Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Recent Learning and Field Trip-ing of Munoz

To me, the most notable and impressive quality expressed by students in Munoz has been their eagerness to learn. In less developed countries and regions, young children often don´t have the same access to toys, books, pictures, or activities that are taken for granted in a lot of modern schools. This past week, we got our hands on some activities and worksheets in Creole for our students at the United Brothers School of Munoz who are still gaining control of their writing hand. It´s hard to just start whipping out t´s and y´s-! We forget sometimes that we had to learn how to hold a pencil or how to draw a circle... and with these new worksheets and activities, it´s been a lot easier to teach and to learn basic writing skills. Small activities with pictures that say ¨Help the bee get to the flower in order to pollinate!¨and ¨Draw small circles on the butterfly´s wings, like the example¨and ¨Draw lines of how the bird flies¨ and ¨Draw a line of how the mango falls to the boy¨ not only work on hand control, but introduce concepts like pollination and gravity.

And the kids love them! One little boy, Eneorie, was jumping up and down after finishing each sheet, asking for the next one. ¨Another one, Kelly, another one!¨

Edwin focusing hard on his new worksheet!

The students in the English classes are been equally engaged and excited about learning. After learning some basic vocab of colors, shapes, and some animals, we introduced a fun competitive game to make sure the vocab stuck. You´d be amazed (maybe not) at how competitive middle school kids can get! We erased the number of points and switched around team members a few times to keep the fun up and competition low. Kids would race to search for the cut out of the ¨blue star¨or ¨green pencil¨ to then hold it up and tell the leader ¨This is a blue star.¨ At one point, students were rushing towards me holding up the ¨red cat¨ and shouting ¨She is red cat!¨ It was comical at times how into it they got... eventually we got them saying clearly ¨This is a red cat.¨ Success! 

We moved away from traditional vocabulary this week as we prepared for our big excursion this weekend into sea life and beach vocab. Project Esperanza was lucky enough to connect with Andrew Joseph Morin, a biologist from Alaska, who brought lots of scuba gear for children and laminated photos to teach about aquatic life (in English!). He´s been helping in PE´s English class and wanted to take our English students on a scuba excursion to the beach. So we prepared! Our kids learned ¨lobster,¨¨octopus,¨ ¨shrimp,¨ ¨to swim¨ and other sea vocab. 

Gabby describing a ¨frog¨ to the group

And finally our beach days arrived. Saturday we weren´t expecting many kids, the majority said they were coming on Sunday. We said come at 10 am (Latino time, meaning hopefully we´d leave by 11), and by 11 am we were on the Pueblito beach with ten of our English students. The next day, at 9:30 am there were students ringing my doorbell saying, ¨Kelly, let´s go to the beach, let´s go!¨ (in English, of course, which made me happy). So Sunday we took on Pueblito again with twenty students. They searched for sea life scubaing, spotted an inking octopus-!, caught small fish, learned about the decomposition (and lack there of) of plastic bags and cups, had a wonderful lunch, and lots and lots of fun. It was so heart warming to see ten students run across the beach shouting ¨We saw an octopus, We saw an octopus!¨We even managed to fit in a beach clean up for half an hour after our lesson about the importance of recycling and the detrimental effects littering on the beach can have on the delicate eco-system. 

It´s also been a goal to help impart important moral lessons and values to our English students. If they come in late to class, they have to stand in front of class and apologize for their tardiness. The rest of the class responds, ¨It´s okay, (enter student name here)!¨ No fighting is allowed, respect is always required, and kindness and consideration are always encouraged. Hence, on our excursion our students learned to say ¨I like to share¨ in English as they shared parts of their lunch or drinks or shells found on the beach. All in all, a successful and educational excursion for our Munoz kids! 

Wilfrido sharing his jugo natural with Mario- so sweet!

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Latest Happenings in Munoz

A short introduction- My name is Kelly Terry and I am the current Volunteer Coordinator/Assistant Director for Project Esperanza and the writer of the Munoz blog for the time being. I hope you enjoy my relaying of all things exciting about Project Esperanza in Munoz, and feel free to give me comments, feedback, or ask questions! I try to be very open and personable to our Project Esperanza community.

So. February. So far so good. The Fair Trade Art Shop has been running smoothly and things have been moving forward with Sewing My Future and the sewing of hats and bags by women in the Munoz batey. We're getting ready to put them in our shop and on our online store! Hopefully, in the future, the trained seamstresses in Munoz will be employed by various textile producers from major shopping websites, like Etsy.

At the United Brothers School of Munoz, we've been having lots of fun. Filo, our recent new teaching assistant, has been so helpful in Jacob's big class (filled with 1st - 4th graders) and has taken the reins in teaching the young students their letters, numbers, reading, writing, and mathematics. Today, like all Fridays, students stood at the front of the class and sang songs of their choice. It's amazing how little "verguenza" (shyness) these kids have- they jump up without inhibitions to sing a solo (or duet) and can't help dancing a little as they sing. The older students in the class are working on their multiplication and division. They've mastered addition and subtraction... and are excited about it. A few boys insisted that I stay inside with them during recess and give them "really really really" hard addition problems, with 7 digits!

Pierre practicing writing "a"
In the back of the school, Daisy (our preschool and kindergarten teacher) has taken on an assistant, Francia, to manage her almost 30 students. As they were getting a little out of hand during recess, Francia got the small kids engaged in a fun jumping, clapping, and singing song. From what I could understand, the jist of the song was "Dios me hizo, y soy especial" (God made me, and I am special).

Volunteer-wise, our most exciting recent development has been giving English classes to any interested children in the Munoz area. For a few weeks so far, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 5 - 6 pm, eager students flock to the United Brothers School of Munoz to convene for class. Several travelers from all corners of the world (Belgium, Alaska, France, North Carolina...) who are currently residing at the SunCamp Apartment Rentals (also in Munoz) have been extremely helpful with the classes. We're currently encouraging any interested-in-volunteering individuals in the Puerto Plata area to link up with us to give English classes or work on our continuing recycling project in Munoz! 

Today we reviewed the alphabet, numbers, several emotions, and basic conversation skills then jumped into alphabet, number, and emotion BINGO! Kids were trickling in throughout the class, congregating to the loud sounds of laughter and English coming from the school.

In conclusion, Munoz has been a happening, fun place for Project Esperanza and we (as always) have big plans and lots of hope for the future.