Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nature Camp - Vondron'Ankizy Tontolo Iainana!

Mila Mikarakara

When it comes to children, well, there are many.
The small ones sing out my name
when I enter the village, coming home--
the same song my neighbors sing to announce
their grandmother arriving from the fields.

Everything is a plaything.
The rocks that tell stories,
the old plastic that forms a kite,
the mud we are using to build a house.

Each child has a container--just their size--
for fetching water.
They watch me (an old woman!)
with some hilarity.

They are the first to befriend you
and the last ones you must push
out your door in the evening.
“It's getting dark,” you can say.
“Time to go home.
I need to prepare.”

Sept. 5, 2010

The first annual Nature Day Camp in my village is now completed—my first project! It went really well—though there were many things to learn from and improve on for next year. We had 32 kids between 8-12 years old, and four of the teachers from the school in my village taught the lessons I had translated from a bunch of environmental education materials and books I got from the Peace Corps office. Several Peace Corps volunteers came out to be “camp counselors” and I must say that without Sara T., I couldn't have done it. Thank you Sara!

The kids dissected a bean seed, played “Stop Erosion Tag,” learned about food chains, built a human tree, and played “circle sit” (or “circle-fall-over-laughing”) to learn about working together. They had binoculars made from my toilet paper tubes, “nature notebooks” to draw and write in, and I even found two magnifying glasses at the fancy store in the capital that we used to look at leaves, water, and everything else. Many of them said that their favorite activity was learning about the water cycle, where they tied a plastic bag over leaves of a tree to learn about evapotranspiration.

It was challenging, wonderful, and exhausting, and I am still working on it, typing up all the activities to make a book for other volunteers and teachers to use (and still waiting on the evaluations from three of the teachers). The one teacher who has given me her evaluation wrote that she wants to do it again every year, and wants to do environmental education during the school year as well, so if that's not a sign that the camp was at least a bit inspirational, then I don't know what is.

The last day we walked an hour and a half to the forest and the president of the VOI was our “guide”, telling the children about orchids, vines, and all the kinds of trees. Walking back to the village, a lot of kids ran on ahead, but a group of us planted six trees around the school with the teachers. Last time I checked, they were still alive and probably happy to be out of their little plastic bags.

We split the kids into three groups, each with a name. "Riana" (waterfall) was my group. As I was biking out of my village last week, one of the little girls from my group called out “Riana! Riana!” as I went by. And as I've been going house to house doing my farming and food survey, I've seen the nature notebooks hanging in special places in the houses, parents proudly showing me the drawings of the water cycle and insect habitats that their child did. Hopefully, as our six trees grow, they will be a reminder to the kids of the things we learned about together.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Amanda, your gift is children. I cried (still weeping) when I read about the little nature books hanging in special places and the parents so proud. How precious this is. To think how special a few pieces of paper can be. The kids will remember this their whole lives and make these books with their own children. Next year I want to help.