The week I spent in Barbados for One Laptop Per Child was probably one of the most eye-opening weeks of my life. I learned a lot about myself and how rewarding helping others can be. Knowing that you’re making a difference in someone’s life, and even just someone’s week was an amazing feeling. Seeing those kids smile after they learned something new on the computer made me realize that even if these kids don’t pursue coding, we introduced them to new technology and helped make learning fun. We also mixed components of math and literature into our lessons, and taught them things that I still use today. Teaching the kids really put into perspective how truly incredible our school is. We have advanced technology, and excellent education at our finger tips. I am so lucky to have the amazing education that I do, and I need to use what I learn to help others. I also gained a whole new respect for teachers. Teaching is REALLY hard. It takes patience and discipline, and you have to always be kind. I found that after just three hours of teaching I was super tired, and basically slept for an hour after every teaching day.
Although the service portion of the trip was the most influential, the leisure portion was awesome. I thought it was so cool to immerse myself in a culture, instead of seeing it from a tourist resort. The people in Barbados are always so kind and take pride in everything their country stands for. Everyone greets you with a warm smile, and they are always willing to chat with you. The food was also amazing. I am a foodie so getting to experience all of the Bajan food was one of the highlights of my trip. Some of my favorite dishes were the fish and roties, a small Bajan burrito. We also got to go snorkeling, jet skiing, tubing, and cave exploring. There was never a dull moment! One of the best part of the trips by far though, was the people I traveled with. I really bonded with Emma, Leah, Eleanor, and Merrill. They were great travel buddies, and we all became good friends. The teachers, Ms. Miranda, and Mrs. Murakami, were always up for an adventure and were always there to help if we got stuck in the classroom. Overall Barbados is now one of my favorite travel experiences, and I will never forget all the memorable moments we had both in the classroom or exploring the island.
Teaching in Barbados was an amazing experience. It was so fulfilling to know that we were actually impacting these kids lives and is so cool to see that even after we left they are still trying to keep in touch and miss us! I think that this was a very eye opening trip. We got to see a different side of traveling to a different country (although we did our fair share of touristy things) and I got a new appreciation for traveling. In the classroom and in future travels I'll be able to use this experience to help myself be more grateful for what I have education wise and also be grateful that I am traveling and seeing new things. The students themselves also gave a pretty important message to me which I saw as no matter where you live or what education you might be given, one should push themselves to use what they're given and just roll with it and use it to its full potential. The education system is so different in Barbados and its evident that we have a different and maybe better education than them. But these kids were all so eager and willing to learn that it shows me how important education is and that even though they may not receive the best education they wanted to learn from what they could.
While we were teaching there were obviously high and low points. A high point for me was on the third day in the second class one of the little girls was asked to come up to the board to explain what we were teaching and she was so excited that she could come up and teach her friends. Her whole face lit up afterwards and she walked away so confident it was just so awesome to see her so confident. It was fulfilling because that’s why we were there, to not only teach these kids coding but also help their minds grow. I would say that there were no low points, just frustrating moments. Keep in mind we were teaching 9 and 10 year olds, I am 17 and don’t always want to pay attention so they clearly wouldn’t either. It was frustrating to try and make sure everyone was on task and understanding what we were teaching because they all really wanted one on one attention. This trip was an awesome experience that I won't forget and I gained a lot out of it!
I feel very privileged to have gotten to teach the beginnings of coding to the students in Barbados. I could see many of the students engage in coding and excel at scratch and I am excited to see what they accomplish in the future, and I hope our group made an impact on their lives. Over the six days we worked in the classroom, I could tell that the kids were genuinely interested in coding and I hope they grow interested in computer science in the years to come.
I learned a lot in Barbados, about myself, Bajan culture, and Scratch. I learned that I love to teach kids, especially when I can see my work impacting them and what they are interested in. I love seeing the impact I can make on a kid’s life by spending a few hours a day teaching them to code, and I feel that coding is very important to learn and is the language of the future, and these kids are the future. I learned about how Barbadian schools operate and how the kids act in school, compared to how kids their age act in an American school. I feel that I learned a lot about myself, and feel enriched by my opportunity to teach scratch in Barbados for the six days we were there.
During our time in Barbados we had many high and low points in the classroom. For me, high points include meeting the kids we were going to be teaching on the first day, receiving birthday cards from the kids, seeing the kids accomplish things that I had not thought to do on Scratch, and taking pictures with all of the kids on the last day. I feel that the pro realty outweigh the cons some of which being having to re explain things to kids who did not pay attention to demonstration, and having to leave after only six days of teaching the kids.
This trip was the highlight of my sophomore year and I am happy to have experienced Barbados with my friends, teaching in the school. We learned a lot about ourselves and got to have the experience.
What "big picture" lessons did the students impart to you?
What were your teaching low and high points and what did you learn from each?
Teaching the kids at St. James Primary School was one of the most memorable moments of my life. These kids welcomed us into their school, a place where they have learned to grow and develop, giving us the opportunity to influence this development in ways we can’t even understand right now. This welcoming attitude and desire to learn about Scratch, helped motivate us to become better teachers every day.
The opportunity to go to Barbados to teach was an amazing opportunity and throughout this week, the children at St. James have helped me continue to grow and develop too. Although we were only teaching the students for 3 hours every day, this small amount of time gave us a glimpse at the culture of Barbados. The differences between culture in Barbados and America, helped me to better understand life outside of my American “bubble”. These children passed many lessons on to me, large or small, that even only a few days later, have been affecting my understanding of our community.
One lesson that I took away from teaching was the importance of the little things, I’ve heard sayings like this ever since I was little, but when you’re being taught this be a ten year old it’s different. This importance of the little things came from teaching these boys how to create a different sprite to chase them through the maze. Throughout the class period, these boys had been goofing off, so I told them if they could pay attention for 20 more minutes I would show them how to create a chasing game. After helping one boy create the game, the boy couldn’t stop laughing and was grinning from ear to ear. By creating this simple game, I inspired this young boy and showed him the success and happiness from completing something. This story has reminded me in the days since, to find happiness and joy in even the small things.
This small lesson taught me to focus on the big picture of life, and how to achieve this by successfully completing small tasks. Overall, my trip to Barbados was an amazing opportunity and I was able to learn more about myself in addition to teaching the children. One thing I learned while teaching was my favorite part of helping the kids was the look of satisfaction on their faces when they were able to complete something you asked them to do. This inspired me to learn from them about their culture, their home, and from them. I have learned so much on this trip, and had an great time helping One Laptop per Child spread computers and education to Barbados.
What a wonderful experience this service trip has been for me—both professionally and personally! Observing both our CSG and the St. James students this past week has given me much to think about as I plan for the next academic year. I've also discovered new things about myself that remind me that traveling yields immensely important life lessons.
The clearest and happiest benefit of spending so much time with Merrill, Leah, Emma, Eleanor, and Katie is that I've gotten to know them and have been impressed with their attitude and actions. In the classroom, they continually strove to keep the focus on learning the Scratch program. At the same time, they understood that their pupils were children who sometimes lacked the attention span or the basic skills to make much progress. Outside of the classroom, they got along extremely well and gave each other space when needed. Some of my favorite moments included hanging around the dinner table and hearing them express their opinions about a variety of topics. They did not always agree with one another, but the smallness of the group and the knowledge that they would have to continue to work in teams allowed them to practice being candid and civil. Such moments are pure gold for teachers. There's no doubt we can serve students better when we get to know them as individuals beyond our classrooms. It's been a true privilege to hear a little bit about these girls' philosophies, motivations, and aspirations for the future. And I'll always think of them as “Team 1” and “Team 2” or as “conkies adventurer” or “tram co-pilot.” I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll get to teach them next year.
The St. James students, too, have given me important reminders about what effective teaching entails. In many classrooms, there is a range of not only skill level and base knowledge, but also aptitude and enthusiasm. Some students need more help, while others seem to understand concepts intuitively. What better way to aid both types of students than to empower the latter to help the former. Other classroom techniques that our girls used included giving small-group instruction, enforcing rules, and offering an incentive for persistent and independent work. Most importantly, I was reminded of how much personal encouragement—a high-five, a word or two of sincere praise—should be a part of any teacher's approach, if she truly wants to connect to her students, instead of only focusing on the subject at hand.
The trip to Barbados also taught me some surprising things about myself: I can indeed use a smartphone, drive on the left side of the road, try an edible flower, snorkel, and jump off the high platform of a boat. Some of these things, I did because the girls, as a result of logistics, needed me to. Most of these things, I did because the girls, through their example, encouraged me to. I thank them for helping me rediscover a sense of fun and adventure in myself. Finally and equally, I thank Christine Murakami for her careful and detailed planning of the entire OLPC course and trip, for her sense of purpose and her determination to make a difference, and for the many meaningful, yet lighthearted conversations we had about teaching, family, society, and life. My memories of this trip are many and wonderful, and I'm extremely grateful to have gone.
On our last day of teaching we gave the kids more freedom and gave them a few challenges to add on to their maze projects. They all were really into making their sprites be chased by another character. They would get so excited when they were able to figure out how to do it themselves! We also showed them how to make the game start over if they touched the walls of the maze and how to change the background! After this Ms. Murakami told them all about a young woman who lived in Barbados and was a coder. She was a self taught coder who is in the process of making a video game with her company! We then went and took pictures with all the kids and said our goodbyes. It was so hard to leave because we got so many hugs and notes from the kids. One little girl named Akyrah even cried and was hugging me which was so sad to see but also was rewarding because it showed we really made an impact on the kids! They were all so amazing to teach and the goodbye hugs were one of the highlights of the day!
Once we finally left the school (we had so many hugs from all the kids even the ones we didn't teach) we dropped off the laptops then headed to the beach. It was a bit overcast and rainy but it was a great and relaxing last day! We got dinner at fun restaurant called Nishi and I definitely ate way too much but it was totally worth it! This trip has been so amazing and eye opening and I am so sad that we have to leave Barbados and the kids but hope to come back soon!
Today we arrived to the school and were greeted by girls and boys in our classes, and other kids around the school welcoming us to our last day of school. During assembly today, all the kids gathered and wished us goodbye and a safe trip home. The kids were so cute and I wanted to take them all home with me! In the first class we finished working on our mazes and many kids were able to make their own unique levels. I was surprised by how good the students were getting at Scratch, and they made changes to their maze project that I would not have thought to do. When we were finished with class we took pictures and said our goodbyes, and received lots of hugs.
Then we left the school to drop off the XO laptops at Charles Cyrus’s office. We went to a beach near Bridgetown and swam in the beautiful Ocean. After the beach we went to a celebratory end of trip dinner and discussed our favorite parts about teaching and ate lots of delicious food. This week, working in the classroom, has given me a new perspective on education and technology and I am excited to see what our students do in the future.
It’s 7AM on Friday. Our last day here. As always, it has been an amazing trip and experience. We had a conversation last night about whether or not this makes a difference in anyone’s lives. Leah did a great job reflecting on that in her blog post yesterday. Patricia has a nice outsider’s view and eloquently wrote about it yesterday as well. I’m not that eloquent, but I do instinctively know that it does make a difference. Not always in ways expected or anticipated, but for the CSG girls, everyone goes back a little different than when they arrived. I have to believe that the Barbados students have a similar change. We never know who we’re going to impact, or in what way, but I wouldn’t keep doing this year after year (this is trip number eight), if I didn’t deeply believe that it does make a difference. I will likely never now if it changes anyone’s life here, but I have faith that it does.
Yesterday, a reporter from the Barbados newspaper “The Nation” came to take photos and do a quick interview. I wish I was better at those sorts of things. I have thought about this project and these issues for ten years – actually, more than that. I need to practice being more concise about why we do what we do and what we hope to accomplish. Still, it’s really nice to get a little press. It helps my mission at CSG as well as my ability to come back to Barbados again next year. (Yes, we are invited back!) I’ll have to look for the online version of the article when it comes out and post it to our press page.
I am really energized to do more to expand this project next year. With my relaxed schedule coming up, I know I will be able to put more time into writing a curriculum that you could hand to someone here and have them do what we do. Yes, there are many instinctual adaptations that come up, but for most people, tweaking a lesson won’t be something that needs to be taught. I think I mentioned that I already have a few recruits to help me!
Today we have plans to finish up our projects, discuss a little about next steps for them, take some pictures, hand out our gifts (stickers for the kids, CSG mugs for the teachers), get the laptops back to Charles’ office, play around in Bridgetown, visit another beach (of course), have a celebratory dinner out, pack and be ready to leave tomorrow at 4AM! YIKES!
So, I’m going to sign off for now. Please check back tomorrow for full reflections from the girls, as well as updates from how our last day went with the kids.
Today was our fifth day teaching at St. James Primary school, and sadly our second to last. After working with the children yesterday to create simple mazes, we were able to work on developing “extras” within the maze today. Some kids were able to create a finish line in the maze, and code the words within the maze to hide. At the end of each class, I helped some kids continue to expand their maze but coding a sprite to follow them through the maze. Lots of kids loved this feature and rushed to show their friends how to code similar sprites. One thing that I found interesting between the two classes, was if you taught one or a few students a certain skill, they were very eager to help the other students.
Our second class today worked more diligently than yesterday and was able to finish the maze and code similar extras like the finish line and chaser game. Many kids finished their mazes and wanted to learn how to create a second level. This eagerness to continue learning about scratch helped justify the work we were putting in to teach these kids to code.
The kids today were so cute and many wanted to know what life was like in Ohio. After teaching the kids, Katie, Mrs. Miranda, and I went to Harrison’s cave to tour the crystal caverns. We were able to go on the tram tour through the cave and saw the beautiful crystals formed as the island formed from sediments pushed upward by tectonic plates. After leaving the cave, we went back to our favorite beach and went tubing with Leah, Emma, and Merrill which was such a great experience.
It was so much fun teaching the children and touring the natural wonders of Barbados today. I’m so sad that tomorrow is our last day teaching the kids, because I feel like I could spend another week on the island!
Today we continued to work on our maze game. In our first class, we finished the part where we were heavily instructing the students, and got time to work one-on-one with them on their own ideas for how to improve their game. I loved getting to see them problem solve and work creatively on their projects. The reason that we decided to do this project was because we had noticed that many of the children had trouble thinking creatively. I feel that throughout the week, they have come out of their shells a bit and have become more willing to be creative. This is very rewarding for us.
In the second class, I worked independently with some boys who missed class yesterday. This was incredibly frustrating, but also was really fun. They were having a lot of trouble building their mazes, and were not very focused. Despite this, I enjoyed their enthusiasm and energy, and I think that the fun environment made a positive impact on them that will make them look back on these lessons fondly.
Tonight I got to thinking about whether what we are doing is really making an impact on the kids. Will learning Scratch really help these students? Will they even remember our lessons? But after stepping back I realized that maybe the importance is not in the actual coding, but in the lessons learned from it. The creative thinking is only one example of this. The children have also learned some new math concepts that are essential to their projects. For example, in our second class, they had never heard of x – y coordinates, so we had to teach them these for their project. It was fun to think outside of the box to teach them these concepts that will be important not just for coding, but for their life.