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Out of Africa, back to Bessemer

 

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BESSEMER SCIENCE teacher David Rowe shares a smile with an orphan in Mwanza, Tanzania, during his recent trip to Africa with 14 other teachers from Michigan.

BESSEMER — David Rowe, a science teacher at A.D. Johnston High School in Bessemer, has returned from a trip to Africa with a program called XSci Africa.

Fifteen teachers from Michigan made the life-altering trip, including four from the Upper Peninsula, Rowe said. The trip was offered through Michigan Technological University in Houghton.

While visiting schools and orphanages in Tanzania, Rowe was struck by how happy the children were with so little. “They are not looking for pity,” he said.

Many locals said “God Bless America,” as church organizations and other aid from the U.S. kept them alive through a famine in 1983, and the only education currently available to children there is through the church groups, Rowe said. “It taught me that one person can make a difference. The things that people do matter.”

Teachers brought supplies with them for the children, including pens, pencils, notebooks, a computer and a projector, Rowe said. “The children usually have two pencils a year. The schools have so little, but are accomplishing an awful lot.”

Camping in a wildlife preserve was dangerous, he said, with a rule that no one could leave their rooms at night. In the morning, there were leopard prints in the dust outside the room. He estimated he saw 20,000 animals or more, including a herd of at least 50 elephants and hundreds of zebras.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was the most physically challenging thing he has ever done, Rowe said, and he trained for six months to ready himself.

The 11 teachers who reached the summit wept. All four teachers from the U.P. made it to the summit, being a “hardy breed,” Rowe said. He wore his Stormy Kromer and his Sisu ski jacket to the top of Kilimanjaro “because that’s who I am.”

It was 45 miles up and down the mountain, and Rowe said he was in a meditative-prayer state as he climbed his way up. On the way down, he realized he had been helped every step of the way, from a porter taking his backpack, to offering an arm or hand at times. “It was very emotional,” he said.

The group also visited the Olduvai Gorge, the site of four hominid species development, including homo sapiens. “Archaeologically, it’s an extremely important site,” Rowe said.

Each day Rowe woke up thinking the day could not possibly match the day prior, but each day did.

Bringing the experience back to the classroom will help bring science to life to his students, Rowe said, because he teaches by telling stories.

“Everyone loves an adventure. I hope to inspire them to step out of their comfort zone, because that is where you grow. That is why I went on the trip at this stage in my career; to challenge myself and keep growing,” he said.