The Science Education Team
From left to right: Dr. Jody Modarelli, Joe Alto, Aimee Thompson, Becca Szanto, Lacey Zerner, Dr. Cristina Marques, Elizabeth Ogando (our fantastic translator), Franklin (amazing teacher in the Bella Vista homework room).
The Science Education Team, led by Jody and Cristina, is 12 members-strong. In addition to Joe, Aimee, Becca, and Lacey, there were 6 additional students involved behind-the-scenes in the 4-month-long preparation. Together with Nicole Marotta, Audrey Andzelik, Heather Brown, Andrianna Stevens, Matt Jenior, and Steve Palaia, the team designed and created 13 different science lessons at Hiram College to be taught to the children of Caminante’s homework rooms.
Sister Denisse, Caminante’s director, challenged them with the goal to prepare science lessons for students that ranged from 5-12 years of age, had never had a science curriculum, and spoke only Spanish. They were also asked to focus on 2 general themes; the human body and the environment.
This goal was met with 13 different lessons which covered everything from organs of the human body, to the five senses, to first aid, to plants, landscapes and geography, to dinosaurs and volcanoes, to earthquakes and tsunamis, to the water cycle, clouds, and butterflies. The team did a fantastic job! They brainstormed, outlined, researched, shopped, stenciled, colored, traced, cut, and laminated their way to the children of Caminante.
In addition to the preparation that was required to put the lessons together in English, they then had to get everything translated into Spanish. Tremendous thanks is owed to the students that helped translate all of the (several-page-long) lesson scripts. The team’s gratitiude goes out to Santiago Morales (Hiram College, 2011), Angel Gonzalez (Hiram College, 2012), Yvonne Chaser (CWRU Medical School, 2013), and Vibhu Krishna (Solon H.S, 2012). Once on the island, communication with the students was facilitated by Elizabeth Ogando who is a natural born teacher. She instantly became part of the group and is now a permanent member of the Hiram family.
Everyone’s efforts returned 4 suitcases worth of lesson materials, school supplies, toys, and a binder with each lesson in 2 languages ready to be delivered. The anticipation that grew over 4-months brought a whole new meaning to “butterflies in your stomach”, little did they know this anticipation didn’t even come close to how incredibly life-changing this mission would be.
After the first week of orientation, the team hit the ground running; spending 2 consecutive days teaching in each of 3 homework rooms. They spent the first 2 days in “la Caleta”, the next 2 days in “los Botaos”, and the last 2 days in “Bella Vista”. There were morning and afternoon sessions, each with a different group of children. The team was told to expect 25 students/session. They were warmly welcomed by 34 students on the 1st morning in la Caleta. This was followed by an even warmer greeting from 65 students in the afternoon session, of the 1st day. And. it. was. hot. The trend continued, but it was nothing a few more shopping trips for supplies and a positive and flexible attitude couldn’t handle.
The homework rooms are set up to supplement the school day. The Dominican Republic is currently struggling with its education system. The public schools provide less than 4hrs/day of school time for elementary education; either a morning or afternoon session. This means less time learning and more time on the streets. Caminante has created these homework rooms, “salas de tareas” to extend the school day, giving the children the opportunity to learn in a safe and healthy environment.
As you read through their posts, you’ll see what they saw and (hopefully) understand what they felt throughout this journey.