This Environmental Education document is the culmination of my two years in the Peace Corps and lots of Ecoclub sessions. Enjoy.
Download it here.
When the English teacher at the high school here became pregnant and went on maternity leave, the school asked me to fill in and teach the English classes for the final two months of the year. Of course I was happy to help and it turned out to be reasonably fun and not too difficult - the students’ English was very basic. The high school isn’t very challenging (for instance the teachers almost never give out homework) so I’ll just note that there are major differences between this high school and the ones that you and I attended, and leave it at that.
I was a pretty relaxed teacher and we played a fair share of games in class to learn vocab and grammar. And like any good teacher, I gave them a final exam to see what they had learned over the course of the year.
When I got back the exams, I was half appalled, half amused: lots of incorrect answers to very basic questions that we reviewed and reviewed. That was kind of upsetting.
On the other hand, I did get some spectacular answers and some of them are so good that it would be a crime not to share them with you. So here are the 10 best answers that I received on the exam, unedited for spelling and such.
10) Q: How old are you?
A: very good
9) Q: Describe this person [photo of a woman]
A: she is shots
^they meant ‘short’, but something about ‘being shots’ cracks me up
8) Q: Describe your personality
A: my personality is alto
^my personality is…. high
7) Q: Describe this person [photo of a woman]
A: She has tall eyes
6) Q: What foods do you like?
A: I like the hog dog
5) Q: Describe this person [photo of a gorgeous female model]
A: She is beatifly
^beautiful + fly = beautifly!! Definitely adding that to my repertoire.
4) Q: How old are you?
A: i am sexteen years old
^I bet you are
3) Q: Describe your personality
A: I am ugly and Mexican
^one hell of a combination you got there
2) Q: Describe this person [photo of an absolutely adorable little blue-eyed, blonde-hair girl]
A: She is lazy. She is ugly.
^really?!? lazy AND ugly?? she’s like 4 years old dude.
1) Q: Describe this person [photo of a very dark-skinned black man]
A: he is asian or black
^cause sometimes you just can’t quite tell
I had a blast teaching. Rumor had it that the former English teacher might not come back right away when the school year starts and the administration might ask me again to step in again temporarily. If so, I’ll gladly accept in a heartbeat (and not just so I can administer more tests!!)
Something that all PC vols can agree on. Via Sarah´s blog.
Discontentment with the man continues to stew about (and within!) CONANP.
So here’s a piece of strange news. I can leave Peace Corps whenever I want. Anytime.
I suppose that I can quit PC - that’s always on the table should things go south. But they’re offering me something a bit different than that. Peace Corps Mexico is giving me the option to terminate my service early with full-benefits and without repercussions. Think of it as an honorable discharge.
All of this is because I happen to be in quite a strange position. The state I live in, San Luis Potosi, has seen lots of violence between gangs and police. This has led to some odd and conflicting US government policies: zero US government employees live here, all government employees that travel through the state must ride in armored vehicles, and the entire state is on the US State Dept’s travel restricted list
Here’s the strange part: I’m not considered a gov employee, because I am exempt from all of those stringent policies. They do apply however to Peace Corps employees. That means that Peace Corps folks can’t travel here, except in emergencies (you didn’t actually think they’d have armored vehicles, did you?!?) which is kinda ridiculous if you think about it. They can’t even visit the place where they put volunteers.
The truth is that I’m not super worried about security issues and content enough here in my community, so I see no reason to get up in arms about the whole thing. This region is rather chill these days and the small community where I live is surely the safest places I’ll ever live. It doesn’t bother me all that much that Peace Corps employees can’t visit, except in emergencies. Mostly, it just makes me laugh.
Well, the US embassy wants us nine PC volunteers out of the state. I mean, they really really want us to get out and never come back!! But the friendly folks at Peace Corps struck a deal with them permitting us nine to stay, then not placing any future volunteers there until the state really cools down. Peace Corps is also giving us nine (and only us nine) the option to leave Peace Corps as if we finished our two years of service.
Bottom line on all this is that I’m staying put, so don’t get your hopes up. I see no reason to hurry on home and since I signed up for two years, I’m staying for two years. No copping out on this one. November-ish and I’m out. The real way.
As far as I can see, the only thing that would actually persuade me to leave early at this point would be serious and nearby violence, and something that just doesn’t look that likely.
I wish I did more. That’s right, I wish I was busier here in Mexico. That I only teach two sessions to a whopping total of 30ish elementary school-aged kids a week is a little pitiful, I think. I guess I have some other side projects and planning ecoclub always takes longer than you’d expect. But still.
Thinking positively about this “problem” and I realize that it gives me lots of time to be a good instructor and create good activities. And I think I do just that.
I’ve just complied nearly all of the educational activities (and a few of the fun ones too) we’ve done in ecoclub over the last six months into a doc that can be found here. Check out what activities we’ve done in the past, although I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a long way from finished. The document still needs some serious editing and lots more photos. I’ll be updating it periodically with our recent activities.
Now I have something to show people. YES!!
During the Ecoclub two weeks ago, we made poems about a local animals on that animals. See the examples below! They made poems about ant eaters, lizards, bees, squirrels, frogs, parrots, vultures, scorpions, deer, and ant eaters. I was pretty impressed.
The photo below didn’t turn out great because of the reflection and you can’t really see the poems that each kid wrote on their (except for the kid Yeri who wrote his name huge!!) But the point is, the kids produced some good poetry about their animals.
Following their weekly tradition, the boys resisted doing whatever activity they were supposed to do. Some wrote quick, thoughtless poems that I told them to re-write. Again they resisted. I sorta wish they wouldn’t come to Ecoclub if they had no desire to do that week’s activity. On the other hand, I do understand why they still attend: they enjoy the company. Everybody who shows up is super nice and friendly. All of us have a lot of laughs during sessions and have a good time (though not always Ana and I when the kiddos are super loud and cray-cray).
So even though they whine about doing activities, even when I tell them answers or practically do the activity for them, I know that deep down inside they are just faking. They just want attention and I’m a sucker.
Here’s my creation, dipping my toes into the world of poetry in Spanish
This week it rained a lot Ecoclub days, tuesday and wednesday, were a bit frigid. That caused low turn out among Ecoclubers. We only had 6 kiddos each day. We made pollinator mobiles to demonstrate their role in nature. A flower hangs in the center of the mobile while bees and butterflies swirl around it (although of course the boys resisted making a flower. oi!)
Everything is kind of blurry but you get the point.
They insisted that before we leave I take another photo of them. Here they are, with Victor in mid-fall
The hiatus is over and I’m back. Actually, I’ve been back for about a month now but that’s besides the point. Enough chit-chat, lets get to the point.
Beginning in January and continuing until March-ish, we’ll be doing our animal unit. The session four weeks ago was fun: we learned about companion organisms, or mutualism, in nature. Think flowers and pollinators, cows and egrets, humans and domesticated animals, crocodiles and plovers, ostriches and zebras, ants and carnizuelo, sharks and pilot fish, wolves and ravens, and animals and the bacteria within their (our) stomachs.
Yes , I drew these pictures. No, I didn’t invent these scenes out of my head. Yes, I took them from a real photos.
After doing a quick activity on that, we had some time to kill. Instead of letting the kids play and run around outside, I got them doing some origami. Swans!! It turned out to be a pretty good good idea, the kiddos got into it making the biggest and smallest swans possible.
Lupita and her ridiculously tiny swan
Erika’s swan family boat?
The following week was the Anniversary of this community and we only had one session. An easy Jeopardy competition about mammals and a crazy game of extreme-all-out-girls-vs-boys-war-tag-where-you-drag-your-opponents-to-jail game. I never quite picked up on all the rules of the game, though. A bit too crazy a game for me, I’ll say. Guess I’m getting too old, eh? Partypooper.
For the past two weeks, the kids have been putting on their puppet shows. They´ve been very cute and entertaining. Above all, they´ve been quite funny, though unintentionally.
Daylights savings has cut our sessions to an hour and a half-ish. Two weeks ago we weren´t able to squeeze in all the shows (I have the kids practice before they perform to the group and that took some time) so presentations spilled over into this week too.
Ana and I started Tuesday and Wednesday´s sessions by performing our own puppet show, a fable by Aesop, called the Man, the boy, and the Donkey. We had a lot of fun doing it. Sadly, there are no pictures from it.
After that we saw The Three Little Pigs and The Three Billy Goats Gruff on Tuesday while Wednesday groups performed The Tourtise and the Hare and The Boy Who Cried Wolf. The following Wednesday, the final two groups performed Bambi and Little Red Riding Hood.
The Tourtise and the Hare. I loved the rabbit that the boys made for this show, I just cracked up everytime I saw it. Look at this picture here and try not to laugh.
This is that part when the wolf eats the
nondescriptunidentifiedpaperbaganimal SHEEP!! in the Boy Who Cried Wolf. The biggest laugh of this fairy tale came when the boy reading the play, who was having a bit of trouble getting the words out, stopped mid-sentence and yelled to an accusing puppeteer ¨you want to read this?!?¨
Take one look at this adorable rabbit and you´ll know right away taht this was made by a girl. All the ladies included such exquisit detail in their puppets that contrasted so sharply with the bright colors and rushed puppet production of the gentlement. This was from the Bambi group, which was very well done.
Bambi and his novia, who at one point during the play, were seen engaging in some PDA, inciting laughter and woops from the raucous crowd
Here´s a good picture of the ´stage´ I fashioned together on the cheap, plus the adorableness of Bambi to boot
Little Red Riding Hood, obviously. Out of all the presentations, this might have been the best. Well read and well performed by four girls and a guy.
This picture just kills me. The ´thing´ in the center is the hunter and he looked absolutely wack, like a red frog. Regardless, I thought it was awesome.
I took videos of the Three Little Piggies and The Three Billy Goats Gruff, so when I can figure out how to save screen shots of video, I´ll go ahead and throw up some pictures of them too. This was the last of Ecoclub for 2011, and we start back up in a month.
A week ago I headed over to a fellow volunteer´s site to help her with a trash clean up event. Big thanks to Sarah for showing us, her loyal entourage, a good time. Hope we could help and we´re more than happy to. Plus it was fun to see her community, Cañada Grande and her ecoclub.
Head over to her blog to check out her take on the event and a picture of me on her blog (fame!) http://sarahjeanschu.blogspot.com/
I´ll have to write up something on this blog about my very own trash cleanup in Laguna that happened this past saturday, but I´ve got a bus to catch in 5 minutes. Busy busy ahaha!!
Predicting how an ecoclub activity will turn out is tougher than you’d think. I might go into sessions with an expectation or idea of how receptive the kids will be to it, but it almost never ends up that way. In the past my best of plans have gone south, a silly, spontaneous activity beats everything else, a new member changes the whole group dynamic, a poorly planned session turns fantastic. Yeah, it’s kinda like that.
In that same vein, a recent last-minute idea has turned into something with lots of potential.
Last week, about a week and a half before this session, I still had no idea what we’d be doing next in the Ecoclub. Typically I know what theme and activity(s) we’ll be doing a month in advance. But Ana and I procrastinated and allowed planning to bump up very close against the session. Seven days before the session we only knew that I wanted to do something theater-ish. Five days before the session we decided that the kids would put on a puppet show instead of live skits. Two days before the session I realized that the kids shouldn’t write their only stories but use fairy tales, so I printed out a couple different popular ones. One days before I choose paper bags over socks for the puppets, and bought them.
All things considered, I’m having trouble beliving how well this week went. This theater idea was of the 11th hour and it amazes me that nothing went wrong. On the contrary, a lot of the kids got really into the project (to nobody’s surprise a lot of the girls, but even some of the boys too!!). My kiddies selected their fairy tales, choose their roles, and made the puppets and props. (Their puppets, I’ll note, are devistatingly cute and I can’t wait to see them in action) The plan next session is to let the kids practice for a few minutes before each group performs.
I’ve never been real big into theater. In fact I’ve openly scoffed at it before. A lot of the Peace Corps manuals, teaching materials, and environmental education resources suggest doing small skits and plays with kids and teens, which always struck me as cheesy. However in realizing that I chose mostly arts-and-craft activities and other visual art projects (painting, drawing, sculpturesque stuff), I’ll be trying to incorporate more types of art into our sessions, like theater, music, writing and poetry. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
I think learned a couple of things in my five months of teaching ecoclub, believe it or not. Of my lessions learned, up towards the top of the list is just how important it is to properly structure each activity and tailor it to each group. I deal with all sorts of contraints (time, materials, abilities of the kids, their levels of participation and enthusiasm, transportation, money) and tailoring each activity to fit within them is critical.
By pre-selecting known fairy tales for the kids (Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Tortise and Hare, Bambi, Three Billy Goats Gruff, Bambi, etc), I eliminated the time they may have spent writing their own story and script. I made a few example puppets for them (frog and wolf) so that they could copy some of their features. During the session I pointed out to the kids the distinguishing features of their animals, drew body parts for them to cut out, and guided them towards a puppet that looks like an identifiable animal (a pig that actually looks like a pig!) while giving them plenty of space to add their own creative touch to it.
On a number of occassions projects have not gone as well as I would have hoped. Perhaps we ran out of time in the session (common), the project was too complicated or advanced for the younger sluggers, or the kids just lost interest in the activity (very common). But when I can work within the constraints of the ecoclub, the kids like to exceed my expectations. Their art is beautiful and creative and you sense their pride. The trick is to prepare for the session just the right amount: enough to allow the kids’ abilities to shine through without doing the project for them. Finding that balance isn’t easy or obvious, and that’s what makes ecoclub unpredictable. It changes each session, with each activity, with each group of kids. But I’m getting better at finding that balance as I get to know my group better.
We’ll see if the performances next weeks go well. Perhaps the kiddos will relish in the spotlight, have fun with the skits and beg me to do more of this stuff. Or perhaps they’ll get cold feet and not want to perform. To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t rule out any of them and we’ll probably see a bit of both. All I’ll say is that after this week I’m hopeful that we’ll have some thoroughly entertaining skits.
Oh, and happy turkeyday yall.