Thursday, 13 August 2015

NAS Says Goodbye to Kilifi...for Now!

Did We Stimulate Minds This Week?
by Suzzanne Pautler

Necessary Arts has a protocol in place whereby we reflect upon our teaching practice at the end of each site visit to determine if we achieved that which we set out to accomplish?  You know how educators are. We always seem to be in the process of writing standards, benchmarks, and assessments to measure if learning has taken  place.  Although our workshops are informal, we still need to try to determine if we were able to "reach the unreachable".

Did we foster global citizenship?  The students were able to define several facets of global citizenship through performance.  Our conversations and activities, along with their understanding of community, peace, and responsibility, focused exclusively on their lives here in Kilifi. Understanding and valuing one's own community is essential to the development of global citizenship, a concept which will continue to be studied on subsequent visits.

Did we promote personal development through creativity and the theatre arts?  Every child had an opportunity to participate in each activity, whether through their use of language, expression or body movement.  

Much group work took place to encourage students who might be a bit shy or intimidated.  As well, there were several opportunities for individual students to shine by volunteering to act as a student leader for the activity.

Did we encourage successful communication in English as a way to develop literacy?  Student groups were asked to complete a written reflection at the end of each lesson.  Additionally, there were opportunities to do individual read alouds or group choral readings during each workshop.  We certainly encouraged communication in English, though the reality is that translation from Swahili to English was incorporated throughout the workshop to reiterate key ideas.

Did we "stimulate minds through artistic expression?"  Through a variety of warm-up activities requiring both physical and emotional expression, as well as a main activity like a dramatic improvisation requiring recall of detail from the script, students were definitely stimulated mentally, while responding artistically.

Even though the students are currently on holiday, they volunteered to attend the workshops and were quite focused and engaged while at Tulia.  More importantly, they returned each day, bringing along their friends and siblings. Our first workshop reached only 15 students, and our final workshop grew to 35 participants. Interestingly, the students here study each school lesson for 35 minutes at a time, while our workshops required attention and participation anywhere from 90-120 minutes.

Necessary Arts looks forward to continuing the workshop with these young learners. They are eager and motivated students who deserve challenging learning opportunities.  Until next time, Kilifi!

Do You Promise to Return?
by Suzzanne Pautler

To our surprise and delight, several younger siblings ranging from 5-8 years old joined us today for the third and final workshop in Kilifi.  As always, the girls wore skirts or dresses, and our youngest addition arrived in a long white satin skirt with a matching sequined top. We were off to a fancy start!  
Necessary Arts is not a donation machine, whereby we magically fill school libraries or fund scholarships.  Our goal is to volunteer our time and talent to achieve certain learning objectives.  However, we do typically travel with several small items on hand, ranging from Necessary Arts t-shirts to body lotions to candies, never knowing exactly what we might need or who we might meet during our journey.  One of our English teaching colleagues in Dubai donated two dozen soft cover books that her child had outgrown, and as a last minute addition, she added 3 small beach balls.  Her donations saved us today!  While the older students had stagecraft work to accomplish, the younger students had a great time playing charades, singing and dancing, and reading books.

In the early afternoon, a beautiful and colorful meal was served to each child as a gesture of goodwill. It included Kenyan pelau, cole slaw, bananas, and bright red hibiscus juice made from blossoms in the garden.  Thirty five participants were involved in today's workshop, ranging from ages 5-25. We hope that each and every one will return for future Necessary Arts visits.

After lunch the students played with the beach balls in the gardens, while looking longingly at the swimming pool.  Finally, a group of girls approached Teresa and I and asked if we would please, please, please go to the beach with them?  And doesn't a beach party sound like a perfect conclusion to 3 days of meaningful workshops?  Our group once again filled the entire road as we slowly walked toward the Indian Ocean.  Soon not one child was dry. Their smiles and shrieks never stopped.  And, of course, just as the beach balls were a huge hit in the garden, they were even more so in the ocean.  

In between riding the waves and playing in the sand, children approached us over and over again asking us if we will promise to return.  Of course!  While we are hoping the students will return, they're hoping Necessary Arts will return.  What a perfect situation.  These conversations have taken place at other schools and orphanages, too. Sometimes when students understand that we are coming back, they start to list all the items they would like us to bring them.  This is a struggle for us to process as we hope they actually want us to come back to further their learning and development. Only one girl whispered a personal request in my ear while we were standing at the beach. She really wants us to bring some skipping ropes, and I think those just might fit in the small item category.  Along with more beach balls, of course!

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