Fifteen years ago, Rania was appointed to public secondary education and four years later we find her in primary education, where young children inspired her to work on innovative projects. A significant moment in her career was her participation in a pioneering STEAM education program organized by CERN, which concerns teaching modern physics to primary school students.
The main challenge she had to face was related to the Greek curriculum, which does not include modern physics. Furthermore, the socio-economic status of her students was underprivileged and their priorities were more related to survival than to learning modern physics. For this purpose, Lego, clay, cardboard, etc. were utilized to motivate students’ creativity. The result was that students were more enthusiastic about science.
Furthermore, Rania was among the first educators who introduced a global-level STEM in foreign language teaching. She organized seminars and she trained teachers to combine STEM and foreign languages. Recently, she launched a new STEM environmental project called “SOS! We are changing the earth’s climate!” which is addressed to primary school students. It combines environmental education, STEM education and arts. It’s a project that highlights environmental issues, informs and sensitizes teachers and students about the phenomenon of climate change and cultivates the concept of active citizenship.
Rania has spent a great part of her life in humanitarian services. She teaches as a volunteer in refugee camps, special education schools and oncological children’s hospitals. Recently, she became the International Ambassador of Volunteerism and Education of the “Greek Academy of Volunteerism HelpHellas” and from this position, she is trying to promote the message of volunteerism.
Rania combines STEM with Community-based learning (CBL), a pedagogical approach in which local communities participate as partners in learning. This approach has an essential value in educating STEM professionals while supporting broader societal outcomes such as STEM literacy, workforce development, and the design and implementation of solutions.
Community-based learning is a type of experiential learning and can play an important role in challenging students to use their acquired knowledge in new contexts. It is curriculum based, meaning that the community work is profoundly connected to and enhanced by the classroom lectures and assignments.
Community development efforts have the main following purposes: • to ensure social, economic, and cultural development • to enable the community to cope with challenges • to foster interaction and collaboration among community members • to form functioning community groups and organizations • to create community leaders • to maximize utilization of community resources. Rania is also trying to help women and girls in increasing their interest towards science-related careers.
Women are an integral part of technological breakthroughs and should be encouraged and empowered through work opportunities and education. At present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women. According to research, only around 28 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Globally, female students’ enrolment is particularly low in ICT, natural science, mathematics and statistics and in engineering, manufacturing and construction.
Moreover, Rania is the founder of several humanitarian international projects that focus on the SDGs. One of her significant projects is called “Water, life giver and Threat” and it was implemented mostly in Malawi. This is the first time STEM and water education are combined in a course the originality of which is due to the fact that children are encouraged to use natural resources for their activities since their poverty doesn’t allow them to be able to afford school supplies.
Nevertheless, children managed to create mind maps and timelines with branches and stones. They also performed water experiments and dramatizations, they learned how to filter water, they compared water legends from several African countries. Together with some teachers of the program, Rania achieved to obtain donations, sanitation and filtering equipment. Furthermore, six wells were drilled and constructed in an area of Malawi where children had to walk for 90 minutes to find water. Rania also raised donations of food, water and juices from Greek language schools. She also raised money from a bazaar selling arts and crafts models of wells made by her students.
Rania is also the Founder of the international project “Food for Thought”. This STEAM project is addressed to students in countries where high levels of childhood stunting and wasting persist and also to students affected by micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies, often called “hidden hunger”. Its main goal is nutritional awareness, increased nutrition knowledge and self-efficacy. The main thematic axis of the project is the knowledge of healthy combinations of cheap and accessible foodstuffs that can keep the population nourished in case of shortage. This project inspired many teachers in India to actively contribute to the solution of the problem by visiting slums, educating poor families and donating them food and money and conducting surveys.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rania was the Founder of another international project called “COVID-19: A Life-changing experience”, which is focusing on 3 out of the 17 United Nations (SDGs, Good health and well-being, quality education and reduced inequalities) and is promoting creative Project-based learning (PBL) activities.
Recently, she wrote a new innovative project, which is called “Gender-based violence: Why peace is a much better option?” and which was implemented with great success in Nigeria. It is a STEAM interdisciplinary educational project that aims at raising gender-based violence awareness among 12-17-year-old children in Nigeria. The final outcome of this project was the strengthening of the idea of peace among members of societies that experience conflict, especially gender-related conflict. This school-based intervention helped promote gender equality and prevent violence against women by challenging stereotypes that give men power over women.
Furthermore, Rania is an active member of the Greek Astronomy and Space Company and, as a STEM Instructor, she organizes and presents lectures, seminars, conferences, STEM workshops and astronights. She uses space themes in order to stimulate the interest of students in astronomical observation, enhance their scientific literacy and improve their skills in STEM.
Last year she wrote a STEAM astronomy course for elementary school children called “Little astronomers explore the Universe”. Moreover, she is the author of a successful astronomy book for kids, titled “Planetary Interviews” inaugurating a new series of scientific books that will be published by “Ellinoekdotiki Publishing House”.
This book presents scientific information in a humorous and playful way. Her goal is to make astronomical knowledge as engaging as possible and she wants to give meaning and interest to the information, which would motivate the children in the learning process and inspire them to love science. The book was the result of her effort to marry scientific knowledge with literature trying to make science accessible to children and the public at large. The combination of humour, fantasy and scientific information is an element that guarantees success in teaching even the most difficult concepts. That's why Rania created original dialogues that are difficult to erase from memory.
As a neuroeducation researcher, Rania learned that the human brain is a miracle that should be treated with respect, especially during everyday teaching practices. Teachers are expected to adopt appropriate roles during the lesson. A real leader teacher is an input provider, facilitator, advisor, mentor, organiser, guide, story-teller, evaluator, etc.
Rania is an Editorial Board Member of many journals. She has presented her research in numerous international conferences and e-conferences and she has published work in various journals.
Additionally, she is a Global Council Member of the Country Chair for Greece of “G100”, an Advisory Board Member of the “Asian-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry”, “Africa Asia Scholars Global Network”, “Advisory Council for the School of Education, GD Goenka University”, President (for Greece) “Ladies of All Nations International”, “Beyond Books Publication”, “Academic Development for Global Leadership in Education”, etc.
Rania has already received over 200 awards and she was selected among the best teachers in the world with the “Global Teacher Prize” and “Global Teacher Award”. When Rania talks about her future she says: “She wants to continue to move forward as far as education, volunteerism and world peace are concerned. She would like to see the idea of service learning getting increasingly widespread all over the world. She will continue writing and coordinating humanitarian international educational projects. She would also like to promote the methodology of STEAM education in Greece and all over the world.”She adds “Everything she does becomes meaningful because of her students all over the world. She wants to see them one day become the best version of themselves. She also wants to see herself in the best possible version. Life can be very interesting when you are on this never-ending journey.”