Thursday, July 3, 2008

Entry for the LTP Blog

You might have noticed that on the right side of the screen, I put the web address of the LTP blog ( Each one of the DukeEngage students was assigned a specific week to write an entry for the blog while we're here in Tanzania, and my week was week four (this past week). The end of last week marked the halfway point of our trip. I'm going to cheat a little bit and re-post that entry here.

Reflections on Week Four, by Hilary Robbins
The week leading up to the halfway point of our trip was somewhat complicated by midterm testing at Arusha School, but we still accomplished a great deal. Besides being our second week of teaching LTP at Arusha School, this week was also the second and final week of our homestays. It was the first week in which we held after-school activities, and it brought the arrival of Wendy, Kaitlin, and Michael. For many of us, this week was the one in which we began to feel less like we were simply visiting here and more like we were living here. As we become more comfortable communicating in this culture, our work here is becoming more efficient, productive, and meaningful.

Standard Seven (Hilary, Minette, and Michelle)
On Monday afternoon of this week, all seven DukeEngage students worked with our class of standard seven students on a project about misemo, which are Swahili proverbs. The students worked in pairs and each pair chose a misemo, then planned and shot photographs to illustrate that misemo. On Thursday and Friday, the students wrote stories from their pictures and created artistic displays of their misemo.

We were extremely pleased with the progress our class had made since their first LTP project, which was a review for their science midterm exams. The first clear sign of improvement was that unlike in the first project, the students were able to formulate a clear plan for their photographs and draw it on paper. Secondly, I noticed a marked difference in the students’ leadership skills while shooting their photos. They were much more confident in speaking up about their preferences and about making decisions concerning framing, perspective, and other aspects of their photos. Finally, the students’ post-shooting writings were much improved from the science project.

A student in standard seven shooting her picture.

A standard seven student’s misemo project. Her misemo, “Mambo mazuri, hayataki haraki,” translates roughly to “good things should not be hastened.”

Once upon a time, there was a small village. In that village there was one family which was very poor. All the people in the family were weak. On day while the father was walking to the market, he met a very rich man. The rich man asked, “How are you?” The poor man answered, “I’m fine.” Then each proceeded with the walk. When the poor man reached the market people were gossiping. One of the people told the poor man, “I can see you need help. Here is a man who is very good at helping people.” The old man ran back to look for the rich man, but the rich man was not there. The poor man went back home and told his wife, “I met a very rich man who can help us. But maybe until then I will sell my daughter.” “What?!” the mother shouted, “You can’t sell my child. Even if I die, don’t do this because you just want to be rich. I can’t accept that.” At that time, the child came and said to her mother, “Mother your love is so sweet, I can’t have enough of it.” The father was ashamed of what he did.
-Another student’s misemo story. Her misemo stated, “Penzi la mama tamu, haliishi hamu.” Roughly translated, “A mother’s love is so sweet, one cannot have enough of it.”

Standard Five (Baldeep and Lindsay)
Monday evening brought the arrival of Wendy, Kaitlin, and Michael, so we had a breakfast meeting on Tuesday to welcome them and bring them up to speed with the projects we had accomplished. That afternoon, Lindsay and Baldeep’s standard five students made presentations on their science projects from the previous week. Later in the week, all eight students (now including Kaitlin) worked with the standard five class so that those students also got a chance to do the misemo project.

Standard Three (Ami and Alia)
The original plan for standard three on Wednesday was for that class to complete the misemo project as well. However, we quickly realized (and should have predicted) that the misemo project requires a level of thinking way beyond that of most eight-year-olds. After a quick change of plans, we decided to create a photographic portrayal of one of the kids’ favorite songs. The song essentially tells the story of someone who eats a rotten peanut and has to have a surgical operation, to the tune of “Clementine.” Until completing this activity, the standard three children had really struggled with the concept of taking a picture of an idea, but doing this simple exercise seemed to be really helpful. Later in the week, the class used their photographs from the peanut song to create artistic displays of the song.

“I found a peanut, I found a peanut, I found a peanut just now
I found a peanut, I found a peanut, I found a peanut just now.
…I broke it open… just now.
…It was rotten… just now.
…I ate it anyway… just now.
…My stomach’s paining… just now.
…Call the doctor… just now.
…Doctor’s coming… just now.
…Operation… just now.
…Thank you doctor… just now.
…Bye bye doctor… just now!”

-The Peanut Song

One pair’s photograph of “Operation!”

After-School Activities
Also this week, a few of us started teaching after-school activities. Alia made posters to advertise the time and location of the activities, which consisted of the following: Alia’s art class (drawing, coloring, and painting), Michelle’s photography/art class (using photographs to make art projects), Lindsay’s dance class, Kaitlin’s school newspaper, and my singing class. Ami, Baldeep, and Minette provided much-appreciated teaching and “crowd-control” assistance where needed. Students showed up in droves, and we later came to the conclusion that it was probably because they are rarely offered the opportunity to participate in structured activities outside of the classroom.

All in all, this week was successful and encouraging. We’ve continued to observe that the children here immensely enjoy using photography as an outlet for their somewhat-neglected creativity, and we feel that our after-school activities have added a lot to the impact we’re making.

The posters Alia made to advertise our after-school activities.

Two of Alia’s art students shading with pastels. She decided to hold class outside on a particularly beautiful afternoon.

Artwork by a student in Michelle’s art class.

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