Monday, November 22, 2010

"IF PIGS COULD FLY - HAITI" - The role of Mutuality in Education

I. About the under-girding philosophy: Mutuality in Cross-cultural Education

Randy Mont-Reynaud, PhD, has brought select teams of Stanford University students, Palo Alto high School youth and urban Haitian college graduates to the mountain zone of Zoranje since 2001.

The U. S. students were prepared by extensive coursework and language study prior to arrival in Haiti. The goal of these sojourns was to learn from the rural community, from the host families, ways of doing and living in the rural Haitian environment.

That is, our program emphatically strove to maintain Haitians as teachers and visitors as learners, while emphasizing the synergy that characterizes meaningful cross-cultural encounters.

This approach to “development” stands the traditional development model on its head. Under girding the model are the following precepts:

  1. Development is about people
  2. Development occurs between people
  3. Things don’t change; people do.
Our visiting students learned: How to make peanut butter with a meat grinder, how to make cassava bread, how to braid twine from the nylon string of rice sacks, how (and where) to tether goats to graze in the early morning, how to chant and sing Haitian songs and prayers, how to carry water on their heads, how to hack down bamboo with a machete, how to carry roofing material, how to build rain drains, and how to build a house, and a latrine, all with hand tools.

In these activities, the Haitians had the technical know-how and the experience; our student teams were the learners.

II. Education in Rural Haiti - Sewing Seeds of Revolution, er, Democracy, with a Hands-on math curriculum

Coupled with the above activities, Dr. Mont-Reynaud brought hands-on math materials and activities to share with teachers in rural Haiti. This pedagogical technology relies on small group games and discussions; such are were unique in the rural school setting. Urban teachers, when shown some of the activities, were as interested as rural teachers to deploy the technologies; Dr. Mont-Reynaud plans to hold training sessions for other teachers in the future.

In this approach, the students are seen as discoverers of mathematical concepts. Dialogue and discussion with peers is key in the implementation of a “democratic” classroom, in which a teacher is more of a facilitator of learning, and less of a font of knowledge. The democratic classroom is considered a springboard to eventual citizen participation in the wider society.

In sum, the educational thrust of “If Pigs Could Fly-Haiti”aims to:

  • Provide rural Haitian children and youth with opportunities to interact with city dwellers, Haitians from the Diaspora, Americans and visitors from other world nations.
  • Establish shared work projects, with rural Haitians at the helm.
  • Devise project-based education curricula for visitors to work together with Haitian teachers, school principals and children, embedding algorithms and science concepts in practical, real-life settings, gardens and fields.

Below, math lab involves, uh, "discussion"!

Explorations in geometry and science, outdoors - where else?...

1 comment:

  1. Love it Randy I/We have done the same on many projects both locally and internationally.
    Create the opportunities for learning to happen , participatory ,reciprocal open ended and step back to see what happens next.....Barb K.