May 21, 2011
In the United States, we take education as a norm subjected to everyday citizens on an everyday basis… However, in Santa Cruz, Belize, such education is taken for granted by us in the sense that we expected the children to be at the standard the teachers said they were.
Traveling along the bumpy roads, trying to avoid the massive pot holes that consumed the tires of our heavy duty van, we slowly recognized the condition in which these kids were learning in. Other than school, these kids have nothing else to look forward to other than helping their parents in the fields growing food for the rest of the community; I can imagine how many of them would be thrilled to do such work (not many at all).
When my friend Matt and I walked into the classroom, we expected to see kids with adequate supplies and sufficient teaching to be able to follow the lesson plans that we had hoped to teach. However, to our surprise, the school had no chalk, no books, and most of all the students had no idea what we were talking about when we taught the math subjects we were expected to teach. Both looking at each other, I could tell we were thinking the same thing: we have to start from the beginning and make sure that they have a chance of succeeding through the course. From the start, we began with basics; multiplication tables that would benefit them in how to add certain types of fractions. These kids are incredibly smart and have a motivation for learning that I have never personally seen before in my life. Therefore, they mastered the tables in less than a full day of teaching to enabled us to begin lessons in adding fractions. After many hours of personal attention to each student, the kids began to master adding all types of fractions, including mixed, improper and proper fractions. Once they felt comfortable with fractions, Matt and I really felt that were actually making a difference in their education because of the way they were excited and eager to solve more and harder problems.
Seeing the difference in education amongst the kids opened our eyes to the reality that they never really had a chance to develop and grow in their own way so that they make full advantage of their education. Standing in that classroom made me realize how important it was for them to have a chance to advance themselves, so that they may take their knowledge to the next level and not be discouraged so that they would not end up uneducated in a world where it requires a certain skill to make ends meet. Noticing the effect that we had on these students really opened my eyes to the fact that they need a better support system in which they can learn and prosper. Me personally, I was so deeply, moved by this experience that I now want to open my own school purely focused on the sustainability of the environment and the advancement of education amongst populations that see a difficulty in pursuing it.
I feel now that the importance of educating a public that lacks it, is of utmost importance because they are the future of our generations that will solve the problems in our environment that we today blatantly give- driving more and more cars, and continually destroying our environment even though we know that we depend on it to survive. The students should not feel discouraged to try and be wrong but be encouraged to thrive and learn from their mistakes and experiences. I feel that doing these service learning projects not only change and influence the lives of the children but their ability to listen and take in the information to bring out the best in the teachers showing the material so that we can make further change in our world in order for us as a community to survive and remain sustainable.
ENST & PHYS double major
Class of 2013
Photos by Sarah Wescott