Talking Science and the Story of Lady Tunnicliffe


March 22, 2017

If you think only an educated mother can teach her children about science you’ll be astonished to learn that our mothers at The Sreepur Village, although formally uneducated, are providing their children with just that. Though most of them become literate after coming here, and  can just about read and write when they arrive, The Sreepur Village, with support and encouragement from Lady Dr. Sue Tunnicliffe, has for the past 10 years successfully run a ‘Talking Science’ project to enable the learning and growth of the mothers and children in the community. 

The CEY (Commonwealth Association of Science Technology and Mathematics Educators, CASTME, for Early Years) project is an initiative developed by Lady Tunnicliffe, of CASTME, one of the affiliates of the Commonwealth Foundation, and was an initiative to mark the Commonwealth Year of Science and Technology in 2010.  Lady Tunnicliffe started this project, at the end of the last decade at Sreepur Village, when our Director, Pat Kerr, expressed her interest in developing a ‘Talking Science’ project among our mothers and children.

Early years science education is recognised as a significant foundation of a child’s education. The children learn science in a fun way throughout their childhood. The fundamental goal, of the project at The Sreepur Village, was to introduce the mothers and children to science that applies to their everyday lives and it has been received very well by all.

Lady Tunnicliffe has been a best friend and supporter of The Sreepur Village since the start. In February, she kindly paid us a visit and attended many different classes with the mothers and children. Throughout her week-long stay in The Sreepur Village, she observed the mother’s daily routines and the children’s play times to find out the activities they perform which can be explained in scientific theory. She also spent time playing with children to understand them more closely. Her presence inspired our mothers and our school teachers as well as some visitors from the University of Dhaka, who expressed their interest in working with The Sreepur Village.

Lady Tunnicliffe commented on her relationship with The Sreepur Village saying “In the early 80s I was a middle school teacher, in charge of maths and science at a little school in Yorkshire. One day my husband came home and said we are going to visit Dhaka, Bangladesh, where one of our British Airways stewardesses runs an orphanage. I bought a booklet on Bangladesh, read it and raised some money from different primary and high schools.  I packed all the stuff and embarked on my first trip to Dhaka with my two sons. In 2008, with the support of the Commonwealth Education Trust, especially CASTME, I started this project, as I believe learning starts with talking and listening.  I interviewed Pat and asked to speak with the mothers about their everyday activities and how these related to science.  I showed the mothers that even cooking rice and eggs is science. Using every day activities helped to explain how much they already knew about science and provided a platform for them, as parents and carers, to learn new ways to teach their children about science, through relating theories to what they are already doing. Even the children’s sports activities were being explained in relation to science.”

‘Talking Science’ is a three-month programme. The mothers who attend the literacy programme do so to develop their comprehension skills. Some of our mothers have never been to school, but their children have. The mothers have life experience which can be related to scientific concepts such as cooking everyday foods and washing clothes. In The Sreepur Village, ‘Talking Science’ has provided a way for mothers to show children how and why something works the way it does and thus educating the children to scientific thinking, developing their awareness and understanding. Last year, in The Sreepur Village School, we celebrated two Science Fairs and all our students’ presented different projects which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Lady Tunnicliffe commented on the education of science, for the mothers and children in Bangladesh, and said, ‘’ it is important, especially in Bangladesh, to have science education in school but the number of girls receiving a scientific education is bleak.” However, as the country takes the spring forward to greater prosperity, Bangladesh will need more awareness of science and more women in science, so we are thankful to Sue for her outstanding support in bringing a science education and awareness to The Sreepur Village.



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