Sr. Pamela Marie Buganski
“God is always talking to me when I am in Guatemala.”
Many groups of children are using our 55 Dell computers in the Peten. Some are participating in formal instruction in the use of the computers, some are using the computer to strengthen their thinking skills, and everyone is learning ALOT! Most of these children had never used a computer before. Thank you, Dell!!
Before we show you how the Dell Grant is being used, let's show you a few pictures of the Peten.
The six-year olds at the kindergarten in Purushila use the Dell computers for an hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Their teacher is their instructor. Livi has used the Dell computers to teach the children letters, sounds and the spelling and recognition of simple words. She has also engaged the children in Ubuntu games which help the children to learn letters and numbers while at the same time becoming familiar with the keyboard and other things like capital and lower case letters and how to erase a mistake or change the font size. The children have colored and played numbered dot-to-dot puzzles on the Dell computers and have challenged their memories with matching games. Each child has his or her own Dell computer to work on. The children seem very comfortable at the Dell computers and eagerly participate.
The same Dell computers are used later in the morning by the dozen or so young teens who come for two hours of English and mathematics on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Computer skills relating to English and math are integrated into the lessons which are conducted outside under a tree because there is no more room in the inn. Tables, chairs, a large white board, a projector and extention cords were purchased to allow class to go on for these junior high and high school students. I have also been able to program an Ubuntu game with the English words that we are studying, thus the students practice keyboard, word recognition, spelling and speaking skills of English as I have them say aloud the words as they are typed. We have used spreadsheets to take notes and also to study perfect squares and square roots.
These same Dell computers are used for an hour in the afternoons of Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays by the 40 telesecondary (junior high-high school age students) in Purushila. The group is split in half, and they alternate days of computer instruction. Since there is only one of me and their teacher and lots of them, we have started working in groups with the goal being that someone in the group would be able to help the others. We have practicied particular skills such as cutting and pasting, adjusting column width, making charts and graphs, using various colors and fonts, and other such skills in both word and spreadsheet programs. The students are also being introduced to programs that will strengthen their math, thinking and typing skills and encourage their creativity.
In the early afternoon of Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Saturdays, and in the morning on Wednesday and Saturday, a different set of Dell computers are used by children in Santa Ana. About 45 students from ages 6 to 18 come for various activities to our clinic in Santa Ana. Commonly the Dell computers are used to practice math facts or thinking skills such as sequencing and patterns. The children also enjoy drawing on a paint program and creating their own designs. The older students do research using the internet which is available there.
The Dell computers get a different kind of workout on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Purushila. Each morning from 8:00 - 12:00 five groups of students from grades 1-6 have computer instruction. In total 10 classes or about 200 students get 35 minutes of instruction. These classes began only two weeks ago, and already I am thrilled with the skills that are being used. The Dell computers are stored in the neighboring kindergarten and are carried over by the students to a classroom that is dedicated to computer instruction.
And then, we use the Dell computers in all kinds of places for notes, meetings and organizational purposes.
All of this has been accomplished with $20,000 of SewHope's Dell Grant. Our future hopes for use of the Dell Grant include putting the medical records of our clinic patients of multiple communities into a computerized data base, getting internet to Purushila, holding adult computer classes, having open time in a sort of computer cafe and perhaps introducing them into a business, introducing our programs into other schools in the Peten, and eventually putting a computer lab into the community center to be built in the future on a piece of land that SewHope has purchased in Santa Ana.
Dell, when you gave SewHope this grant, you asked us to take Dell computers into places they have never been. We continue to accomplish that in the rural Peten of Guatemala. Thank you for believing in the mission of SewHope. Thank you for giving the children this opportunity to leap into the world beyond the Peten.
In the States, the schools test each child's eye sight on an annual basis. I remember when I was in the fifth grade and had my eyes tested. We were busy at work copying something from the chalkboard as we were ushered one by one down to the school nurse. At the time, I was sitting in the last seat of the middle row. When I think back, I was leaning way out in front of my desk to try to see the board to do the work. I had not idea that my eyesight prevented me from seeing at such a distance.
The students here in Guatemala do not have a school nurse. They do not have a visiting school nurse. They do not have annual checks of their eyesight. What if a child cannot see the board, which is likely the only resource in the classroom?
Dr. Gary Collins procured for us a Lea Eye Chart which has symbols of things like boats and stars that children can identify. By using this chart, with the help of others, I tested each 6-year old at the kindergarten. According to our application of this test, each child had at a minimum 20/20 vision. Thank God! The plan is to continue the testing with the children at the primary school and with the young adults who are part of my English and Mathematics classes. Even though we do not have a way for getting additional help such as an eye exam by a doctor to perhaps get a pair of glasses, at least doing a preliminary test gives us some information. If nothing else, it might identify a student who needs to sit in the front of the class. Today we give thanks for the gift of eyesight!
I have two things to share with you this Earth Day. First some Earth Day projects led by Orfe. Second the wonderful plantains growing in our garden.
Orfe led the dozen or so children that gathered at the clinic today in a discussion about Earth Day. It was interesting to hear her weave pariicular topics of health and cleanliness into the topic. For example, using latrines as a way to contain waste. Around Santa Ana the water you generally see is large dirty ponds for animals. Orfe talked about the lovely lake in Flores which is about 15 minutes from here. Of the children there, only three had ever seen it. After a lovely prayer together, Orfe invited the children to draw Earth Day pictures. Afterwards, some continued to draw Earth Day pictures on Tux Paint, a computer drawing program. At the end of their day, Orfe and the children collected garbage around the area. Orfe sure brought the Earth Day message home to the kids in many ways!!
Earth Day makes me think of planting trees. Well, Ismael has planted close to 30 plantain trees in our backyard. Every day we water them by carrying buckets of water in the morning and in the evening. They are growing so fast you can almost see it! Ismael believes that we will be eating plantains (a type of banana) within a year!
Lots of meetings took place at the kindergarten in Purushila this morning....and LOTS of good things came about...
Today was the first day of computer classes for the primary school in Purushila. These students are in grades one thru 6. Each class has anywhere from 17-23 students. Each student gets to use a computer for him or herself. One student works at the computer that shows work on a projector to the rest of the class.
The computers are stored at the kindergarten in Purushila which is about a block away. I meet the first class of students at the gate of the kindergarten and we walk over together carrying the computers and other equipment necessary for the class. The primary school has a lovely computer classroom with tables, benches, electricity and a white board. The decorations in the room tell me that they are very interested in these classes.
In order to store computers at the primary school, a more secure location was needed. I suggested that they build a space inside the classroom where the computers could be locked away safely. You see in the pictures above that they have begun this process.
Our first class for each grade level focused on the simple things like letter location on the keyboard, capital and small letters, clicking, dragging, and just getting used to me and the class in general. The teachers were present with each class and were very helpful.
The plan is to work with the primary school children on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:00 til 12:00. There are five classes per day as there are 10 classes in the entire school. We have 35 minute classes, five minute change periods, fifteen minute set up and clean up times. For many of the students, this was the first time that they have used a computer.
What are the differences between a tourist and a traveler? A sightseer and a journeyman? A wanderer and an explorer?
Which of these words would you use to describe Jesus? Which words would not describe Jesus for you? Why?
If each of us is called to be like Jesus, what life adjustment might we discover and apply to ourselves as we explore these words?
Some interesting quotes to reflect on:
"You perceive I generalize with intrepidity from single instances. It is the tourist's custom" [Mark Twain]
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson
“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
Maestra para el dia! What fun to be invited to be the “teacher for the day” in the preschool in Santa Ana! When the teachers asked me to come back and teach the next day, my mind immediately began to think about what strategies I wanted to share that they might be able to implement immediately. I knew I had only a brief time to share a tidbit of the kind of teaching I use in my classroom. The previous day I had shown the teachers pictures and movies of my students in my classroom in Toledo. They had a million questions and chatted excitedly about what they saw. We discussed hands-on materials, the absence of desks, the size of the children, the flooring material, the musical instruments, the classroom bookshelf, and much more! There was so much to share I didn’t know where to start!
The next day I returned to the preschool with my “materials.” I decided to demo “shared reading” and an inquiry method of teaching math. I was armed with a book SewHope had at the clinic and a pile of junk I had picked up outside on the road for my materials. I started with some music in English and Spanish—they love music and spend a good portion of their day singing and dancing! It’s a great way for young children to learn.
Then I demonstrated how I read aloud to my children and get them to learn about the text and begin to recognize words. After the story we did a movement activity and then I did a mini-math lesson—a game we call “Guess My Sort.” Outside along the road I had gathered some leaves, some dried up seedpods, an old straw, some bottle caps, some stones, and a few assorted metal, plastic, and natural items. I decided to make the first sort “easy” to give them the idea. I put all the items that were blue in one pile and all the other items in another. Then I asked them to figure out what was the same about the one pile. They made lots and lots of guesses, but they were stumped! So were the teachers! So I gave them a hint: think about the color! They were still stumped! Now I’m stumped about why they are stumped. The items in the blue pile were definitely blue to me. When I suggested that these items were blue, they said, “No, they are not.” They said these are “azul” but this one here is “cerulean”. Cerulean????? Peter then explained to me that Guatemalans see those as two different colors. So we all had a good laugh!
The next sort we quickly agreed on—natural objects versus not natural, but then when I tried to do round objects versus other shapes. “Food,” they declared! “Food?” I asked? Then I learned that one of my round objects (the seedpod) was actually something that the children eat! So their first responses had to do with food—we eat the seedpods and drink water (the group had bottle caps in it, too)—works for me!
I remember learning about cultural bias in testing in college and wondering how much of the test could really be cultural bias, but here I was experiencing it first hand. We have so much to learn from each other and the school setting is the perfect venue.
After my mini-lessons, we ended up spending another hour sharing songs and dances together—sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in both when I got mixed up!
I am looking forward to continuing our friendship with these dedicated and enthusiastic teachers. I already have a project in mind for this spring that will bring our two cultures together and learning from each other. While we were in Guatemala Peter and Ken installed the hardware for the internet in the preschool at Santa Ana so these exchanges will hopefully be possible very soon. On the way out of school that day every single child in theschool came over and kissed me “good bye”. In that moment I felt such an outpouring of God’s love! Clearly it’s in God’s name that we continue to work in the Peten.
Leigh Ann Meinecke teaches four-year-olds at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Maumee, Ohio. Leigh Ann has come on previous trips to Guatemala with SewHope and is the leader of the Education Committee of SewHope.
Leigh Ann and Ken Meinecke, the parents of Peter, came for a very short visit to the Peten during their Easter vacation. Both are teachers at Maumee Valley Country Day School. They made the most of their two days with us!
Ken and Ismael work with trying to get the internet signal strong enough in Purushila. The plan is to get the modem up high. The hope is that this long tube will be anchored on the roof with the cord running to a router in the classroom that will enable several students to work on the internet through the same computer modem. We cannot yet shout EUREKA!, but we are still hoping!
Leigh Ann and Ken were in Purushila when the first vegetables from Peter's gardens were harvested: cilantro and green beans! Some cilantro went home with Maricruz who put it into the KAH food that she prepares for several of the children and pregnant women of the village three days a week. The women who help with the garden will be taking home vegetables as well! Congratuations!
Leigh Ann thought to bring videos of her four-year-olds at work and play in her classroom at Maumee Valley Country Day School. As both Leigh Ann and the teachers in the kindergarten observed, teaching is very different in our two countries. One huge noticable difference is the abundance of resources available for the children in Leigh Ann's classroom versus the total lack of resources available for the children in Purushila. The teachers, however, by just observing new methods, got many ideas and will implement them into their classrooms. Our hope is that these teachers will be able to visit Leigh Ann's classroom in person in November 2013. Thank you, Leigh Ann!
In the afternoon, Leigh Ann works with some of the young ladies who came for Orfe's youth group classes. Here she is teaching the basics of knitting. The hope is that Leigh Ann can teach Orfe who can continue to work with the girls.
Pictured here on the left is Erelia, the founder of the school as well as the teacher of the five-year-olds. The next two ladies are two of her three daughters. Livi is the teacher of the six-year-olds. Lady is the current director of the school. Five years ago, Lady and Erelia switched roles. Next is Peter's mom, Leigh Ann Meinecke. Rosa is the teacher of the four-year-olds. I am standing next to Ken, Peter's father, who is next to Peter. It was a great team! Too bad we only had two days together!!
Sr. Pam Buganski
Sr. Pam joined SewHope as our first American Project Coordinator in 2012