The past few days have been so busy with all of the different activities going on. Ironically enough, the time spent teaching is not nearly as much at the time spent driving. With that being said, here are some highlights of the past few days!
The Sheldrick Elephant Orphange rescues baby elephants from the wild and rehabilitates them back to their natural environment. It was so interesting to learn about the process they use to rehabilitate the animals. They are kept separately from other African wildlife for the first 3-5 years of their lives. Then they begin being reintroduced to other wild animals and elephant families. This process takes an additional 3 years. Finally, when the keepers feel they have been accepted into an elephant family they are released into the wild. The elephants are rescued for different reasons-- some have mothers who died of natural causes, but most have mothers who died due to humans-- either poaching, hunting, or other man-made causes. The very young elephants stay on infant formula (they have found over the years that it works best) for the first two years of their lives. They drink 24 liters a day of formula!
This visit happened on Wednesday morning. That day I was supposed to have gone to visit a Link Up! program, however the timing did not work and the plans unfortunately fell through. Of course, I was disappointed, but I also understand that these issues will happen. The Art of Music Foundation has just one vehicle to make it's many transportation needs happen. The plans were laid out for us to attend, but it just didn't work. C'est la vie!
Thursday made up for our missed teaching on Wednesday, as we were once again quite busy! The morning started in Korogocho where I was able to work with several of the band students. I brought two pieces for them: Flourish by Sandy Feldstein & Larry Clark, and Air for Band by Frank Erickson. We read and rehearsed both of them, and wow, do they sound wonderful! When I heard the group earlier I was unsure of their ensemble skills-- they are great individual players, but as a group didn't connect. However, with these real, wind ensemble pieces, all of the puzzle seemed to come together. It just goes to show the importance of playing quality music-- pop arrangements can be great and certainly serve their purpose, but playing wind band literature is really quite important.
Avery had the chance to work with the string players and brought some music of his own as well. When we first arrived, the Ghetto Classics tutors and members all agreed on the fact that the strings are the weaker section. However, they were playing pieces that were arranged for band with no bowing written and in keys like Ab and Eb major (which for those of you non-musicians out there are not good keys for string instruments.) It was great to hear that with some proper string music things started to lock in for them. I hope that both the band and the strings will be able to continue to play music that is pedagogically sound for their respective instruments, even after my time here is done.
You'll also see some pictures of our first donation through my wonderful husband's organization, The Mouthpieces for All Initiative. We will be donating several tuba, trombone, and french horn mouthpieces as well as a flute to Ghetto Classics. The tuba players were so happy for their new mouthpieces. Thanks, Joseph!
We then made the long journey to Kongo Primary School in Kiambu County. Though it is not a slum, it is a very rural and poor area. The children walk up to 5K just to get to school because the government does not provide busses for it's schools. Only private school students receive bussing. This Link Up! program has been in place for just over a year, and the students really seem to enjoy it. There are several of these programs around, all under the umbrella of The Art of Music Foundation. The tutors do an excellent job at following the curriculum and going at the same pace as one another. They have excellent tricks and tips that I am keeping track of for when I teach my recorder classes next year!
The students at this school where very excited to see us, and kept playing a game in which they would approach me like they wanted to touch my hand but would then run away. The risky ones would get closer and closer, but as soon as I reached out they started laughing and ran. Finally, one brave students touched my hand and then suddenly they all wanted a chance. It was cute, but also made me realize that many of them don't have any experiences with white people. Even though they thought it as a joke and were laughing, I bet some of them were actually afraid of what might happen if they touch me. In the end, we all became friends though!
This is the van that gets us everywhere. It's the only vehicle the organization owns, and therefore has a lot of kilometers on it. Today's route was something like: pick up--> main office --> storage container --> back to main office --> Korogocho --> forgot something in Korogocho so drive the dirt road back --> main office --> Drop a tutor at a different Link Up! program --> Mukuru --> home. It was quite the journey.
Today was similar to yesterday in terms of teaching. It was the first time I saw the students a bit chatty and energetic during their lessons. (In the recorder class) The teacher was a bit frustrated, saying he didn't know why they were like that. I told him not to worry and that it was Friday and kids are like that everywhere on Friday. I did have to laugh though, because his definition of misbehaving was really how students normally act back home. They were still quite respectful and followed the lesson-- they were just a little silly at different points.
Something we were discussing was how students here fear their teachers because of the power teachers have. If they misbehave teachers really have permission to beat them. Then they will tell their parents and the child will be beat again at home. Whether you agree or not, it is an interesting perspective because the children truly do take their educations seriously and are at school to learn. They don't feel they have to be "entertained," and they don't have fancy technology to keep them engaged. The lessons are very generic, but also very effective. I have been having such conflicting thoughts on what I think is the best approach. I think there is value in the way we teach in the United States-- through project based learning and other activities that are not just sitting behind a desk learning facts. However, after having been here and seeing how much these children know from sitting behind a desk and essentially reciting their knowledge, I am left unsure as to what way is better. Of course there is not a right or wrong answer to this question-- but this experience is really opening my eyes to the various approaches to education. More on this later!
Besides that, during one of our long car rides, I had quite the interesting conversation with a few Kenyan tutors about the idea of rich vs. poor in Kenya and the United States. I plan to share that conversation, but that must be a different post. I have so many thoughts on the subject, and I do believe this post is long enough already. For now, a few more pictures from today.
I am honored to have been selected as a 2018 Fund for Teachers Fellowship Recipient. Through this grant I will travel to Nairobi, Kenya to work the the El Sistema based music program, Ghetto Classics. This blog will share information and stories about my first journey to Africa.