The interactive hands-on experimental workshop is a 3hr facilitated practical session with several sections designed to interactively engage 40 students per session to give the students an opportunity to carry out hands-on experiments using modern scientific analytical tools used in modern science labs globally. The workshop is facilitated by women scientists from local universities, research institutions, government departments, and university students who share their career and professional journeys during the interaction with students.

An AWARD fellow assisting some students during the interactive vaccination testing experiment

The workshop begins with establishing the student’s understanding of who a scientist is and whether they consider themselves scientists in the making. This is followed by a session on establishing the students’ knowledge of human and animal infectious diseases and how they can be controlled using vaccinations. They are then introduced to analytical biology tools and resources to use to test mock control and field blood sera samples that have purportedly been collected from people presumed to be vaccinated against COVID.

The students perform their own assays by mixing specific volumes of a test reagent with the mock control and sera samples and are able to identify those that react positive and thus have antibodies indicating that the persons have been vaccinated against COVID and those that do not. This is followed by a discussion and analysis of the results they generate with professional scientists to determine the vaccination efficiency and why it is important to vaccinate as many people as possible in the community. In the last section of the workshop, the students engage the women scientists to learn more about their professional and research work, university science courses, and various science career paths.

Students performing their own assays during the interactive vaccination testing experiment

These laboratory workshops are hosted in parallel with mentoring sessions delivered to the whole school by AWARD country chapter fellows. A tree planting session culminates the workshop to teach students the value of environmental conservation as well as nutrition security by nurturing a culture of growing many fruit trees.