First week, curriculum project

Photo: Tupac Amaru being drawn and quartered on schoolhouse wall, symbol of indigenous resistance and survival, Ccotatóclla

Written Wednesday, July 14
This was the first week of trying out the curriculum kit idea in an Andean school. Monday night the teachers and I met with about thirty parents from the community (without the benefit of translation to Quechua from my partner Martin, who arrived half an hour after the meeting due to a landslide on the road.) I presented a slide show to emphasize the following ideas:
• Quechua language and culture is endangered; less and less children are learning it and more are abandoning it as they move from country to city
• Teachers in Cusco are working together to improve curriculum materials for the teaching of Quechua in the classroom and I am here to support them as well as learn about their language
• Teachers in Boston met 100 years ago to improve materials for teaching natural sciences and created the Boston Children’s Museum, which lends learning kits to schools
Then I showed slides of selected curriculum kits that the Boston Children’s Museum lends out, including their most popular one, produced hand in hand with the Wampanoag people of Massachusetts.
We talked about creating a kit for this town that would involve kids in hands-on learning in Quechua and asked parents to help by providing wool yarn, lending tools for a school clean-up day, supporting kids’ homework by telling them stories, riddles and songs in Quechua about local plant and animal life, and showing up on the last day in traditional dress to see their kids’ presentations and be videotaped sharing their folklore and local knowledge.
Parents were shy at first, then enthusiastic and agreed to participate.
This week’s activities centered on taking all of the kids outside in groups to mark a meter square somewhere in the schoolyard with yarn and then write down observations of everything in the square. We talked in Quechua about the scientific method and antecedents in their culture for systematic observation of living things. Kids located and identified all kinds of things in the schoolyard, ranging from sheep and horse dung, beetles, medicinal plants, weeds, flowers, pieces of paper and plastic, spiders, buried rags, tufts of animal hair…In a couple of classes kids learned to measure the perimeter of a square and rectangle. All of the classes read aloud from their journals and listened to their teachers read stories and recipes related to the local plant and animal life in Quechua.
Tomorrow we will have a mystery box in which we put objects they have located outside one by one into a box with a hole in it. One kid must put a hand inside the box and describe what they think is in there; the descriptive words will go on the whiteboard and then the whole class will write descriptive sentences or paragraphs about living things in their schoolyard.

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