Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11: Habari from Daraja

“Habari" or "Hello" from Daraja!

It's amazing that our team arrived here just a week ago from Nairobi - the experiences we've had at Daraja have been so rich that it seems like we've been here longer.

Today's experiences were centered on observing classrooms in action. We were hoping that some of us could break off and visit one of the nearly 2,000 Kenya Independent Schools Association (KISA) secondary schools today, but the plans didn't come to fruition. The benefit of this is that it we got even more time to see Daraja teachers and students at work.

The lessons we saw included rich instruction built upon inquiry and discussion. In Charles’ biology class, I viewed a lesson in which he masterfully guided students through a discussion of the skeletal system starting with their observations of their own experiences playing sports. At one point, he had them shift their chairs slightly, and suddenly this room which had been in two forward-facing rows was transformed into a Socratic seminar discussion led by a student. In Victoria’s business class, I observed a brilliant discussion strategy in which student experts in an inner circle paired with two students in an outside circle who needed help clarifying some details about the types of unemployment. What was so significant to me is that during the process the girls in the outer circle asked such good questions that the “experts” in the inner circle were really pushed in the knowledge – at one point one even realized that she had a misunderstanding on a key concept. The wonderful thing is that all three in the circle left with a much deeper sense of the topic. In Wycliffe’s Swahili class, he immediately put one of the new iPads to use by playing a recording of a dialogue between himself and another teacher as a model prior to asking students to create dialogues of their own.

There were many other wonderful teaching and learning moments from throughout the day. The good thing is that many of the class sessions were recorded so that we can view and share them in the future.

In the afternoon Chris and Annie led an excellent follow-up session with the Form 1 (freshmen) students to help answer questions and increase their comfort and abilities with their new iPods. There is so much excitement around campus that all the girls really want access to the iPods. Heather and Victoria met and talked with the girls in the other forms about why the Form 1 students were chosen to receive the iPods, and they came up with a system for some sharing to take place with their sisters in their dorm groups, each of which is comprised of a student from each grade level.

Before dinner, our team trekked up to Jenni and Jason’s house for some conversation and sodas – oh yeah, and a little bit of chocolate too! Their house sits on the hill above Daraja and the view is absolutely amazing. Swallows and swifts swoop through the air surrounding the balcony, which has a nearly 360-degree view of the surrounding savanna as far as the eye can see. It got a little chilly once the sun was down, and Chris needed a blanket to keep him warm, so he ended up wearing a traditional Maasai blanket – he looked every bit the Massai warrior (well, minus the being tall and carrying a stick to fight off wild animals and all that).

When the day was done, we were reminded once again that Daraja is a remarkable place and that we are blessed to have been able to spend time here to learn from the remarkable staff and students.

(PS – Anyone from the USD team…please feel free to add pix to this post – I won’t be able to until we get back home and I can load them from my camera. Thanks!)

-Rob

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