Monthly Archives: May 2013

Introducing the 2013 Group: McGill University

Linden Parker

Linden Parker

I was born in rural Nova Scotia and love being Canadian, but having moved with my parents and two older sisters to a suburb of Portland, Oregon at the age of five, I also consider myself a true Oregonian. After high school I spent a year traveling with a friend around North America in a van, exploring National Parks and visiting friends and family. I then moved to Montreal, Quebec to attend McGill University. I received my first degree from McGill in 2007 with a major in Environment and Development and a minor in English Theatre. In 2009 I married my husband, Darren Reynolds in San Francisco. We now enjoy an active life in our vibrant downtown apartment with our cat. We spend our free time reading, camping, skiing, playing volleyball and picnicking in the park. Now that I am well into my second degree at McGill I find we’re busier than ever. I am beyond excited that in one year I will graduate with a degree in Kindergarten & Elementary Education and will be able to teach the following fall. I truly enjoy working with children and cannot wait to meet the diverse group of students whom I will be responsible for inspiring to love learning.

Praxis Malawi presents an incredible opportunity for me to work with peers and professors from Quebec and Malawi to develop a grade one curriculum for an alternative school being built in the Chillanga region of Kasunga. This project allows me to participate in the creation of a curriculum that incorporates local knowledge and resources into the framework of the Quebec Education Program. I am thrilled to have the chance to apply my environment & development background and my emerging understanding of education. Through collaborative efforts, I hope to identify what is most relevant to students in the local community. As a concurrent initiative is being planned to build a garden for the school, I will focus on finding ways of integrating it into the curriculum. Exploring local farming and food practices will be particularly important.

I foresee this being an incredibly challenging, yet rewarding experience. With just over a month to learn curriculum development and understand the community’s expectations and hopes for this new school, I am mentally preparing for some intense collaboration and field research. Such an extensive and evolving project requires the involvement of many knowledgeable individuals from Quebec and Malawi, both in person and online – we encourage input! I am honoured to be part of this project and am excited to witness how it progresses. I’m sure I will also have copious pictures to share of us in the town and on our travels throughout the region. Lions and travels and learning – oh my!

 

Louisa Niedermann

Louisa Niedermann

I am Louisa Niedermann. I am originally from the States but grew up in Montreal. I just finished my second year in Education at McGill University.  I love traveling and learning about different cultures and the way others live. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to travel to Africa and I feel so grateful to have this opportunity to go to Malawi, learn, give what I can and receive in ways I can only imagine.

For my time in Malawi I am looking into the relevance of play in young children.  For very young children, play is their work–how they learn to take turns, follow directions and pay attention.  It is often the relief and release of physical activity that allows children to return to tasks at hand with greater ability to make the most of what is presented.  Whether it be at recess, after school or during classes, I will look at if play is recognized as an important value in the learning process of young children in Malawi, and if not, how to begin to introduce the importance of play by teaching playground games and physical activities for the in-between times of academic learning and work to be done at home.

 

Rebecca Clement

Rebecca Clement

I was going to do something corny like start this piece by saying I’m a twenty one year old female that likes sad movies, romantic dinners, long walks on the beach, and puppies, and was then going to turn it around and be like “Nahhh, I’m just messing with you”.  This is what I wanted to do but couldn’t think of enough corny things that I didn’t actually like.  So here’s the truth, I really do like all those things, except of course the walks on the beach.  I could never understand how people could tolerate the presence of sand in their shoes.  I hate sand.  As for the rest, I love all movies, I love going out for dinner and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love puppies?  I’m a big movie fan, I especially enjoy musicals.  Maybe once I warm up to everybody on the trip there might be the occasional performance of me bursting out into song and dance.  Also, fair warning to all the other participants, if I say something weird, it was most likely a movie reference that I took a chance at you knowing and/or appreciating.

I’m a quiet person on the most part and it takes me time to warm up to people.  I’m better in a one on one situation where it’s more give and take than in a large group discussion where everyone has something to say.  I’m a listener in conversations and will only impose myself in larger group discussions if I feel the conversation will benefit greatly from my contribution.  I’m more interested in what others have to say to be honest and am completely content with watching, listening, and thinking.  I already know what I’m thinking, but I want to know what’s going on in everyone else’s mind.  This interest in knowing what others are thinking stems from my fascination with perception.  It is what got me to study psychology in CEGEP, which got me interested in child development, and then what got me thinking about education.  My only reservation about being this way is the fear that people think I chose not to contribute because I either don’t care or am not intelligent enough to participate.  I have a fear of being seen as unintelligent, which is actually the basis of my worries for this experience.   Another way of looking at it is my hesitation for this trip stems from my worries of not succeeding by having nothing useful to contribute to the group.  Though I have some fears of the educational aspect of the trip I’m not worried about the living conditions.  On the most part I can adapt quite easily to my environment and/or situation.  It’s this aspect of myself actually that allows me to get along well with most people.

For my individual research topic I will be looking at Natural Sciences since it is my primary educational focus at McGill University within the B.Ed kindergarten/elementary program.  This topic choice worries me some since I have no idea what to expect, though this must be true for the other participants and their choices as well.  I have no idea what sorts of materials they will have available or what scientific principles will be useful in their culture.  What worries me also is the class sizes and finding activities for all students to be engaged in considering the lack of materials.  In all I’m nervous about not being prepared for the trip but am looking forward to the challenge ahead and most of all the amazing experiences that come with living and experiencing a culture first hand.

Introducing the 2013 Group: McGill University Grads

Amy Simpson

Amy Simpson

My name is Amy Simpson. I have recently completed my Bachelor in Elementary Education at McGill University. I moved to Montreal seven years ago from a town called Rawdon. I think that growing up in such a small town, fueled my need to get out and see the rest of the world. My love of learning as well as seeing the best and worst in teachers is what drove me into the educational sector. I was always compelled to find a way to make education and learning as fun as possible. My dream as a teacher is that one day students will look forward with anticipation to go to school and learn.

I have traveled within Canada, either by plane, bus or hitch-hiking and I have made it across this great country numerous times. My travels have also taken me into the United States as well as Australia. Although all these wonderful places have a unique culture of their own with so much to offer, going to Malawi is on a whole new scale. I have never immersed myself within a culture where the language and way of life is so different from my own. At the same time, this is what excites me the most.

As for my expectations, without having ever been in a similar situation it is hard to imagine what to expect. What I do hope to get out of this trip is an exchange of ideas and knowledge. I hope to be able to teach and share what I have learned over the years and to come back with new insights and having learned something new which I will then be able to bring into my own classroom in the future.

I have a variety of focuses in mind for this experience. My first is to have a wonderful time and get to know the people and the culture. Secondly comes the educational aspect, and it is not to demean it’s importance by putting it in second place, but I think that it can not be fulfilled without the first. I will be taking part in the curriculum development project. My primary focus is integrating transdisciplinary education and inquiry based learning into the curriculum. Then as a secondary focus, I will be looking into the different teaching strategies. For reasons of resource availability, student and teacher ratios as well as cultural differences I am sure there will be differences in teaching styles/strategies from what I have seen so far.

And in the words of my father, who taught for over 30 years, which he wrote on the first page of my travel journal, ”The world is yours to discover. To be a good teacher you must have the ”gift”. You have the ”gift” and now you must begin to share this gift. Safe Travels.” And this is what I intend on doing with my time in Malawi.

 

Jae pic

Jae Oh

I am a 23-year-old adventurous student who loves traveling around the world. I also have many interests: baking, doll collecting, planting and teaching. I have always wanted to be a teacher and am pursuing the dream at McGill University. I love many things such as good music and food, a comfortable sofa, fantasy novels and my dear old cat; however, once in a while, I leave my comfort and my beloveds behind to try, see, feel, taste, smell, hear, and learn to make new beloved things. So far I have been to more than 10 countries over 4 continents and from each trip I learned about myself and the world around me. Then I realized another joy of traveling; sharing. Sharing my experiences is not only about passing on my knowledge but I, in return, learn from other opinions and knowledge.

Consequently, as I traveled around the world, I paid close attention each country’s early childhood education system, especially in Canada, South Korea, and Kenya. These experiences helped me broaden my view and learn from their advantages and disadvantages. Using this experience and knowledge, I want to study Malawi’s elementary school curriculum. I will focus especially on the science curriculum, incorporating more readily available or easily accessible teaching materials and various hands-on approaches to the subject. I hope my research doesn’t end only in Malawi but will take me to other places as well where I can help students to see a bigger world through better lenses. I hope, through this blog, I get to share what I gained from this trip along with your help on the way.

 

Corinne Marcoux

Corinne Marcoux

Nice to meet you! This being my first blog entry in the Praxis Malawi adventure, it would be the least in terms of politeness and logic to present myself. With all due respect, I will however try not to do so. The reasons for trying to adopt the “non-bio” approach here are quite simple, and I hope you appreciate them: 1) No matter what I will try to say, it is often said that it’s the writing itself that shows the real personality of an author. So I suggest that we get to know each other throughout the weeks, through our written exchange of ideas and experiences. 2) I am pretty sure that many points I would make here will either be slightly altered or even obsolete after our time in Malawi. At least, I hope I will learn and change.

But whoever says change also says starting point, which can be summarized in something like this: Corinne Marcoux. 22. Student at McGill University and transitioning into becoming a real elementary school teacher next year. Francophone speaking but also English, and hopefully some Chichewa too by the end of this adventure. Born in LaTuque, Quebec and lives in the world. Former gymnast. Passionate of outdoor activities, travel and discoveries. Lifelong learner. Dreamer. It will be interesting to see what I have done when we come back from Malawi; will I be able to add “curriculum development assistant” or something around those lines?

Is it too simplistic to have that my only expectation for the Praxis Malawi project that to learn? I am more than excited to be part of a very dynamic and generous team working on the development of a curriculum for an alternative school. I will always do my very best to coordinate the project’s various areas of work into a coherent product respectful of the local expectations. This means to communicate as much as possible with the team, both inside and outside of Malawi—so please remind me if I ever miss to do so! What I really want is to keep an open mind and learn both from the experience and from Malawi.

Let’s jump into it! And learn from each other.

Zikomo, Corinne

 

Introducing the 2013 Group: Bishop’s University

Naomi pic

Naomi Crisp

My name is Naomi Crisp and I am one of the lucky few going to Africa with Praxis Malawi this year.  I am currently enrolled in the B. Ed program for Elementary Education at Bishop’s University for this coming year. I am originally from Cambridgeshire, England but my family and I moved to Wolfville, Nova Scotia 8 years ago.  I come from a family of 6, which includes my father, mother, an older sister, older brother and a younger brother. My family means the world to me and I don’t know where I would be without their guidance and support of my dreams. I believe that education is the most important factor in everybody’s life and should not be taken for granted. By education I do not mean schooling, I strongly believe there are many ways for one to learn (such as research projects as this) that doesn’t necessarily include an instructor or classroom. I have a deep love for learning and when opportunities such as these come along I try to soak up as much as possible.

It is hard to say what my expectations are for my time in Malawi as I know I will be continuously developing educationally, culturally, personally and emotionally throughout the stay. My focus will be on the development of professional dialogue within the global community; I will be creating a link between the multiple professional communities (including LEARN, Malawian teachers and Praxis Malawi) in order to provide the support needed to make such a project possible. By forming partnerships with Malawian teachers and observing the classroom myself, I will be able to build upon what I have learnt at Bishop’s University and what I will learn in Malawi to help form a kindergarten/grade 1 curriculum with the others involved. It is important that this curriculum focuses on critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship in order to provide the best possible outcome for the community and individual students. Overall, I am incredibly excited to be offered such an experience and know that it will be one I will never forget.

 

Frank Juvenal

Frank Juvenal

I am Frank Juvenal; a student enrolled in Biochemistry at Bishop’s University. I enjoy learning different languages and as a result, I can now speak more than five languages which includes; Chichewa and English. I also like to play soccer (known as “Football” in Malawi) and volleyball.

My expectation on this wonderful opportunity is to work with Villagers in Malawi under Praxis Malawi where I would like to learn the problems that the People in the rural area experience in farming. As in this way, I plan also to work with the teachers and the elders in Makupo and to find a way of how people can start sustainable farming in terms of community gardens. So, I intend to create a demonstration garden in the community. As a matter of fact, since I have been to Malawi before, I am hoping that the garden will be very helpful to students and the people in the Village.

Introducing Praxis Malawi

Handwriting Dakota Full1Who are we?

Established in Bishop’s University, Praxis Malawi’s members come from a wide spectrum of interconnected communities (be they academic, institutional, professional, local, business, not-for-profit, etc.). Praxis Malawi values dialogue as a means to enact appreciably constructive and tangible change. Our members work towards the locally defined needs (defined as improving critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship), and are encouraged to develop strategies of emancipation through their own skill-set and knowledge recognizing and utilizing other’s expertise as well. Putting theory into practice is meant to encourage both short and long term goals; recognizing that future planning is as important as immediate needs. Although based in the Chillanga region of Kasungu, Malawi, we do not limit our work to a single region, rather we commit to working with communities as we are able.

Why Praxis? Why Malawi?

The concept of “praxis” in the social science field is one of the most empowering and intimidating words uttered in Academia. On the one hand it allows students to dream of possibilities that could be; on the other hand it can galvanize even the most experienced professor when they consider application of theories in “the real world” for purposes of social justice. Praxis Malawi embraces this challenge and encourages all members to work in partnership to consider and act upon ethical possibilities for change.

Known as “the warm heart of Africa”, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world (The World Bank). Per capita government expenditures, citizen income and access to education are woefully low in a country that prides itself on a culture of caring and hospitality. Recognizing that there is great need all over the world, our focus on

Malawi is based on the establishment of a positive and equitable human relationship with our community stakeholders.

Vision

Praxis Malawi is committed to being recognized locally and globally as an ethical partner in the development of education for sustainable change.

Mandate

Praxis Malawi is committed to the alleviation of human suffering through collaborative and dialogic education. In partnership with local residents, and with the support of global patrons, we are dedicated to fostering the development of critical thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurship as a way to support the sustainable independence of local cultures.

Core Values

Responsiveness: We are steadfast in addressing community identified needs through collaborative strategies.

Sustainability: We are dedicated to long term initiatives that create agency and support self-sufficiency.

Responsibility: We are committed to our fellow human-being’s right to succeed.

Our Commitment to Malawi

Praxis Malawi is a project that began with the simple belief that collaborative efforts between Canadian university students and community members of Malawi would result in mutual learning and positive, tangible outcomes.

We challenge our students to engage in research that require them to consider their academic discipline(s) in relation to local needs as indicated by community members. Our intention is to foster learning through collaborative critical thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurship among the students from various disciplines and members of the local community.

Primarily through experiential learning, Praxis Malawi involves students from multidisciplinary backgrounds engaged in creating and exploring their own research interests in conjunction with professors, peers and most especially, members of the local communities. The result of the experience is meant to encourage students and local community members to creatively expand their own borders of learning and area of studies through a spirit of reciprocal participation and dialogue.

Communities in partnership

Years of students working in the rural region of Malawi have produced positive results in local members identifying needs leading to joint efforts of problem solving. Our local participants indicate urgent needs ranging from health, education to business. As equal partners, Praxis Malawi has adopted the following comprehensive projects to operationalize our mandate:

Alternative School

Stemming from in-depth meetings with Chilagna’s educational stakeholders, we are currently developing an alternative school that will focus on key areas established by Malawians: Critical Thinking, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. Pending funding, we hope to start construction of the school in 2014.

Micro Bursaries

A variance on the micro loan system, our program asks that recipients pay back the local community in an ongoing and sustainable manner. For example, a funded chicken cooperative will donate a portion of their eggs to village elders who risk malnourishment and a carpentry cooperative will donate a portion of their profits to pay for the education fees of vulnerable children.