Bayt al-Hikma 2.0: Child Refugees As Curious Scientists in Refugee Camps

The desire to know something, to learn it, to explore it and to cultivate that knowledge into the dimensions of the real world is what we term as curiosity. Past events may change the course of action in our lives, but what it cannot effect is the ability to wonder and the desire to explore. Schools are often referred to us as second homes for children, where they go to learn about the wonders of the world they live in and where their minds are nourished.

A refugee camp located in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon, is now home to thousands of refugees coming from a war affected Syria, in search for shelter, food and peace. They have very limited resources and privileges in terms of day-to-day life. But, when a local school located in this refugee camp introduced mini paper microscopes, the wonderment and joy among the students was off the roof.  Excitement was evident from their faces as they held these mini optical instruments, looking through the lens to observe the mini metropolis of micro organisms.

These mini microscopes are called Foldscopes and are known for being the cheapest microscopes available in the world. These one dollar microscopes are not only affordable, but also have a high optical lens quality. They are about a size of a bookmark and provide a magnification range from 140x – 2,000x. The Foldscopes, being the alternative of the traditional microscope, are a part of a movement called ” frugal science”, which aims for the affordability of scientific tools among the general populace.

These kids are not only exploring the world of science via Foldscopes but are also taught how to assemble this optical instrument. Because of their size and weight, kids can take them back home to observe more, to explore more and to learn more. Instruments like Foldscopes are a great way to learn and observe scientific phenomenon. The self-encouragement which comes when observing theoretical knowledge can lead to productivity in an academic institution.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing – Albert Einstein

This is all very evident when you see interviews of students and teachers alike of this school. Students like Ahed, a Syrian refugee from Idlib, a city located in northwest Syria, told Aj+ that she “fled Syria because of the war. I want to see things I can’t see with a naked eye. Things I can only see with a Foldscope, like the cell wall, nucleus, cytoplasm membrane”.  Samia Saleh , a science teacher from the school also said that “If I’m gonna tell you, I don’t know if you’re gonna believe. Every day they go home and they try to do things [with the Foldscopes],  that I told them we will do. They come the next day and tell me:  Teacher, we did so and so [experiment] at home, and we noticed so and so. I am extremely glad  [to be] using Foldscopes.”

There are so many things these students and teachers can do when given a small chance. May the joy of curiosity be a constant source of excitement for these young souls!


This article is written by Soniya Shah Noor