Sunday, March 10

Learning from one another

One of our goals for this trip was to engage and interact with the local people.  What's more engaging than visiting the local school to see how they learn?

As we walked the streets of Portsmouth, we came upon St. John's Catholic Primary School.  We stopped in at the end of the day to see if we could make arrangements for a future school tour/visit.  The friendly principle was warm and accommodating and we set a date for the following Tuesday morning.

 St. John's on an empty afternoon after school.  We learned that the primary school students go to school from 8am-1pm and the secondary school and high school kids go from 1pm-6pm.

They speak the same 'school' language

It starts with YOU, Bryson, Reese, Kate, Porter and Olivia!

Playing red light, green light on the playground after school as Erica and I chat with the principle

The 'cruising' kids talk about and answer questions with a Kindergarden class.  This is a fairly large school, with 3 classes per grade.

All set for their visit

This third grade class was the most fun and captivating of all the classes.  They huddled around our kids and had many questions for them.  It was so sweet to witness the interaction.

Phineas and Ferb make it all the way to Dominica!

All smiles with the principle, Ms. Carbon

After our visit to St. John's School, we talked about what the similarities and differences were between their school and ours.  Here is a sampling of what our kids came up with:
  • They had no glass in the windows - just big shutters or louvers to shut out the outdoor elements
  • They had no lights in the classroom - they relied on ambient light.  In fact, it was raining the day we were there.
  • They had a small playground
  • The students wore uniforms 
  • They had a shorter school day and ate lunch when they got home
  • They used blackboards instead of promethium boards (controlled with a computer)
  • They had a computer lab for one class at a time
  • They had posters and murals on the school walls encouraging reading, writing and arithmetic - and NO drugs!

When we told our boat boy, Martin, that we had visited St. John's school, he seemed pleased that we had done so.  He was inspired to make arrangements with another principle at a different school for us to visit.  So the next day he escorted us to an alternative type high school, called C.A.L.L.S.  It stands for 'Center Where Adolescents Learn to Love and Serve'.  It is privately owned and operated.  They don't receive a stipend from the government.  It is a 2 year program and has a 60% success rate.  I was taken aback by such a strong program to help struggling students.  The tuition for these students is a nominal $50 per semester.  The remainder of their operational costs are through fundraising and grants.  

Outside the front door

In addition to conventional classroom studies, the students learn practical skills they can use to get a job and provide for themselves.  Sandra teaches the arts - sewing and crafts.  The tools that the students learn to make various things are then sold at craft fairs.  The money raised goes back to the school.

Making masks out of paper mache for carnival season

A student paints his mask

He tries to demonstrate what it will look like without getting wet paint all over his head

A sampling of some of the masks

Painted works of art made out of Calabash - a non-edible, orb that grows on trees.  Then it is hollowed out and dried, sanded, painted and varnished to be used as a serving bowl.

 Erica, I mean Vanna, shows off the calabash bowl we each got from the school

David (plaid shirt) is a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching the students woodworking.  He has been in Dominica for 2 years and was just approved for an addition 2 years.  He said the work is really rewarding and he wants to see his students graduate.  Again, the projects are sold to help raise money for the school.

Kate watches as this young man uses the router to carve.  In addition to the woodworking, sewing and crafts, the students also learn about agriculture.  They have a plot of land up the road where they grow fruits and vegetables (which we did not see).

CALLS even runs a daycare downstairs to take care of the babies of students as well families in the community.  Our kids were so smitten with the children and vice versa, that they all volunteered to help out for a few hours the following afternoon.

 Not quite sure what the camera is or what I am doing with it.  

 This little angel is just getting up from a nap

 Maggie and Bryson playing with these happy kids

Participating in the ABC song 

 Getting my baby fix with this adorable 5 month old

 Helping with snack time

Maggie helps feed yogurt to this little pumpkin

 The kids loved having their picture taken and then see themselves on the LCD screen.  Gotta love the digital age!

 Bryson gives piggy back rides

Tickle tickle tickle

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