Tuesday, April 28, 2009

toy soldiers

If you’ve ever peeked through the slatted window of an elementary classroom in a Nicaraguan public school, you’ve witnessed chaos in its purest form. Full of packed desks and colorful wall decorations, the room is usually brimming with many, MANY (yelling and wiggling!) uniformed children and one very patient teacher.

In this education system, schools are often under-resourced and overcrowded. Though many teachers are enthusiastic and responsible, a lack of materials and space often causes children to be passed from grade to grade without ever completely learning the desired objectives. Basic math skills are missing; reading and writing are frequently far under par. For this reason, MPI offers afterschool literacy and math programs to supplement what is learned in school and to give attendees a heads-up in the classroom… and in life.

Though most PDs came here with no teaching experience (especially in a foreign language!), leading math and literacy has become a bright spot in my week. In math group A (I love the little ones!), we are learning to add and subtract… using anything and everything to enhance the learning: toy soldiers, legos, M&Ms. Cristian rocks with her numbers and dominates the games! Ulises counts on his fingers so well, touching each to his nose as he says its number! And though Armando is often the last to understand, he giggles at everything and loves to guess the answer!

These children that attend El Farito each Monday and Wednesday afternoon have demonstrated vast improvements in their reading and math skills. And more notably, we hope that they have gained a deeper understanding of the importance of numbers and the value of books. But far more significant than any skill learned or objective passed is the confidence we hope to instill in these children. Mastering long division promotes self-assurance. Reading challenging chapter books opens minds to faraway places and cultivates dreams beyond housewifes and farmers. We want to foster a deep ambition in these children, to encourage them to think outside their neighborhood, to let them know that they have the capabilty to do great things.

Perhaps it all starts with adding toy soldiers...


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