Individualized Early Childhood Education

On Monday, I continued a physics project with my kids aged 9-11 in science class to build floatable, cardboard boats displaying an understanding of buoyancy and Archimedes’ Principle. The kids were in the middle of making their boats when some of the groups began running out of duct tape, so I temporarily halted construction and decided to play musical chairs in the empty room next door. Ten minutes later, we returned to our science class to find that three of the boats had been destroyed, punctured with holes.

Mohammad stood next to them with a pair of scissors in his hand. He stormed out of the classroom, yelling that I should have let him steal tape from the other groups.

On Tuesday, the kids took their finished boats to the park and floated them. Afterwards, they played on the swings and slides of the playground. I left for a few moments to help my volunteer clean up the area where the kids ate ice cream.

I came back to find that Mohammad had tried to attack another child, screaming that it was his turn to go on the swings. I found out from intern Adam that Mohammad had just been on the swings, not allowing other children to share. Mohammad stormed off.

On Wednesday, the girls in my class joined Doris’ class on a trip to the pool, leaving me with just my five boys and three volunteers. It gave me the opportunity that I had been waiting for all summer. The opportunity to sit down with Mohammad and patiently address his quick jumps to anger, encourage him to analyze the situation instead of make assumptions and to simply hear about him and how he was feeling all the while trying to help him understand that it was not acceptable to steal from other children, to physically or verbally abuse anyone, or to shirk personal responsibility.

And he listened. He spoke to me, explaining how he felt when he was angry, how he didn’t know how else to respond. We talked through it, slowly looking at other options. Sure, he didn’t transform into a calm, slow-to-anger person in two hours, but he began to see that there were alternatives.

I grew up in the public education system of California and it is still shocks me how my teachers were able to teach me anything with twenty to thirty children wriggling around impatiently. Cut that class in half, and the teacher’s ability to do his or her job increases. Cut that class in half, and the child has a chance to be heard. Cut that class in half, and you have education reform.

Cut that class in half, and you have the opportunity to sit down with Mohammad and show him the alternatives to anger. That’s what I learned from Mohammad, and it’s something I believe is absolutely necessary to improve early childhood education. Personalized education, personal development. A voice in the midst of chaos.
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Thank you, Al-Arz Ice Cream Factory!

bridge
As some of you may know, some items are just hard to come by in Nablus. We spent weeks looking for small, colorful pipe cleaners for crafts and, just as we were losing hope, our wonderful outreach specialist, Futoon, managed to find them!

For my science class, I was on the lookout for popsicle sticks. So many of my kids are interested in structural engineering and architecture that it made sense to start building bridges, houses, and anything else they wanted with popsicle sticks! You would not believe just how difficult it was to find popsicle sticks in Nablus. It may be my faulty Arabic, constant motioning to ice cream and saying the number “1000 please,” or my dissatisfaction with using tongue depressors as popsicle sticks from the local pharmacy, but I refused to give up on finding popsicle sticks.

Again, trusty and creative Futoon came to me with a bag of 1,000 popsicle sticks donated from the generous Al-Arz Ice Cream Factory. For that, my class and I thank you, Al-Arz Factory! The kids have been using the popsicle sticks with lots of enthusiasm to learn some basic physics and develop patience with falling towers.

Thanks for your kind donation! It is the simple gifts here at TYO that make big differences.
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Ice Cream at 4:30 am, Sunrise at 5:00

The interns took some time off this weekend and traveled to Haifa for some much anticipated R&R. After taking a not-so-quick detour to Tel Aviv for the absolute best burger I have ever, in my entire life tasted (true story), we turned our rental cars north and headed to Haifa, a costal Israeli town in which both Israelis and Palestinians live. (Historically a predominantly Arab town, Arabs now make up about 33% of the population.) The following day, armed with some sleep and our faithful robo-tourist guide, intern coordinator Robyn Kbera (“Big” in Arabic and she is as tall as they get, folks), we saw the beautiful sites of ancient Akko (aka Acre). Akko has at one point been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, various caliphates, Bedouins, Crusaders, Ottomans, Mameluks, Brits, and Israel. While touring around what is now called the Citadel of Akko, we walked along (maybe among) Ottoman fortifications, built on top of Hospitaller and Crusader fortifications, which were later used as a prison for Jewish Zionists by the British during the British Mandate. Needless to say, for anyone at all interested in history, visiting Akko is a bit like being a kid in a candy store!

After inundating ourselves with history and old rocks, we rewarded ourselves with a seafood extravaganza, right along the shore and a nap back at the homestead. We were all pretty exhausted at that point, but also knew that the real highlight of the weekend was right around the corner- SUSHI! At around 8 p.m., we headed out and proceeded to drive all over downtown Haifa before our cabs could find the elusive sushi restaurant. Following our second seafood meal, a few of us were still not quite ready to call it a night. At around 4 a.m., a decision was made that when in Haifa…see the sunrise. So, following an early morning ice cream break, we saw the sun rise in Bat Galim over the heads of Israeli women and Arab boys out for an early morning swim. Ice cream at 4:30 a.m. and a sunrise at 5:00 a.m. was just about the perfect way to end our first day in Haifa.

Beautiful Akko
Sunrise
On the road
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