Monday, June 13, 2011

Teaching Ecology in Haiti

During my second week here in Haiti I am teaching in the schools. I’ll chronicle the experience here.

Curriculum – I'm using laminated visual aids (see post) that I put in one binder so that it’s portable whether I’m walking, on motorcycle, ATV, or truck. I teach that hawks (malfini) eat rats. Even though they also eat chickens, the benefit of eating the rats that eat chicken eggs, rice, and corn far outweighs the loss of chickens. I ask whether the children would rather have rats or malfini. Next I talk about hummingbirds (wanga). There are 4 in Haiti, one of which is in the US (ruby-throated). I come to Haiti to see the other 3 (Antillean mango, Hispaniolan emerald, and the world’s 2nd smallest bird the vervain hummingbird). The wanga pollinate the flowers when they drink the nectar. Finally, we talk about parakeets (parriche) and parrots (jako) that eat fruit and spread the seeds (someone mentioned they also eat corn), thereby planting trees. I ask what the kids do when they see a nest. The usual answer is touch it, destroy it, etc. We talk about how there are fewer birds when they do that. And reiterate that malfini eat rats, wanga help make fruit, and parakeets/parrots help plant trees. I finish with what will they do next time they see a next. Answer – leave it alone! By the way, Kristie said she’s seeing more birds on their property and thinks kids are remembering this lesson.

A variation of this talk includes the life cycle of birds, frogs, and butterflies. I have the kids come up and help me put the visual aids in order from egg to adult. We talk about frogs (krapo) eating insects such as flies and mosquitoes, and butterflies pollinating flowers. I show them my frog necklace and reiterate that mwen renmen krapo (I like frogs). There is a myth that if a frog pees in your eye it will pop! Many people are afraid of frogs in the way that Americans are afraid of spiders or snakes. We finish with the Ti Zwazo song that everyone seems to know. The words are in the book Ti Zwazo Kote W A Prale that I bought at the Audubon office in Port au Prince last year.

I hand out to each kid either a bookmark with life cycles on one side and hydrologic cycle on the back, or a page of the bird guide by Florence Sergile. I give the principle either a binder of the teaching material, or binoculars with a bird guide.

Friday – UCI (United Christians International) Dironot translated. This is the school on UCI property in Caiman that was built and opened last year to school the children and employ the teachers who had to move here after the Jan. 2010 earthquake. I taught in 4 classrooms, two rooms of about 25 each 2-3 yr olds (they start them early), 25 4-5 yr olds, and 25 6-9 year olds.

Saturday – UCI youth group. JeanJean translated. The teens who go to Pastor JeanJean’s church meet in the worship center. We talked about the hydrologic cycle and the importance of trees for clean water both to drink and for fish habitat. I encouraged them to start now planting trees and in 10 years they’ll be glad they did. UCI has a nursery and the teens will start a tree project.

Monday – Fwa Kretyen de la Jeune (Pignon) – (down the highway from the cemetery, towards Pignon, turn at the sign in the photo). Derold translated. Dropped off by truck around 8a, finished around 9:30am. I spoke in 6 classrooms (ages are a guess): 15 preteens; 16 7th graders; 37 ~10 yr olds; 20 3-4 yr olds; 30 teens in the same room as 22 4 – 5 yr olds who faced a different wall; ~40 5 – 6 yr olds.

We then walked to National Public School (green school with large trees that had red flowers and huge been pods). They weren’t expecting us, but graciously assembled all the kids (~150, blue checkered uniforms) outside under the trees. I gave the principle a pair of binoculars for the school, and laminated bird guides for the teachers. I spoke for about ½ hour. JeanJean mentioned they haven’t had any activities yet at this school. Principle said they don’t have people teaching what I teach.

Then walked home (turn at the new HAFF lodging), arrived around 10:30a. Hot & sunny day!

Monday afternoon – For about 1 hour I talked with 6 UCI employees who work in the nursery and tend gardens. Reviewed hydrologic cycle and what I teach kids. They thought bats came from old mice that metamorphed, so showed them the laminated illustrations of mother and baby bats, and babies drinking milk and staying warm. They would like a longer workshop, so I suggested they organize it and invite other communities, and give tours of UCI projects.

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