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Science educator inspires innovators and inventors in the making

Ingenuity must thrive inside and outside the classroom and, even, amidst crisis. This is the wisdom that Ms. Ma. Regaele A. Olarte, 2016 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipino Teacher, strives to sustain, especially now as she, her students, and co-teachers find themselves at the center of changes due to the pandemic.

One of the ways she does so is by continuing to lend her expertise as a science educator and Education Program Supervisor in the Department of Education (DepEd) Division of Muntinlupa. Now, a normal day for her consists of balancing and assisting in the implementation of various programs and projects in her Division, performing the duties of a pregnant work-form-home mom, and pursuing her doctorate degree at the University of the Philippines-Open University.

Good news greeted Ms. Olarte and her family before the onset of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Metro Manila—she is pregnant with her third child. While this has placed her in the list of high risk or vulnerable groups, she copes with the situation by helping others get through this crisis.

Having this full plate is as tough as it sounds. Ms. Olarte, nonetheless, finds fulfillment in dedicating her service for other people. “I continue to offer whatever kind of service I can readily give to help other people during these times, because in that way, I also help myself in equal measure. Whether completing my daily tasks or delivering services beyond my duty, I never get burned out because I put joy in everything that I do,” she revealed.

Learning goes on

On top of her regular work, Ms. Olarte designs and produces numerous advocacy materials promoting the importance of continuing education amid the pandemic.

Her experience in enhancing and modifying instruction materials can be traced back several years ago when she was tapped to be one of the national authors of the DepEd Learners’ Materials, Teachers’ Guides, and other curriculum materials as part of the shift to the DepEd K-12 program.

At present, she serves as both writer and validator of self-learning modules for distance learning. In this capacity, she also actively disseminates relevant information on module utilization and shares her knowledge on module development among other writers nationwide.

Some of the materials designed and produced by Ms. Olarte

Science for the community and the future

Ms. Olarte is perhaps best known for promoting invention-driven instruction and enhancing science education in her school and in Muntinlupa. In her class, she empowers her students to observe, innovate, and explore their potential.

In 2008, Ms. Olarte initiated a program called “Invention-Driven Instructional Design and Innovation Transfer (I-DID IT)” geared towards balancing formal classroom-based instruction with finding solutions to real-life problems. The name itself underscores the maker-oriented nature of the initiative.

With I-DID IT, learners become creators, builders, designers, and producers by generating ideas, designing investigations, and implementing sustainable solutions that benefit their community.

Students have won in various invention and project-making competitions both locally and internationally. They were even able to patent their brainchild through the support of their school and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). This program is being implemented in the Division of Muntinlupa to this day.

Ms. Olarte believes that students’ curiosity and inventiveness continue to flourish despite the changes in the learning environment. She shared that through the Science Blog she started years ago, many students from all over country still reach out to her to consult about the conduct of scientific research and investigatory projects.

“This 2020 has shown us that the society is desperately in need of the next generation of problem-solvers, innovators, and inventors. By igniting the innate creativity and ingenuity of our Filipino learners, we’ll be able to “future-proof” our youth and create the resilience needed to meet global challenges, thus preparing our citizens for an ever-changing future,” she said.

Another notable impact of the I-DID IT program is the construction of the first-ever Chlorella Micro-farm in the Philippines, made possible by Ms. Olarte and her colleague and co-inventor, Jason Albaro.

This micro-farm is expected to yield algae harvest that can be turned into food supplements, medicine, and food fortification ingredients which will help address food security challenges in this new normal.

When the micro-farm was still a project proposal in 2019, it bested entries from all over the world in the Zayed Sustainability Prize hosted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government. It is an annual award recognizing “impactful, innovative and inspiring sustainability solutions” in health, food, energy, water and global high schools.

Ms. Olarte receiving the Zayed Sustainability Prize for the Chlorella Micro-farm project proposal in 2019

Ms. Olarte and Mr. Albaro received a grant from the UAE government to enable further development of the project. They are also closely coordinating with the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and DOST for its sustainable operation.

Recently, Ms. Olarte presented the I-DID IT program to the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking during the Public Hearing on Senate Resolution Nos. 393 and 413. Also, her team created a website that details the project’s features, core thrusts, and activities.

Indeed, duty always calls, and Ms. Olarte is undeterred to respond whenever and however she can. She hopes that during this challenging period, her fellow teachers find joy in their ability to guide learners.

She has this to say, “remember that your labor is not in vain because every seed that you have sown in the lives of the students will eventually grow and bear much fruit in the future. Every act of selfless service can be much bigger and impactful than we realize. We can always choose to make a positive difference by tapping into our own strengths and abilities, sharing them, and matching them to the right opportunities.”

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