Thursday, June 5, 2014

Piloting our module with Las Cebras - Gio's Article

Piloting our activities has been a learning curve to say the least!  When we were first asked to come up with a module to teach kids about La Paz’s noise pollution problem, our lack of specialist knowledge ensured a degree of scepticism.  Such a complex topic would be difficult to convey in an engaging way while remaining informative.  It wouldn’t be long however, until we started to come up with some solid ideas for fun, interactive games that we could play with the children.  This would prove to be the easy part. 

In order to ensure our activities actually worked before we handed them over to the Zebras, we decided to give them a test run with the target audience.  This was not immediately possible, but our never say die attitude and strong links with charities SOS and ChildFund allowed us access to a selection of children’s centres.  Although not public schools like anticipated, we thought the centres would provide a good testing ground.  This was not entirely the case.  With rosters unpredictably varying (Sometimes 7 other times 70), children firmly out of the school setting, and an unanticipated age range; our module was not well suited to the environment.
Zebras in the classroom

We later found out that although lessons are taught in these types of centres, many Bolivian children work half the day before attending and help the family with chores after they leave, so this is a rare chance to relax and actually be a kid.
Who knows the answer!?

Our experience of the centres definitely brought forth some positives however, and these would come into play when Karina’s excellent negotiation skills allowed us some time in middle schools around the city, this time with the Zebras at our side!
Gio writes notes between classes

The first school ‘Simon Rodríguez’ had an air of patriotism, something to be expected from an establishment named after the mentor of Bolivia’s founding father.  As we entered from a dusty Plaza Arandia subsidiary littered with small stalls selling Coca Quina and Mothers Day cards, the sound of a lone accordion breezed in the court yard. In the centre were the children, neatly arranged and hands on hearts for their country’s anthem.  Five minutes later we were in the classrooms and knee deep in our pilot scheme.  The welcome presence of the Zebras brought respect and the children were gripped with their educational play; attention that remained thorough out all our activities.  We were beginning to get the hang of it.    
 Gimmie Five!
Next we travelled west of San Francisco Church to ‘Unidad Educativa Alemania’, a small, inner city school in the Textile district, sandwiched between a stall of feather bowers and a Casera supplying hungry children with hot cheese Llauchas.  Surprisingly, neither the Bolivian nor German national anthem was heard, just a loud bell to signal the start of class (and our tardiness).  Activities were received very well in the three classrooms we managed to attend, so much so that one of the teachers (disappointed that his class were missing out) chased us down the stairs and pleaded that we stay a while longer!   
Can you spot Joey & Mino?
Affluent Sopocachi’s ‘Cristo Rey’ would be our next stop, our most recent school to date and where we would trial a selection of new activities, some utilising the playground & getting the children outdoors.  The positive way the activities were received really marks how far we have come since the first ideas were conceived.  We can deliver the activities with confidence and real knowledge, with an ability to engage the children in effective ways.  We’re really excited about handing the completed module over the Zebras to teach all over the city.  We’re sure it’s going to be a success!
Gio & Mino relax with a glass of juice after a busy morning

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