The 3-person teaching team of Gail Misek, Jennifer MacArthur and Graham Mulligan arrived in Nairobi on September 29 and set off for Male Primary School, near Nanyuki, the next day, accompanied by Charles Murugari. Our plan was to do a brief Professional Training session with the teachers and spend three days in the school, teaching some classes and observing some classes with the goal of helping the Kenyan teachers and students improve the learning situation. Jennifer worked with Class 3 and 4, Gail with Class 5 and 6, and Graham with Class 7 and 8.
We were received warmly and fit into the school routine quickly. The Kenyan children are wonderful and we had the benefit of some good advice from Keith Leavitt, who had been in Kenya in July, on ways to structure our lessons to gain better responses, like having students write down an idea or word before being asked to share it with the class.
After introducing ourselves we launched into our first lessons, comparing Kenya and Canada, ‘where you live’ and ‘where I live’. Our goal was to engage student interest and use what they already knew and extend their learning to some new information or ideas in a given topic or subject. We also wanted to show the important big ideas of Multiple Intelligences, Levels of Thinking and Cooperative Group learning strategies. A simple strategy called Think, Pair, Share will illustrate. The teacher asks students to think silently about some words that describe their country and write them down in their exercise book. After a short time the teacher instructs the students to show their seat-mate (maybe three to a bench) and discuss. They are allowed and encouraged to copy from each other to build a bigger list of words. Then the teacher asks each bench group to share their list and writes it on the board, making a longer list. Everyone can then copy down any words not on their list.
The three days passed quickly and we found ourselves tired and elated at the end of each long day as Charles drove us back to our digs at the SweetWaters Tented Camp. We discussed how our Reader’s Theater activity went, whether it was a storybook brought from Canada (For You Are a Kenyan Child) or a story from their own English textbook. We talked about using Word Walls and Pocket Charts and how these could be implemented as teaching aids in the classrooms we found at Male Primary.
One of our lessons was an Art Project. Art is a part of the curriculum but isn’t tested and therefore doesn’t always get attention. We wanted to give it a high profile for a very specific reason. We will bring the artwork back to B.C. with us to use in a Fund Raiser next summer. We told the students this is how they are directly contributing to the funding of their school.
On the last afternoon the entire school assembled on the grass behind the school, with Mount Kenya as a backdrop, to watch a performance by the school dance team. We celebrated the end of this part of our journey with hugs and farewells, and returned to our ‘tents’ in front of the watering hole called SweetWaters.