Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Teaching and learning materials science and engineering with (African) proverbs



". . . Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten."
These words come from the opening chapter of Achebe's famous novel Things Fall Apart. I learned this year that proverbs can also lubricate the teaching and learning of materials science and engineering.

One of the first things I did at the University of Ghana, Legon campus in January was to visit the university book store. A book on display there immediately caught my attention -- Bu Me Bε: Proverbs of the Akans.
It's a compilation by mother and son Peggy and Kwame Anthony Appiah along with Ivor Agyeman-Duah of over 7,000 Ghanaian proverbs. It fascinated me, but I had not realized how it had entered my subconscious until I was planning the first assignment for my course on "materials science and the future." It was an assignment that left the students, expecting a lecture on "advanced" or "nano" materials, bewildered. They were to select 6 Ghanaian proverbs with a materials connection, translate them into English, and explain the meanings and those materials connections.

To practice, I asked them to come up with some proverbs in class, but they seemed stunned and nobody volunteered anything. I provided an example and we worked on it together: “Dade bi twa dade bi mu” (Twi; iron sharpens iron). The first interpretation was that of superiority: one material has a superior property to another. Then to my delight they moved beyond that to suggest that the proverb illustrates the need for collaboration/cooperation: if a knife wants to be sharper, it needs the help of another material.
Below are some of the other proverbs they eventually came to consider. The most most popular one was versions of:

"Enam dua so na ahoma hunu soro" - Twi. It is through the tree that the thread (rope or vine) goes up (sees the sky). Others are:

"Dze mekafua edokui o"- Ewe. Salt does not praise itself.

Edon a eho apae no engyegye yie” - Twi. A cracked bell can never sound well.

Gya ne atuduro nna faako”- Twi. Fire and gunpowder do not sleep together.

11 comments:

Paa Kwesi said...

Fascinating--I've never thought that 'dadiɛ bi twa dadiɛ mu' translates into 'iron sharpens iron'. Literally it means 'some metal cuts some metal' and so the 'some materials are superior to others' is the first thought that comes to mind.

Thanks for writing nonetheless. Hope to read more from you.

Abdullahel Kafe said...

Wow, Excellent post. This article is really very interesting and effective. I think its must be helpful for us. Thanks for sharing your informative.
telepathy show

kushtia24 said...

Gravestones may be simple upright slabs with semi-circular, rounded, gabled, pointed-arched, pedimental, square or other shaped tops. During the 18th century, they were often decorated with memento mori (symbolic reminders of death) such as skulls or winged skulls, winged cherub heads, heavenly crowns, urns or the picks and shovels of the grave digger. Somewhat unusual were more elaborateallegorical figures, such as Old Father Time, or emblems of trade or status, or even some event from the life of the deceased (particularly how they died). Large tomb chests, false sarcophagi as the actual remains were in the earth below, or smaller coped chests were commonly used by the gentry as a means of commemorating a number of members of the same family. In the 19th century, headstone
styles became very diverse, ranging from plain to highly decorated, and often using crosses on a base or other shapes differing from the traditional slab. They might be replaced by more elaborately carved markers, such as crosses or angels. Simple curb surrounds, sometimes filled with glass chippings, were popular during the mid-20th century.
Islamic, headstone are traditionally more a rectangular upright shaft, often topped with a carved topknot symbolic of a turban; but in Western countries more local styles are often used.
Some form of simple decoration is once more popular. Special emblems on tombstones indicate several familiar themes in many faiths. Some examples are:
For more information click hare::

Ana Rica said...


V P Associates Chartered Tax Advisors and Chartered Certified Accountants, represent an authoritative source on most aspects of tax and specialise in the following: Self-Assessment Tax advice, Self Employed Tax Returns, Company and Corporation Tax advice, Capital Gains Tax advice, Buy-To-Let Property Tax advice, Tax Planning and Tax Consultancy Services. With over 25 years of experience in the business of providing expert tax advice, V P Associates Chartered Tax Advisors offer valuable information to clients to help them save money, reduce and mitigate tax. V P Associates, Chartered Tax Advisors & Chartered Certified Accountants, are the first and foremost specialists in taxation matters. Visit their site for a comprehensive list of services: http://vpassociates.com/

Accountants East Grinstead

Sumon24 said...

“best-garage-mats” Having a vehicle is something that will take you places and that means that you need to ensure that it is always clean at all the times. The inside part is always as important as the outside and that is why you need to ensure that you balance them both. Where you step at the floor of the vehicle is what is going to bring a lot of dirt into your vehicle so taking care of the floor is always good. We are bringing you mats that will take care of all your dirt so that cleaning is easier and faster.

sunny24 said...

votive candles - a wide collection of scented, unscented and coloured votive candles is available at ShopACandle.com. In different colours as Yellow, Pink, Ivory, Red, White, Green votive candles are also available in bulk.

theanxietymeditation said...

“Anxiety meditation” Reduce stress and anxiety using meditation
Best anxiety meditation videos on YouTube

bostonloganairportcab said...

“airport taxi concord” Concord airport taxi is a taxi company proving service in all over Concord area and Concord to Boston Logan International airport. It is operating its business since 1998 since a very good reputation. All of our taxi drivers are very much punctual and dedicated to provide service.

robertiw said...

“posicionamiento seo” Guia de posicionamiento SEO paso a paso, si quieres tener tu web en el top 10 de google, no te puedes perder este articulo

wsiprovenresults said...

“Website Development” WSI Provides high quality custom website design and development services in Harrisburg, Concord, Charlotte and surrounding areas.

play-seriously said...

Lego Serious Play is a process that is designed to hands-on boost innovative thinking and professional performance by using the context of play.

Add to Technorati Favorites