Posted by Jim Garrett
May 24, 2018 
Speakers: Rotary’s David Smith and Kim (Vanna White) Moore
Our intrepid international voyageurs took the dais to regale the meeting with tales of their travels during last March through Senegal, the sub-Saharan east African nation that David has lent his heart and mind to for the past four years in connection with a Rotary Global Grant project.
David, a former University of Nebraska chemistry professor who is retired from the vocation of educating, but has never lost his enthusiasm for the avocation of teaching, explained that the project was initiated several years ago with the concept of aiding science education in a poor, peaceful and Islamic country (in the hope of making a contribution to world understanding simultaneously with science education). Senegal was selected, as reported in a previous edition of the Bulletin, in part due to the commitment of its government to a policy ensuring that within 25 years, 75% of its high school students will be receiving at least some education in science before graduation.
The project has now been operated annually for four years; and David reported that total funding of $230,000 has been devoted to it during that period, not including the participants’ self-funded travel expenses.   Of that sum, 70% has been provided by the Rotary Foundation, he said.
The project has now been operated annually for four years; and David reported that total funding of $230,000 has been devoted to it during that period, not including the participants’ self-funded travel expenses. Of that sum, 70% has been provided by the Rotary Foundation, he said.
The program is built around work-shops for Senegalese high school science teachers provided by David in physics and chemistry, and by a fellow Rotarian from Canyon City in biology.   Four, three-day workshops are conducted in each specialty, for groups of approximately 15 teachers, over the course of two weeks. 
Demonstrations of instructional techniques and classroom experiments are provided, as the deficiency in the effectiveness of Senegalese high school science instruction is pedagogical (the means of communication) rather than technical (the subject of communication).  David emphasized that the teachers collectively are well educated in their technical fields – with many holding advanced degrees returning to their home communities to contribute to the next generation.
In addition to demonstrating techniques and outlining effective curricula to maximize student learning, David and his biologist colleague provide materials needed by the Senegalese teachers to conduct experiments and demonstrations in their classrooms, as well as computers and projectors for their use while teaching so their students (often numbering 50 to a class) will be able clearly to see the work being done.
This year the trip to Senegal was expanded from two weeks to four (David himself spent a fifth week in the neighboring country of Niger), with the two opening weeks being devoted to a tour of the country by David and Kim and two Rotarians from Canyon City (the biologist and another lady).  The tour was built around visits to high schools to lend support to English language instruction.   David explained that the official language of Senegal is French, while residents speak the African language Wolof in their homes.  However, he said there is an increasing emphasis in the high schools on English instruction, in recognition of its use internationally as the principle language of commerce and diplomacy.  Classroom visits by English speakers are accordingly welcomed.
In addition to their conversations with English students, the touring visitors also distributed used books that had been collected in the weeks before the trip in Pagosa Springs (kudos to Rotarians Ronnie Doctor and Marianne DeVooght).  Kim reported that the books were much appreciated by the students, and a photo of several smiling recipients displaying their new reading material was ample proof.
Turning to the subject of the travel itself rather than the purpose, David noted with a grin that his biggest challenge was “getting Madame President through the Paris Airport.”   The President herself offered the explanation “there are beautiful shops,” in the airport.  Nonetheless, they made the flight to Dakar on time, and upon landing embarked on their tour of the country by car.
The principal roads, David reported were paved and of good quality – many, according to signs dotting the wayside, funded by American taxpayers, in what sounds like an effective gesture of international amity that one hopes is not merely a vestige of the past.  There was a minor issue on the roads, however – the 13 pieces of luggage they were carrying (owning to the books, equipment and materials being carried for distribution to the teachers and students) had to be lashed onto the vehicle’s roof, to the disapproval of the Senegalese police repeatedly expressed in the form of traffic citations (eight in all, said David).
Kim and David displayed many intriguing photographs of their travels, including one of an outdoor table set for a meal in the courtyard of the pension Auberge du Tekrour, a very pleasant scene in the town of Podor.  They also related the story of a brief side-trip to the neighboring country of Mauritania, across the Senegal River in a boat described by Kim as “primitive” and more dismissively by David (“it floats”). 
David also had a photo of one of the local school superintendents, a dynamic woman who inspired his comment that most of the advances in the world are the handiwork of 2% of humanity, and the trick in fostering progress is to find them and give them support.
Speaking of the schools, Kim remarked they do a lot with a little, using buildings of simple construction, and generally crowded classrooms.  But she commented on the dedication and commitment of the teachers, and was very impressed by the students’ neat handwriting – they have few textbooks, so need to depend on careful note-taking as the foundation for their learning,
There was one hotel Kim mentioned, that she felt deserved not stars for quality, but instead recognition in the “You’ve got to be kidding me” category.  There, she said, she was joined in her room by “little creatures.”  She did say that the adventuresome would be right at home, and at only $15 a night.  (No worries, Kim.  At least the creatures were little.)
Kim and David also had pictures of a baobab tree, commonly found in Senegal and considered by local legend, they said, to exert a mysterious and weird influence.   Kim pointed out that in the hot climate, the trees offer welcome shade.  But, she added, during the tour she soon learned that wearing a scarf wrapped around the head is not only decorative, it also keeps the head cool.  (That sounds to this reporter like probably one of the mysterious influences of the baobab.)
And Kim commented that everywhere they went, the women uniformly wore neat, colorful dresses.  She was taken by the style, so she purchased a bolt of bright yellow fabric, and visited a local tailor.  The tailor didn’t speak any English, but through some mysterious influence (the baobab again? No probably just the universality of human experience) immediately understood what Kim wanted, made measurements, and within three days produced the magnificent traditional African dress that Kim wore to the meeting.
It's One World - Rotary Helping in Senegal - March 12, 2018
On March 4, Pagosa Springs resident and Rotary Member Dave Smith embarked for the fourth consecutive year on a muti-week mission to the sub-Saharan, west African nation, Senegal, where he and another Rotarian from Canyon City, Colorado will help spread the gospel of science education.
Dave, formerly a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Nebraska, and at heart a dedicated teacher, is an example of Pagosa Springs’ remarkable cadre of skilled retirees, who may have dropped work-a-day cares, but have chosen to continue instead to employ their expertise in labors of love.  Dave explains that several years back, he decided to find an outlet for his love of science and teaching in a country where he could do the most good, by proposing a Rotary program to aid education in a poor, Islamic country.
Senegal, a poor, arid, but stable country with a mostly Sunni population of 25 million on the Atlantic Ocean Coast of West Africa, emerged as the candidate, in major part because the national government was already on board with the importance of science education.   The Senegalese government, having realized that experience shows a direct relationship between science education in local schools and an emerging nation’s economic development, had adopted a national policy that by 2025, 75 percent of its high school students were to be enrolled in science courses.
Dave’s project was to be designed to improve science instruction techniques in Senegalese high schools, so it was a good match with the need and thus attracted support from the International Rotary Foundation, which provides grants to help sponsor volunteer projects the world over.
With support of the Foundation, the Senegalese Project has an annual budget of $60,000, based on the combined contributions of the sponsoring Rotary Clubs in Pagosa Spirngs, Canyon City, and Aspen, which are multiplied by matching funds from the Rotary Foundation at a 3 to 1 ratio.
All funds devoted to Rotary Foundation supported projects are provided by donations by Rotary members, which are distinct from the local fund raising activities of Rotary Clubs. 
For instance, in Pagosa Springs, all funds raised by the local club from the annual Barn Dance and Kentucky Derby Party and other activities, are used solely for local purposes, such as college scholarships and other support provided for schools of the Archuleta School District.
On this year’s Senegal trip, Dave will initially be accompanied by local Rotarian Kim Moore, plus two Rotarians from Canyon City.  Dave and all other Rotarians pay for their own travel expenses.
The group of four will visit two urban and two rural high schools in northern Senegal, where they will attend English classes over a period of two weeks.
Dave explains that the Senegalese indigenous language is Wolof, although the official language in French.  Students at the high school level have already learned French, and many start taking English when they reach high school.  So the visitors will be able to converse with class members during their visits, he says, and help the students develop increased comfort with the language. 
In addition, Rotarians will be carrying with them a large cache of used books, generally at the junior high reading level, collected by local Rotarians Lassie Olin, Ronnie Doctor and Marianne DeVooght.  The books will distributed by the visitors to the Senegalese classes to help start an English reading library expected to be useful for years to come.
For the following two weeks, Dave and one of the Rotarians from Canyon City, a biologist, will turn to the essence of the Senegalese project, by providing a series of classes for Senegalese science teachers.  Dave will provide instruction to both chemistry and physics teachers. The need for the project, Dave says, is not due to deficient expertise of the teachers.  Rather, he says, Senegalese teachers are academically well trained and very knowledgeable in their fields.
Instead, the problem is practical, like trying to explain how to build a bridge without ever showing the student an example, or trying to teach surgery from a book.  The instruction provided has to do with methods of giving hands-on demonstrations of concepts, and running practical experiments that can give students personal involvement in the lessons.  So for repeated series of three day classes, Dave and his colleague will provide demonstrations of these instructional techniques, supported by illustrative manuals, to different groups of Senegalese high school science teachers.  In addition, they will provide text books for classroom use, and access to supplies needed by the teachers to conduct the demonstrations and experiments independently once they get back to their own classrooms and students.
Dave acknowledges that it is difficult to pinpoint tangible measurements indicating the success of the project over the three years it has already operated.  But, he says, for one thing science enrolment in high school classes has increased, which of course is the ultimate Senegalese objective.  But Dave cites as well some compelling anecdotal evidence that the project may be succeeding.  One aspect of the trip each year, he says, is that he and his fellow scientist from Canyon City go to a few elementary schools, to give demonstrations of the impact of science on day to day life, to help build interest.
But, he says, the catch is, he and his colleague don’t speak Wolof, and the elementary school kids don’t speak French.  So to provide the demonstrations, they engage Senegalese high school students for the work.  60 high school students have helped with the elementary school demonstrations, he says, and “They are absolutely super.”  So, it seems, something is working, and perhaps a little bit of Pagosa is helping improve life in Senegal.