By Brittney Nairn
“Congratulations to The Bahamas’ youngest new scientists – Jasmine Russell and Jameka Cooper – who traveled to Nassau and captured first place at the Young Scientist Eureka Competition [and Exhibition],” praised Arnald Cooper, principal of Grand Cay All Age School. “Congratulations to you and your class teacher Ms. [Brittney] Nairn.”
Organized by the Ministry of Education’s Science and Technology Section, projects of students from primary, junior and senior high schools throughout The Bahamas were featured in the exhibition. The project engaged students in identifying local problems through the use of critical thinking and scientific method to develop projects that were cross-curricular.
Students Jameka Cooper and Jasmine Russell along with their Class Teacher Britney Nairn travelled early Sunday morning on Jan. 31 from Grand Cay on Rosie’s Fast Ferry to Grand Bahama, and then flew from Grand Bahama to New Providence to compete in the Young Scientist Competition and Exhibition held by the Ministry of Education. The event took place from Feb.1 to Feb. 5 in the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium.
Jameka and Jasmine competed in the Senior Investigation Division where they investigated the medicinal uses of bush medicine found on Grand Cay.
Nairn explained that the reason for their investigation was because Grand Cay has been deprived of a medical doctor for years, and the cost to receive emergency medical care is extremely expensive creating a problem for residents there.
Therefore, the purpose of the experiment was to bring awareness of the use and availability of bush medicine on Grand Cay. Thus, the hypothesis: Many individuals on Grand Cay, Abaco are knowledgeable about and experienced with bush medicine.
On Monday, Feb. 1, the judges viewed Jameka and Jasmine’s display and were impressed by the students’ work and level of organization.
“Interestingly, two out of the three judges didn’t know where Grand Cay was or had never heard of us,” Nairn said. “So one of the students, Jameka Cooper, introduced our tranquil island and once again, they were impressed.”
The project was divided into three sections. First, 32 plants were collected using a text reference and local experience.
Next, a plant press was constructed, and the collected plants were pressed. Finally, a series of interviews were conducted via audio and video clips.
From the data collected, it was shown that a large number of the individuals interviewed (67 percent) were knowledgeable, experienced and preferred to use bush medicine. Some of the interviewees also stressed the many types and uses of bush medicine.
The bush medicine collected included Strong Back, which is used for nerve problems; Coconut, which is used for headaches; Fever Grass for the flu and coughs; and Aloe for wounds and diabetes
Other bush medicines were used for diseases such as high blood pressure and even chickenpox. In addition to various uses of bush medicine, the experienced locals highlighted the benefits and effectiveness of using bush medicine, which has been used for more than 30 years in some instances by locals.
One in particular, was Mr. Albury, who is 81 years old. He claimed that he has never been to a medical doctor for any ailment because of his use of bush medicine. Nairn remarked that this discovery was truly astonishing and amazing.
With the extensive use of bush medicine on Grand Cay by the locals, some of the more popular plants were mentioned like Sage, Love Vine, Cerasee, Kamaleme/Gumelemi and Pear. Moreover, from the interviews, it was seen that bush medicine is prepared in three ways: boiled for consumption, boiled to bathe in, or directly applied.
Nairn was pleased that the information provided by the experienced locals were congruent with the text reference used (Bush Medicine in The Bahamas).
On Feb. 2, the awards and placements of the science competition were announced.
“As the placements were being announced, we were all nervous and anxious,” Nairn recalled. “When the announcer, Mrs. Greene, said: ‘In first place, all the way from Grand Cay, Abaco,’ we screamed and leaped for joy.
“I can say that it was truly a privilege to have travelled a great distance to New Providence to win the senior division. I’m extremely proud of my students, and myself for a job well done, and I am still overwhelmed with joy.”
Nairn added that she was proud not only because of the great distance they travelled to get to the competition, but because she is a new teacher who has made a great impact on her students and Grand Cay in such a short period, and that she was able to bring acknowledgement about their wonderful school, Grand Cay All Age School.
Nairn concluded: “We came prepared to win and trusted God for a great outcome. The overall experience was a blessing for my students and I because we were all able to network and establish connections with other students and teachers from New Providence and other Family Islands as some didn’t know of our existence or location in The Bahamas.”