|Escuela de la Laja de Icononzo de Tolima|
I was going to have students pack backpacks full of school supplies to have a tangible demonstration of "classroom and school environment" (core curriculum essential standard for Novice Mid, Connection to Other Disciplines, 1.1-- Use memorized words and phrases to exchange information about the classroom and schoolenvironment). It was kind of a throw-away lesson stuck in between proposals for revising Spanish-speaking countries' agricultural exports and international exchanges about hobbies, just to cover bases and, frankly, kill time before I'm back from maternity leave.
But then Goya of ChocQuibTown retweeted "ayudanos a ayudar 50 niños campesinos #Icononzotolima sin útiles escolares NO $$ solo Especie. Y si fueras tu?" from @mauricio_ttoro, AyudandoAndo. Of course this demands more immediate attention than post-midterm filler, so I think I'll shuffle units, hopefully in time to catch the end of the back-to-school sales.
I've emailed the group and received photos of the school and a list of 66 things they need for their school. Some of them are not really conducive to international shipping, and some are beyond our price range...unless we get really active! This might be a project we can keep going all year, a connection that students maintain and keep building until we can get, say, a TV or computer or two for their class. And who knows? Maybe we could field a visit come summer?
So here is my plan at its current stage of development:
- Present the project to the class, divide them into teams (by table?), and have them come up with a list of what they think they should send.
- Compare their lists to each other, then to the actual list (plus the school's picture) they sent me (yay! authentic text!) This will be good for a few interesting discussions about comparing schooling conditions in other countries and maybe interpersonal communication, because the missives sent from my contact's Blackberry requires a little more interpretation than a more "presentational" text ordinarily would.
- Discuss what we can--and hope to--collect from their list, as well as what is not feasible because of cost or shipping regulations. Make a list of basics that we'd like to provide for every student, plus a few classroom essentials (definitely working in the household part of the objective as well--chairs and brooms being on the list!)
- Teams can then pick a "big ticket" per group and divvy up or otherwise decide how to obtain their basic list items.
To help my students really connect with this other class (twice as large as their class which seems gargantuan by our school's standards), I'm hoping we can initiate a pen pal sort of situation. Granted, this is the beginning of the year and Spanish I, so maybe I will just have them make and send cards introducing themselves and asking 2 or 3 questions (hooray for practicing interrogatives in context!) After all, my young ones have already begun an introductory project, so it seems an almost logical follow-up.
Perhaps my students could also send school-addressed, stamped stationery to encourage their young ones to write something back. I could send an overall letter explaining that even crayon doodles would be delightful to get back.
If we pull this all off, we will have touched on Communication (interpretive & interpersonal at least!), Connections, Comparison, Culture, and Communities, all while doing something worth doing!
If anyone is interested in throwing in with us, pooling resources among classes to make things like shoes and technology available for more of these children, let us know, and we can perhaps get to skyping and wiki-ing to do even more!