JMU Fulbright-Hays: Virginia Teachers in KENYA Seminar 2006
Virginia Teachers and their hosts in Kakamega District, Kenya
To view curricula developed by our participating teachers...
In 2006, the Office of International Programs (oIP) received a Group Projects Abroad award from Fulbright-Hays/Department of Education for an exciting project to take local K-12 teachers to Kenya for a 5-week Travel Seminar. The project was co-sponsored by the oIP and received support from the IBAVI, the International Beliefs and Values Institute.
The objectives of this program were to facilitate an understanding and appreciation among participants of Kenya’s varied cultures, the relationships between people and their environments, and the history and current challenges of the education system. Selection of participating teachers was competitive and participants were obligated to develop curricula based on their experiences. (CLICK HERE to view K-12 curricula)
The traveling group included fifteen teachers from Harrisonburg, Staunton, Rockingham and Augusta school districts, three JMU students. The group was led by PI and Project Director Jennifer Coffman, Curriculum Specialist Teresa Harris, and Project Manager Lorie Merrow. Two Kenyans traveled with the group, providing an introduction to Swahili, answering all manner of questions, and aiding or advising in many situations.
The Seminar was composed of three short stays in Nairobi, beginning, middle and end, and two extended visits to rural areas. In addition to visiting various venues of cultural interest along the way to enhance understanding of Kenya, including National parks, museums, churches and NGOs, the group spent a good deal of time in public schools, which was the focus of the Seminar. Overall, the group observed and guest-taught in five schools.
As part of the Seminar participants collected donations ahead of time and were able to give almost $5000 worth of desks, books, and basic supplies to the schools that welcomed them. The presentations of these items included beautiful song and dance performances by student groups that demonstrated a strong sense of gratitude.
As participants wended their way through schools, parks, hospitals, over pot-holed or bumpy dirt roads, into dusty town markets, homes, as they struggled with Swahili, Kenyans consistently demonstrated their remarkable capacity for kindness, grace and openness, always taking time for a chat, an explanation, or a joke. Gains for the participants, for Kenya and for our local community are immeasurable. Each teacher is developing curricula brought back cultural artifacts and books from Kenya, all of which will be shared with other faculty.