Global STEM expert of many talents
STEM education is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach. It is the most sought after methodology across the world today for it is widely believed that STEM education creates critical thinkers, increases science literacy and enables the next generation of innovators.
A belief firmly shared by Rania Lampou, Global STEM Educator par excellence. A Greek by birth, Rania is currently a STEM instructor at the Greek Astronomy and Space Company (Annex of Salamis) and is also working at the Greek Ministry of Education, at the Directorate of Educational Technology and Innovation, where she writes STE(A)M projects for Greek schools.
Renowned worldwide for her passionate neuroeducation research and innovative teaching methodologies, Rania has been conferred the ‘Global Teacher Award 2020’ (AKS Awards) and made it to the ‘Global Teacher Prize 2019’ list (Varkey Foundation). She also received the First World STEM Educator Award, International Festival of Engineering Science and Technology 2020 (I-FEST² 2020), Tunisian Association for the future of Science and Technology (ATAST), Tunisia.
She has received almost 40 international awards for her STE(A)M projects, some of which were awarded during the current pandemic. In 2020 itself, she received the International Corona Award from the Bharati Charitable Trust, International Corona Warrior Award from the Anticorruption Foundation of India, and the Corona Warrior Global Award, Moyurpongkhi Foundation, Bangladesh. “The pandemic has given teachers the opportunity to shine and project their natural leadership qualities. During this challenging period, teachers surpassed themselves and became mentors not only to their students but other adults too,” shares Rania.
Rania has a post-graduate degree (M.Ed.) in language teaching related to cognitive neurosciences. She has achieved a great distinction in STEM education and is also an ICT teacher trainer. She promotes the STEM vision by introducing STEM in astronomy and physics projects and combining it with Language Teaching.
“One of the first challenges I faced was the redesigning of the Greek syllabus because astronomy and science, in general, in primary education is not supported by the Greek syllabus,” states Rania who was among the first educators on a global level to combine STE(A)M and astronomy. “I believe that astronomy is a very important area of scientific knowledge. Children are usually fascinated by it and learning astronomy should start from an early age,” she feels.
What distinguishes Rania from others is that she teaches abstract concepts of physics through art, painting, collage and theatrical play, something which has been considered revolutionary in the world of exact sciences. As President of ‘International Art Acts’ for Greece she saw that the need for artistic expression is universal and that arts can provide many solutions to education.
She is also the founder and international coordinator of five innovative international projects that focus on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals described in the 2030 Agenda. And she is a part of the educational committee of the Ecumenical Delphic Union in collaboration with Harvard University and ambassador of the Ecumenical Delphic Union.
Additionally, Rania is a social activist and volunteer as well as a global peace ambassador. She is the International Advisor of many International Organizations and has received many world humanitarian awards and six peace awards. She has been the International Ambassador of Volunteerism and Education in the Academy of Volunteerism Helphellas as well as Director of Educational Affairs of ‘FORUM36+PEACE & UNITY’ Organization, Nigeria.
So how does Rania achieve the impossible? “A teacher’s job is not easy. Many believe that it is limited to teaching hours in the classroom, but every teaching hour in the classroom hides behind it many hours of preparation and lesson planning, as well as training at home. But when I started volunteering, I learned that the most important thing in the world is unconditional love and free service for all people. Volunteerism and contribution to social evolution thus became my passion. Its impact on students is also very rewarding to me. I am trying to spread the idea of volunteerism all over the world through my international projects and collaborations. I would like to see the idea of service learning get widespread acceptance.”
Rania’s spirited activism has been acknowledged across continents. She has won the International Peace Award 2020, Mission Global Peace Association, India; Sustainability Achiever and Peace Builder Award, Center for Peace Advocacy and Sustainable Development, Nigeria; Judispiration Peace Channel Award, Nigeria; Knights of Peace Award, Al ihsan Charity Association, Dubai, among others. In 2018, she also won the First Global Prize in the International competition ‘Particles4U’ International Particle Physics Outreach Group (IPPOG), by the prestigious CERN in Geneva.
But her inspiration, reveals Rania, remains her students and children in general. She finds it so very exciting that a good teacher can influence the future by help restructuring the brain of young people. She also loves the sheer challenge of working with kids. “I have to make very complex concepts accessible to children. For this purpose I have to be very inventive and I must leverage everyday materials such as lego, cardboards, even desserts, to make scientific models. The greatest challenge however is teaching underprivileged and terminally ill children because there I have to fight against factors that undermine the educational process.” Talking of challenges, she adds, “As President of ‘Ladies of All Nations International’ for Greece I realized that there is a lot to be done in order to achieve equality between the sexes all over the world.”
Her love for children has also turned her into an author of scientific books for kids. Her eyes light up as she shares this detail, “Writing scientific books for kids was one of the greatest experiences of my life. When I worked on my book ‘Planetary Interviews’, I realized that fun is very important even in science. You must enjoy what you do in order to surpass the level of commonplace mediocrity that everyday life may force upon us.”
Rania is an Editorial Board Member for many journals. She has presented her research in numerous international conferences and e-conferences and has published work in various journals.
Yet, she finds it important to balance the professional with the personal. She makes sure to take personal time off her busy schedule and also makes time for her interests and hobbies such as art, music, and theatre.
In the end, talk once again veers towards teachers and teaching. Rania is of the strong opinion that teachers’ creativity must not be restrained for that is the essence of humanity. Knowledge is accumulated every day and no human being can say that they have a good grasp of a subject and the mastery of knowledge in a certain area. Teachers are learning every day just like their students. “Teachers are contemporary heroes. I urge governments all over the world to give teachers the respect and support they deserve. Teachers are also the leaders of the future because their influence is not confined to the present circumstances but extends far into the future,” sums up Rania.
They say a good teacher does not just teach, but inspires. And nobody does it better than Rania Lampou.