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Give Grow Transform

July 11 thru 17th 2010

This week I had the treat of spending a glorious day in the Guardería, our early childhood center. The Guardería houses programs for students age 1-6, and is aimed at school readiness. The kids get two healthy snacks and a meal, plus vitamins. In the classroom, they get all of the things you would expect out of an early childhood program in the States. In fact, walking into one of the classrooms feels just like walking into any such place in the states. The rooms are colorful and inviting. Blocks, dolls and other toys abound. The atmosphere is incredibly familiar and inviting.

The Guardería is, in a word, awesome. There is so much life and so much energy. The kids are absolutely adorable, with their rumble-tumble hair, clothes and cute faces. I can’t imagine anyone or anything being any cuter. When I sat down in the circle with the students, they would automatically crawl into my lap. At one point, I think I had about 4 girls piled onto me. The kids are just happy and full of love, plain and simple. You can’t help but feel inspired in an atmosphere like that.

I went to the Guardería to spend the day with Brendan, the outgoing English teacher there. Brendan has been volunteering with Safe Passage for six months, and will be heading back to his native Canada.  It will be my job to train the new English teacher, I wanted to get a feel for the building and the way the program operates there.

I had so much fun spending the day with the English classes. Brendan did an excellent job of bringing an air of excitement and enthusiasm, which really engaged the youth. The topic for the youngest kids was colors. Brendan brought out a set of rainbow-colored bells, that each had a matching scarf floating off of them. The kids were each given a turn at ringing a bell. If they got their color right, they got another turn. It was a great incentive for the students to learn and the activity was fun. After this, the students were each given a scarf, and we took a rainbow walk through the “magic garden” – the beautifully landscaped gardens installed by the University of Washington. Brendan beating a drum led the procession. What a fun class!

The older kids learned body parts. Class started with a rousing round of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” They then pinned comically colorful body parts onto a cutout of the body. Finally, each student got a beanbag and played a game to balance it on various parts of their bodies. The whole class was laughing and engaged the entire class period.

This class made me think a lot about service-learning pedagogy. The school system here is based on rote memorization, which I’ll write more about in another post. Watching the kids in the Guardería learn by doing was such a rewarding experience. When you watch the youngest youth, this is how they learn. Early childhood is all about letting students learn by exploration and trial and error. Doing is the best possible way of learning something. By doing something, you don’t just memorize it, you understand it. I wish more education programs would go “back to basics” in this way. The youth have more fun and are more engaged. They’re more motivated to learn because they like what they’re doing. Most importantly, they actually learn the content in a way that is not easily forgotten.

This week I saw peace in doing.