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ExplorerHome Builds Enthusiasm for STEM Fields in Madagascar

In this blog post, we introduce you to Dr. Tsiory Andrianavalona and Dr. Ramihangihajason Tolotra Niaina, the husband and wife team who founded ExplorerHome Madagascar. We will share how this organization is building enthusiasm for STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in Madagascar through educational programs, collaborations, and public outreach.

What is ExplorerHome Madagascar?

ExplorerHome aims to: 

  • Inspire young people with scientific curiosity and interest in STEM fields;
  • Inform the public about scientific research in Madagascar; and
  • Provide educational and recreational activities for students that help them learn STEM skills while having fun. 

The Beginning of ExplorerHome

Cofounders of ExplorerHome

When Dr. Tsiory Andrianavalona and Dr. Ramihangihajason Tolotra Niaina were in their third year of university for paleontology, they knew they wanted to make science easier for all to understand and appreciate. They hoped to share their love of science and STEM fields with younger students and the general public.

Tsiory says,

Our family members find it strange that we focus on animals and plants that don’t exist anymore. So we shaped the idea of ExplorerHome. And in 2018, ExplorerHome Madagascar was born! We are now a registered NGO.

Scientists are doing important work behind the scenes, and it is not sufficient for the public to just read science in books. It will be more impactful if they practice along real scientists and get their own experiences and opinions.

We love this program because we see sparkles in the eyes of the students when they touch, feel, experiment and enjoy what scientists are doing in the field.

Dreaming of a Science Center

Ultimately, ExploreHome plans to create a “Madagascar Science Center”. They hope this Science Center will receive visitors young and old, from around Madagascar and around the world.

At the center, they will share science about Madagascar’s unique biodiversity and inspire scientific curiosity. Visitors will see awe-inspiring exhibits on scientists’ work in Madagascar, listen to stories from scientists, and conduct their own experiments. Through these experiences, visitors to the Madagascar Science Center will learn to understand and love science.

The Sciencing Out Program Started in April 2019

ExplorerHome’s first program is called Sciencing Out. The program’s first cohort was held in April 2019, and its second was held in September 2019. Both were supported by a grant from National Geographic. In the Sciencing Out program, Malagasy students are mentored by Malagasy scientists.

By incorporating innovative approaches to STEM learning, they want everyone to see the world as scientists see it. This helps students imagine themselves as scientists and see the possibilities in Madagascar for STEM careers.

Building Connections at Home and Abroad

Scientists in Madagascar

For the first cohort of Sciencing Out in April, ExplorerHome collaborated with LCN member Sadabe. Students visited the Tsinjoarivo Forest in Madagascar and learned about lemurs and insects.

For the second cohort in September, the team worked in a subfossil site near Antananarivo and in the Maromizaha Forest, managed by GERP Madagascar. The students learned from a botanist, palentologists, an ornithologist, and a primatologist.

Connections with scientists throughout Madagascar are key to helping students learn about science hands-on in the field. Additionally, the programs help Malagasy scientists make a positive impact on the community by sharing their passion and research with students and the public.

Growing this base of scientific collaborators is especially important for ExplorerHome as they grow a new generation of informed and environmentally-conscious Malagasy.

Educators in the USA

Prior to Sciencing Out, Tsiory had connected with Susan Dorsey, an educator in Baltimore, through the National Geographic Educator Certification. Because of this experience, Tsiory invited Susan to join the ExplorerHome team in Madagascar to help facilitate the first Sciencing Out program.

About her experience with ExplorerHome in Madagascar, Susan says:

It was an honor to be invited to share in this experience. From the scientists and local experts, I gained knowledge of Madagascar’s unique biodiversity, especially related to lemurs and insects. I learned about local conservation efforts through Sadabe, an organization located in the Tsinjoarivo forest.

It was impressive to witness the drive, passion, professionalism, and optimism from everyone I met during this program in Madagascar. The ExplorerHome team’s collective leadership and cohesion has enabled them to accomplish amazing feats in spite of obstacles.

Through their story, I was reminded of the importance of dreaming, vision planning, collaboration, and team building. The members of this team are world changers within their areas of influence. They are paving their own path and making a difference along the way.

The Future for ExplorerHome

Sciencing Out is just the first step for ExplorerHome. They are now developing curriculum for younger audiences to broaden their reach and inspire more young people with STEM. And one day, their vision of the Madagascar Science Center will become reality.