Education Beyond Borders

As a wildlife biologist and someone whose favorite animal is the elephant, and still is I might add, I have always wanted to visit Africa. However, I didn’t want to make the journey until I had a greater purpose than merely being a tourist. Some countries it seems like being a tourist is sufficient, but I never felt that about going to Africa.

Early in 2009, I wondered if there was a Teachers Without Borders, like other ‘Without Borders’ organizations, so I went online to check it out. I found TWB – Canada and liked what I read, so I joined the organization. When I got emailed that the 2009 summer teacher positions were posted, I had a decision to make. I thought for a couple of days….was this going to be the right combination of timing and purpose I had been looking for? I decided that it was; I applied and was given a spot on the TWB – Kenya team.

I had so many experiences this summer, and the trip has so profoundly changed my view on the world, it is difficult to pick which stories to share. However, I will share one from each of the two areas we visited that I feel exemplify the work of TWB –Canada.

We had about 60 teachers attend our workshop in Nanyuki and immediately one teacher, Danson, stood out to me. He was walking around with a camera, which is an incredibly rare sight in Kenya. We started talking about our love of photography and the difference between digital and analog cameras. When we worked together in the science sessions his passion and love of science was insatiable. We shared ideas about how to teach students through hands-on activities with locally available materials and often there were many teachers around him listening to his explanations of how different battery set-ups or his liquid and air thermometers work. TWB gives teachers the opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, regain their passion for their profession and learn something new; nationality is irrelevant.

I recently received a letter from another participant from Nanyuki who said ‘ I must say that the workshop was wonderful and I personally learnt alot from it. In fact I feel duty bound to share what I know with others . I am meeting my colleagues next week so that we can roll out a plan to reach out to others.’

I have a strong passion for cross-curricular learning and it has been something I have been developing during my teaching career in Canada. However, through the course of many conversations with my Canadian team, particularly Silvia, I realized that I am not really practicing what I preach; I am a scientist and have never felt comfortable in English classes or enjoyed writing. Since this was the second year of workshops, we had Kenyan facilitators working alongside the Canadian team and so I decided to attend an English session led by Moses, an incredible Kenyan teacher. Moses used a number of strategies given at the workshops that kept me engaged and helped me enjoy learning about and actually writing poetry. I can personally attest that the goal of TWB-Canada to build capacity among Kenyan teachers to facilitate their own PD is well on the way.

I want to thank Noble, for having such great vision and including me in the process, and the rest of the Canadian team for their stimulating discussions and passion for teaching.

Alison Stuart
Calgary, Alberta

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Comment by Alison Stuart on November 19, 2009 at 8:48
Hello again,
I checked out your blog and you have some great links on there. I showed some of the teachers at my school and I will be starting to use some of the ideas in the upcoming weeks. The work you do in Peru is amazing as well. I have added you to my skype contacts. It would be great to chat sometime. My skype is trexaldownunder.
Comment by Mr Roberts on November 17, 2009 at 19:06
Yes that sounds fantastic I too feel exactly the same and have taken away the same things from some of the experiences I have had especially in Peru in the summer where I lived with the Ashaninka people who are indigenous to the rainforest. I have lots of posts on my blog from August & September but would love to chat to you sometime on skype or msn etc my blog addy is
Comment by Alison Stuart on November 16, 2009 at 9:58
Hello Mr. Roberts. I got to see hundreds of elephants and actually had a string of over 20 days where I saw elephants every day. I never got tired of the sight! I think the biggest impact on my life was seeing the people there work so tirelessly. They have to work to get water, food, firewood, get to work, etc. Then, on top of that, there are so many people who spend the remainder of their time working to improve the conditions for themselves and all the people around them. They really have no time off, they have little if any time for 'leisure', and yet they seem very fulfilled. The it was a very powerful experience to see difference between a North American lifestyle and a Kenyan lifestyle. I am still finding it difficult to be in the NA world some days. It has changed the way that I teach. I am doing a lot more discussions of global citizenship. I have joined my school with a Kenyan school to make connections with kids, and I also have simplified some of the science lessons, because I know now that the learning is not about the 'stuff' it is about the experience and having kids making meaning of their own. Sometimes all the cool 'stuff' gets in the way of kids really understanding concepts. I also have extended the cross-curricular work that I do and I am getting students to write stories and journal about their experiences in science class, which are ideas that I learned directly from my time in Kenya. Thanks so much for your interest, I briefly checked out your information on this site and it looks like you have done some amazing work as well. I would love if you would share some of the things you have learned from your experiences with me when you have some time. Alison
Comment by Mr Roberts on November 13, 2009 at 11:58
Alison it sounds like you has an absolutely amazing experience there - did you get to see many elephants? If you had to pick one thing about the visit that has made the biggest impact on your life what would it be? I am sure that this has made a difference to your day to day teaching - have you any examples? Sorry for all the questions I am just really interested as the project sounds amazing. I would also love to hear about how your experience and if it is making or has made an impact on the students in your school? Thank you for sharing this it is truly inspirational!


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