This is the fifth summer that I have traveled to Nicaragua with the Global Partner’s education team. As in the past, we are doing workshops with high school students who teach in rural after-school programs called colectivos.
The colectivos and the workshops for the students who teach them, are organized by our Nicaraguan partner, Rainbow Network. Rainbow Network has colectivos all over Nicaragua, in 144 rural communities.
In these workshops, we give the high school students literacy and math activities to do with the children in their colectivos. We teach them how to make learning fun with games, songs, and stories. The activities we introduce are new to the high school students, because classroom instruction in Nicaragua is very focused on dictation and board work. In the workshops, we show the students that math and language practice can be fun, and give them specific activities to use with the children in their colectivo.
Global Partners has been presenting these workshops for years, and over time the education project volunteers have made the content more relevant and useful. There are so many variables here, that it will never be perfect, but when we left La Crosse, I was confident that we had solid information and could present it clearly.
So, the material was familiar. What was new this year was the team presenting the workshops. I am the only teacher who has taught the workshops before. The others are new to the project and have different backgrounds in education.
Meeting new people is one of the best parts of these trips, and I knew from our pre-trip meetings that we had a great team. Now that we have done two days of workshops, I am reminded that of the greatest strengths of Global Partners is the influx of new insight that volunteers bring. In addition to being fun, resourceful team members, our new volunteers have already provided new perspective to improve the project.
Before the trip, it is difficult for new volunteers to make specific suggestions, because it is impossible for them to understand the reality and limitations the students teaching the after-school programs face. However, after only one day of workshops, our new volunteers were able to take their professional knowledge, our material, and the reality of teaching in a Nicaraguan colectivo and make concrete suggestions to improve the workshops.
We have only done two days of workshops, but working together, we have already made small but important changes to our presentation of math games and read aloud instruction that are making a strong presentation even better.
It is always exciting to work with talented educators who are passionate about teaching. That is part of what makes these trips so rewarding. It is especially satisfying to see the project continue to improve and know that the information we share in the workshops is helping Nicaraguan children learn.