This week has been absolutely unbelievable. A new aquarium, invitations to dinner from thankful teachers, free lunches from appreciative locals, the discovery of the deliciousness of raw sugarcane, an afternoon at the heavenly lagoon, the appearance of a coffeepot at the Center (my personal favorite)… Where to start?! After so much hard work, after so many long bus rides and emails and strategy sessions, our work is finally beginning to bear fruit. Our Center is bursting with excited students, who always come ready to learn and have fun. It is amazing that last week we were struggling with trying to adjust our lesson plans to teach students one at a time, and now our struggles are exactly the opposite as we try to accommodate our ever-growing numbers.
One of the changes since last week includes the incorporation of a concrete schedule. Our students are so intrigued by all of the subjects that they switch all of the time, which makes it difficult to move onto new lessons and build on past material.
Unfortunately, I had the luck of being scheduled at the same time as BJ’s music lesson, which draws an enormous crowd. I am going to have to get my creative juices going to figure out how to draw students into the lab, especially when many of these students lack any sort of science in school and find the subject somewhat intimidating.
However small in number though, I love the students who show up to my lessons everyday. They are all so bright and pick up on terms and concepts extremely quickly. They are beginning to recognize how science is in the world all around them, and they have started to ask questions and do research on their own. One student even dismantled an empty lighter to reveal the inner mechanics, and proudly brought it to me today and told me he researched how it creates the flame. I was very impressed by his initiative and promptly introduced the idea of our science fair to the students, and they got very excited about the upcoming competition.
Speaking of the science fair, Ed and Vedant’s meeting yesterday brings exciting implications of taking our ideas to the next level. Our new positive relationship with the Ministry allows all of the Fellows to submit our ideas and plans of action. For me, this would mean a national science fair competition, similar to what we have in America. Encouraging the students to take on their own projects and to invest energy into their own findings will not only teach them so much about the scientific method and research, but also about themselves and their own potential.
I just had a long talk with a few older students today about whether they would apply to university, and was shocked that their reply was that they weren’t even going to try because they weren’t intelligent enough. When I started telling them Vedant’s story, and how he came from a small village just like the rest of them, their eyes grew huge and jaws dropped in disbelief. By the end of the conversation, I at least had them convinced to sit down and look at university websites with me to explore the possibilities. All I know is that these kids picked up chromatography and embryogenesis in a day each, whereas I had old classmates that would take weeks to grasp the same concepts. There is absolutely no reason for these kids not to believe in themselves, and to dream whatever they want for their future.
What makes our Center so special though, I think, is the bonds we are forming with our students and the friendships being built. We consistently have students showing up hours early, and many students stay and walk us to the bus stop, arm in arm, well after the Center officially closes. The girls have discovered that we have many students talented in nail design and henna tattoos, and always walk around completely decked out (I think the boys get jealous). I always get compliments evbbnio berywhere I go for the beautiful ‘mehindi’ spiraling from my fingers to my elbow. Another favorite activity of the kids is playing matchmaker, and trying to pair the fellows off into couples (of course, after determining what our marital status is). They also tirelessly help us with our Creole, finding great humor in our awful accents.
Vedant has accurately coined our nickname as the “Happy Center.” No matter what the weather is like, no matter how tired or hungry or grumpy I show up, it is a guarantee that I will walk into the center and it will be filled with laughter, smiles, and sunlight. There is no doubt in any of our minds that we are making an impact on these kids every day. The next step is just making sure our impact doesn’t end as August creeps closer and closer.