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lunes, 23 de junio de 2014

Back to School

Nervous does not begin to describe how I was feeling when I went to my bed on Thursday the 10th of April. The next day Jorge and myself were heading to the Santa Barbara Primary School to begin teaching a curriculum of biology and environmental education to children aged between 8 and 11 years old. Since coming to Paraguay I have learnt a great deal of Spanish and can easily understand and make myself understood. However, the butterflies going crazy in my stomach were giving me the fear that I was going to get up in front of a class full of children, forget not only how to speak Spanish, but speak AT ALL, and completely embarrass myself. At 7:30am on Friday morning we left for school armed with the projector, screen, laptops and a secret weapon. Jorge and I set up the projector and screen while the kids filed into the classroom looking excited, if not slightly confused. Our photographer, Kevin, flitted around the back of the class taking photos (that will be posted on the PLT facebook page soon). After carefully avoiding eye contact with everyone and anyone I had no choice, it was time to take a big deep breath, and start the lesson. Surprisingly I found that as soon as I started talking all of my nerves disappeared. Due to a huge storm the day and night before and a sky threatening more rain, the class wasn’t full and the children that were there were watching us in silence with undivided attention – clearly willing and excited to learn something new. The topic of our first lesson was the importance of Reserva Natural Laguna Blanca and in particular, the Atlantic Forest. We talked about how special the forest was and how endangered. Then, how important the forest is for my personal favorites – the capuchins and the howler monkeys. After a half hour talk about the forest it was time to unleash the secret weapon. We were going to go outside and play a small game, AND because the children had been so good and listened so well, maybe there would be a special visitor outside! Everybody went outside and each child’s face lit up as they saw one of our volunteers – Mathilde from France – dressed in a monkey costume in the middle of the playground. Lots of happy screaming and shouting ensued as she chased them around the yard. Four trees in opposite corners of the yard had been named after each of the reserves habitats – the Atlantic Forest, the Cerrado, the Transitional Forest and the Lake. When Jorge counted to three, the children had to run to a corner before Mathilde the Monkey could catch them and whisk them off to the jungle! Once everyone had chosen a corner, Mathilde closed her eyes and picked a habitat and Jorge and I asked the children in that corner questions about the habitat. Then everyone came back to the center and the questions were put to the entire group. After a group photo, we all went back inside to enforce our take home messages. I told the children how they were lucky that they still had a chance to start to care for Paraguay’s forests before it was too late and there was nothing left and Jorge told them how Mathilde the Monkey had come to show them that wild animals are our friends and we should care for their homes. Kevin then handed out a lollipop for each child and we left definitely buzzing at the success of our first lesson. This lesson was just the beginning of the PLT Primate Team’s Educational Outreach Program. We will be going back to school twice a month to teach the children about the environment, conservation and basic biology, and I for one, can’t wait! Becca