also recommended Little Scientists program.
LS: What workshops have you completed and what have you enjoyed the most?
HN: Discovering the huge opportunities that preschool play activities can afford children with STEM learning such as exploring balance using a see saw, investigating forces through tag war or using slides was so enjoyable.
Besides, planning STEM experiences using locally available materials such as a spoon, rubber band and a small timber block to make a catapult and using it to explore forces – cause and effects – was fascinating. This made me gain the confidence that I can promote early STEM programming in my home country with limited resources.
LS: What are your plans on your return to Malawi regarding early childhood STEM??
HN: I have several plans:
I intend to hold an indoor departmental workshop to orient my colleagues in early STEM education and support them in integrating early STEM programming in their respective units in the BSC Early childhood development and education degree program.
I’m planing to use a preschool centre operated by the Human Ecology Department as a demonstration centre for early STEM programming in Malawi while lecturing STEM units. My goal is to partner with a local Television station with the aim of running an early STEM education TV program for young children so that I can reach to as many educators and parents as possible.
I also want to start early STEM education consultancy, working with preschool centres to support them in early STEM programming. In the long-term, I also plan to do a PhD in early STEM education.