Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Or more up-to-date, Happy Black Friday! My Thanksgiving here was a rather quiet one, spent at home with a not-so-impressive "feast" of rice and beans, but don't think I was any less thankful than usual to have it. Our Thanksgiving celebration will be on Saturday in Njombe. My scheduled contribution is (of course) a tub of guacamole, and also this year I'm going to give the egg nog another try. Basically this is an attempt at a retribution Thanksgiving, since I will be trying not to fail so badly on both of those things compared to last year. Helping me out this time around will be not having to lug the avocados half-way around the country and also the learned foresight of making sure i don't get sour milk for the egg nog. As far as the last several weeks have gone....
In the time since the Girl's Conference, the 5 girls from my school who attended the conference have hosted mini-conference lessons of their own for pretty much all of the other girls at Wilima, from Form I to Form III. A lot of the lessons were ones that they saw at the conference, but done in a slightly different way and sped up to cover more material in a short time. I was VERY impressed with their leadership and ability to keep control over a group of 40 or so students, especially those a couple years older than themselves. I literally did not even need to say a word during any of the lessons because they were very well prepared and confident about what they were teaching. I can't say enough about how proud I am of them and how dedicated they've been to spreading girls' empowerment at my school. I am sure they will be glad to continue lessons next year as well when we get new Form I students.
Aside from that, I've recently gotten involved in a hands-on science teaching group of Peace Corps Volunteers called Shika na Mikono ("Hold with Your Hands"). The group was started by other volunteers a few years ago with the intent of spreading knowledge of how to teach different science topics or perform labs using very cheap and easily available materials. I find it very interesting because it strongly relies on finding creative ways to teach students somewhat more difficult material, while sparking their interest in science subjects by letting them physically participate in the lesson. Because the last group of Education volunteers is now leaving the country, the old group members are passing on the duties to our new group - me and 2 others from the class I came into country with. So we had a meeting a couple weeks ago to talk about new ideas and goals for the group for the coming years.
There is a really nice manual that has been published for use by PC Volunteers, and so we are hoping to make updates to that and also add on more simple lesson plan ideas for hands-on teaching. The manual is made all in LaTeX, a document-writing program that I was (somewhat forcibly, but not regrettably) made pretty familiar with at Notre Dame, so luckily I am able to draw back on some of those skills now. The other big thing is that the Ministry of Education is planning these new teacher trainings for next year in terms of showing them how to actually teach using experimental lessons rather than just writing on the board every day. So we may be able to attend those trainings and put our two cents in on how to do all of those things, but also on a small budget. I'm really excited to start planning a Math and Science Conference next year, which will probably involve using some of the same kinds of ideas.
I'm officially done teaching for the year now, since the Form II students have finished their national exams and have left school. So the school is now half-capacity and winding down towards the final exams for the remaining students at the end of November. I have had a bit more freetime the last couple of weeks, though beginning the week after Thanksgiving is the IST training for the new group of volunteers in Morogoro, and I will be going to lead lessons for the math group, and then also a few sessions with the Shika group.
I will be spedning Thanksgiving (weekend that is) at the house of the married couple in Njombe, Jon and sara. It sounds like most of the people in the region will be coming - 15 or so - so it will be a lot of fun. We will actually be having turkey, even though they are so hard to come by in this country. Of course if it catches on fire in our make-shift cooking pot oven, we may have to all go looking for the nearest Denny's in Njombe.
After Thanksgiving and IST, I will probably be looking for some small filler travelling for a week or so, because on Wednesday, 12/12/12.......I'll be coming home for Christmas!! Wooooo!! I decided a while ago that it would be great to go home for the holidays, and so I booked my tickets for Dec 12th - Jan 4th. So let me know if you will be around Chicago in that time, because I will probably be able to take a few small breaks from gorging on food to actually see some people. So excited to be home and see everyone!!