During my time in Ho Chi Minh City I was kindly invited to visit Smartkids International preschool.
A parent - child group room. Before children start at Smartkids they are invited to attend short sessions here to get used to the setting.
The entrance hall.
I spent a lovely Friday morning with the oldest class in the school - a class of 15, 3-6 year olds. I was able to learn all about their routines and play-based approach to learning. Smartkids fosters independence in children from a young age and this was evident in all of the routines that the school has established. All children have daily jobs and carry these out with enthusiasm and pride. To ensure fairness, a jobs wheel is turned daily to establish roles. These jobs range from being the 'snack time helper' and helping to set up and prepare tables for snack time, to being the 'circle time leader' and acting as the leader throughout the daily circle time.
This is a long overdue post. I wanted to write about a wonderful thing that I experienced in Portland, at the Trackers Earth School. It is very simple. Teachers share skills.
Please note that although I refer in this post to 'teachers', I use the term for ease of reading and I'm also referring to teaching assistants, midday supervisors and all the educational professionals that make up a school environment. Everyone that works within a school has the opportunity to teach the children that surround them and create a positive learning environment which offers support in a wide variety of ways.
In typical schools, every teacher attends weekly staff training and meetings. In these we as educational professionals hash out and discuss pedagogical matters and the workings of our classroom lives. These meetings are an important part of communication across a school and will directly affect classroom practice. Yet little time is given to sharing skills from our wider lives. And teachers are wo...
Art is such an important subject. It offers opportunities for individuals to explore both imaginative and creative theory and application. Furthermore, it has the potential to release the expression of what may be most important to a person. Art can both affect change on an individual as well as a society. It can challenge both cultural norms and our perception of ourselves and those around us.
It is really interesting and exciting for me to write about art and children. On my journey this year it is something that I have been thinking about a lot. Children are arguably the most liberally imaginative humans on the planet. And this creativity deserves acknowledgement and critical attention. Fine art and crafts are taught to children across the globe. However, it is important to question whether the art that children access is restrictive or liberating, narrow or wide. It is the difference between whether children are nurtured and supported to explore their creativity and emotions, or if...
During my stay at Inspire I was privileged enough to visit three pre-schools. In each setting I was able to chat a little with the teachers and they were keen to learn about teaching methods that I use. I was also able to share some songs and games with the children.
What really stood out to me about the pre-schools were the children's happiness and the outdoor learning spaces. The use of flowers and natural materials was evident and conveyed a sense of love and pride for the outdoors. In a hot country such as Sri Lanka the outdoor classroom is important. Much learning is done outside and it was obvious that the pupils and staff really care for nature and growth in these spaces and do much to enhance the learning spaces.
I have always loved DIY, labour and getting mucky. So when I was given the opportunity to help build and plaster spaces in various schools, well I jumped at the chance!
During visits to various primary and secondary schools, I was part of some volunteer groups. We would arrive at the school and do a mixture of teaching activities as well as building work. Needless to say my plastering skills have greatly improved!
Here are a variety of photos from the various schools we volunteered at. Enjoy!
My first visit to a Sri Lankan pre-school was delightful, if slightly mistimed! We only managed to arrive once the children were leaving at eleven o'clock. This actually timed perfectly as I was able to stay for an extended talk with the three teachers and share their tea and delicious Sri Lankan sweets!
The pre-schools in Sri Lanka are mostly private settings and parents pay a fee to send their children. This particular pre-school had three classes for 3-4 year olds. The children are grouped by age, into a young class, a middle class and an older class.
Upon arrival in the morning, children go to their class's little mud house in the playground, and they greet one another before going in to class. The pre-school here does not teach by topic or cross-curricular. Instead, they tend to work on specific skills as discrete subjects, such as literacy or maths.
In total 85 children attend the pre-school and parents travel from a wide catchment area to bring their children there.
One of the volunteer groups that have been staying at Inspire Village have been working on creating an 'English Arena' outdoor learning space for a local primary and secondary school. I was lucky enough to have the exciting job of helping to make the finishing touches and to put my 'bricky' skills to use and concrete the step up to the stage.
Afterwards, we were invited to have a delicious Sri Lankan staff room tea break (honestly the tastiest snacks ever!) and to watch the school teams play their cricket tournament. It was sports week at the school and there are three house teams across the school competing in various tournaments. It was great to watch, first we watched the end of the boy's match and the beginning of the girls'. I have to say the cheering and the support from each house was impressive! Drums, flag runners and singing! The children showed amazing sportsmanship and great skill and we witnessed some sixes and a lot of fours! And some incredible catches! It is fair to say...
After teaching at the rural fishing village on a Friday afternoon, John drove Rachel and I back to Inspire Village. On our drive they were excited to show me the scenic route home. We had a grand plan to pick up some short eats (hot snack food sold at cafes and by the side of the road - usually spicy rotis, wady, and cutlets - basically all number of exciting delicious crunchy, lentil-ly or breaded goodies) and see the beautiful countryside. However, our plan was destined for failure. Not far into our scenic journey, their little car overheated so we had to pull over in a small village.
In a matter of minutes, local residents turned up to help us. After much prodding of the engine and various passers by weighing in and taking a look, we established that the water pipe had split. This meant that no water could get into the radiator. After a very confusing attempt to push the car into a convenient parking space we sat down and waited for help. Now you have to realise that this is not 'ca...
My friends Rachel and John, whilst they have been volunteering at Inspire Village, have been helping to improve the English education of children in a rural setting. They have been providing a weekly class for local children in their community church building. I was able to join them for a few lessons and to witness the impact that they are having here. The children live in a tiny remote fishing village on a lake near Anuradhapura in the north of Sri Lanka. In Sri Lanka, children in upper primary can pass exams and be granted scholarships to attend good schools. One child in the village has won one of these scholarships however due to the cost of the bus fare they are unable to attend. This all makes what Rachel and John are doing even more pertinent. To many Sri Lankans, in a society that relies heavily on tourism, having English as an additional language is essential.
The classes are held for a mixture of aged children, from 4-15! The children come to the local chapel weekly and spen...
Whilst in Sri Lanka I was lucky enough to be able to visit my friend Rachel from university and her partner John at Inspire Village in the north of the island.
To give a little background, the family that run and own Inspire Village were given 22 acres of land in the 1970's in response to their on-going involvement in charity work. They were asked by the government to use the land sustainably and for the benefit of the local community. This is something that runs through the heart of everything that they do there.
The Inspire Village family invite groups of volunteers from across the globe to not only help build and improve the buildings and community spaces on-site, but also to engage with local educational settings.
The project has many outreach projects and supports local schools and children throughout the area and even sometimes further afield. There is a big focus upon skills sharing and sustainability.
My friends from the UK have been living and volunteering at this wonderful p...