I think that, while this blog provides a lot of interesting snippets about what we’ve come across here and how we’ve felt, it does not give readers a detailed account of what we actually do on a day to day basis and what all that is working towards. So I’ve decided to devote this entry to describing our projects as best as I can.
During orientation week, our time was spent working out the form of the projects we wanted to conduct at the schools and determining how we can fit logistically into the schools’ schedules in order to maximize the value of our time for the students.
After much discussion and debate, we came out with five main project ideas:
1) Book project
2) Garden project
3) Theater project
4) Sports project
We will run the book project only at Etoile de Mer—essentially a middle school with students ages 10-15. Sarah and Emily will spearhead it. The goal of the project is that, by the end of our stay, the students will have written and illustrated neat English books about themselves in which they can take pride. We developed this project in response to our observation that the students’ English classes are taught in a very dry way—entirely out of an uninspiring workbook—that gives the students no feeling for the English language as a mode of self-expression. The book project encourages the students to express themselves in English. To practice this concept, we have the students furnish the curriculum for the next class with what they tell us about themselves the class before. We teach through acting, games, and powerpoints—more engaging than their workbook lessons. At the end of each class, they produce a page about themselves.
The garden project entails planting a garden in an unkempt plot of land belonging to Etoile de Mer. Denise, Vedant, and I are spearheading it. Gardening, we hope, will instill feelings of attachment and responsibility, rising not out of obligation, but rather out of interest and satisfaction. We have gathered a group of 13 students whose enthusiasm in the garden has been exceptional. We have worked with them to delimit and clear an area of the land, around which we will erect a fence, once the hardware store prepares our materials. We will plant egg plant, sweet potato, zucchini, squash, pumpkin, aloe vera, scallions, onions, and—which we are most excited about—pitaya, a fruit-bearing cactus that the Mauritian government recommends as an innovative alternative to sugarcane planting. Along the way, we will teach them botanical and environmental concepts.
The theater project entails putting on a show with both with students from Etoile de Mer and Fatima—a school for older students who have failed the CPE standardized test. Vedant and I are spearheading this project. At Etoile de Mer, I held informal auditions and chose 12 students who impressed me with their imagination and willingness. I have had them tell me a folk-loric story, which we are in the process of adapting into a play as a group. At rehearsals, we train the imagination and also delve into character, emotion, and narrative. At Fatima, I am working with the students to write a play made up of vignettes about their own lives with singing, dancing, and original-poetry-reading interspersed. We will rent out a hall for the final shows of both schools.
The sports project entails teaching athletic skills. Jordan, Vicky, and Caroline are spearheading the project. At Etoile de Mer, they are training kids for an upcoming inter-school competition. At Fatima, they are running casual afterschool basket ball and volleyball clinics. All three are varsity athletes who draw on huge stores of knowledge built up over the years, pertaining both to the sports themselves and to general athletic training. They have impressed the students with their abilities, and the students have a great time at their clinics.
The blog project involves setting up an English language blog, on which the students at Fatima will write and to which they will upload photos and videos. We are all working together on this project and have the help of a group of local volunteers who have been very welcoming and cooperative. The purpose of the project is to encourage self-expression in English by providing an novel and appealing forum, and also to teach a bit of IT. Our first blog post will be stories told through series of three photos, accompanied by one-sentence English captions. The students had a great time coming up with the stories and taking the pictures.
I hope you all find this description of our projects useful and/or interesting. Please comment with any suggestions and advice you can offer!