Tag Archives: Amy

Where will they go next?

By Amy Simpson

View from Lukwe

View from Lukwe

Early Friday morning, June 14th to be exact, we hit the road to go to Lukwe lodge, an eco-friendly site on the top of a mountain near Livingstonia. As we drove along we passed massive areas of clear-cut forests. Looking out the window, in some areas you could literally count the number of trees still standing in the landscape on your hands and toes, but the number of half burnt stumps in the distance were countless. Seeing the amount of clear-cut wasn’t necessarily shocking because I am well aware that the same occurs back home, but it still was somewhat depressing. The only difference between here and back home is that back home in many places the clear-cutters leave a line of trees alongside the road to try and hide it from us. Instead, along the road side in Malawi, what I saw were people sitting beside the logs and cut timbre that was for sale.

Seeing them beside what looked to be the last few trees for sale got me thinking about what they would do once they have sold it all. What would be their next source of income? Some areas were replanted with pine trees, which grow relatively quickly, I imagine, but what will they do while they wait for it to happen? I am assuming that they will have to move elsewhere. The wood shack kind of structures that were built around them did not seem like permanent establishments either. So where will they move? To another forested area where they will do the same and have to move again in time or will they try and find a completely new source of income?

Sitting in the bus for hours provides one with lots and lots of time to think about many things, so my mind then wandered to questioning how they divide up the forested land. How do they know whose tree is whose? Do they invest and buy sectors of the land or do they find wooded areas and have a free for all situation occur? My assumption is that they most likely have some sort of organization but then again I could be wrong. Just to clarify this is not to pass judgement on how they are going about in the forestry industry here, I don’t think it would be just to do so because I do not know enough about it nor do I fully understand their living situation.

A few hours later to get up to the top of the mountain which was lovely and still forested. We drove up the scariest road I have ever been on. The road was narrow, steep and bumpy. It seemed more like a cleared rock path than an actual road and on the side of it was a steep cliff which at times, was only inches away from the wheels of the bus. Luckily we had a talented driver. Anyhow, we made it up safely to Lukwe. The environment was such a contrast to the clear-cut landscape we were driving through only hours before. The owner designed the site trying to be as eco-friendly and self-sustainable as possible. For example; by eating fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables straight from the gardens, running on solar power and using natural building materials for the structures. The view from the cliff-side balcony was breathtaking. The next day, we hiked up to nearby waterfalls and up even higher to Livingstonia. On Sunday it was back to Makupo, which is beginning to feel like a home away from home.

Phase One Done! Yay!

By Amy Simpson

Working on the units

Working on the units

We have now completed fourteen units for the standard one school year, which include; the theme, universal concepts, big idea, relations to the Q.E.P competencies, topics and teachable ideas. I think we all deserve a pat on the back because as a group we worked well and brought some great ideas together. We had separated into smaller groups so we could each work on different units and use our time efficiently. Although some at some points there were stand still moments where we would discuss and focus, for perhaps longer than we should have, on finding “the right word” to use in our writing, the rest ran smoothly.

I found the procedure that we followed to create the units, starting with a theme and then choosing one or two concepts and creating the big idea, helped us to focus in on what exactly we wanted the students to learn within the given time frame of the unit. Especially making so many, it helped to reinforce, at least one method of creating a strong and supported unit. This will be particularly useful in my own future classroom.

Thomas will be the grade one teacher for the new school. We worked alongside him as well as Cynthia, who is currently studying in university to become a teacher. They had lots of interesting insights to share on the local culture as well as what the students may or may not be interested in learning. They were also a big help in organizing the unit timeline. They provided us with information as to what was happening around the village each month, the weather for that time of year, holidays and any other special events. We were then able to place our units to a time that was contextually relevant to what would be occurring in the local area. For example, we placed the farming unit during the harvest season, the health unit during the rainy season (increase in mosquito population and disease) and the celebrations unit around Mother’s Day. There are twelve units throughout the school year but we also created two more in case some of the units are shorter than expected or if Thomas decides to make changes based on the students’ and his personal interests.

The nest step to follow in the curriculum project will be to create a number of lesson plans for each unit. This will give Thomas some ideas/examples of activities or lessons and how they can be carried out in the classroom. Overall it is an exciting process and I am quite anxious not only to see the end product but also, in time, to see how it all turns out in action next year.

We Have All Gone Shack Whacky or Maybe We Are Just Tired

By Amy Simpson

Doodles

Doodles

I spent about forty-five minutes staring at the blank page of my notebook not able to decide what to write about or what not to write about for my blog. So here are some tidbits of the conversation that followed as we sat around on the couches in the hostel.

– Whoever slit the sheets is a dirty sheet slitter. Repeat three times. Brenda’s saying from Newfoundland.

– I learned today that in the late 50’s there was a mine in Newfoundland where they would mine Fluorspar. Fluorspar is a mineral.

– There are two friends in this world, one is named Mr. Pickles and the other is named Mr. Green.

– I convinced myself this afternoon that the beef we were eating tasted like maple syrup. I say “convinced myself” because according to everyone else it didn’t, not even close.

– We have all gone shack whacky and the laughter is uncontrollable.

Whenever I can’t think of what to write or I am thinking with a pen and paper at hand I doodle. My rough drafts of my notebook are filled with doodles, so here is a collage of doodles that I have accumulated through many moments of blank page syndrome. Someone told me that if you don’t know what to write just start writing and the rest will come, so this is the final product.

Advance Work and Assumptions

By Amy Simpson

Chilanga Standard 1 Expressive Arts lesson

Chilanga Standard 1 Expressive Arts lesson

Before beginning our work on the curriculum development we did a week of advance work. We walked to the surrounding villages to interview the people and visited several elementary schools. We interviewed people in the neighboring villages about their thoughts on having a new school in the area. Everyone told us that they welcome the project but some also voiced their concern about the land on which the new school will be built. Some women also expressed concerns of sending their children to the Chilanga School. Besides the long walking distance to the school, they also worry about the dangers their children may encounter on the walk there, which include crossing a busy road and in the rainy season sometimes a river. It was the majority opinion that the project was welcome because they feel that education is important, especially if it allows their children to go on to higher education. Here it is not the family who chooses which high school their child will attend but the government who chooses based on their level of achievement.

At the end of each interview with the women, they would give us a large bag of groundnuts (peanuts) to bring back with us to Makupo. I learned that raw groundnuts taste like peas and they only taste like peanuts once they have been roasted. It was a kind gesture on their part and they gave very generous quantities. I think that it is safe to say that everyone here enjoyed them.

During our days of advance work we also visited four elementary schools. We sat in and observed both standard one and standard two classrooms for a total of four lessons. The standard one classroom at the Chilanga School was particularly interesting because of the lesson and the location in which it took place which was rather odd. In the small classroom you could see remnants of what I thought might have been desks at one point but were actually remnants of toilet bowls. The classroom used to be the school’s restroom but because of the growing number of students and the limited amount of space the restrooms were gutted to make room for the standard one class. During the lesson students were crowded together sitting directly on the ground. It was an expressive arts lesson and their task was to create whatever they wanted using corn stalks for material. Students made a variety of things such as small chairs, glasses and the most popular creation among the boys was guns. The lesson gave us an example of how local and free resources can be used in the classroom.

Another interesting lesson was in the standard two classroom at the Kapiri Elementary School. The students were learning English and the teacher was teaching them words using a whole word approach. Many people with whom we spoke with told us that they did not agree with this method of teaching students English. They say that before the government changed the curriculum students were taught English words using the phonetic breakdown which was much more successful.

The students in this classroom were also sitting directly on the floor, but what I noticed was that there was a pile of old dusty desks in the back corner of the room. I wondered why they were not being used but I figure that they must be broken and in need of repair or that there are not enough for all the students to use. However I also thought that there must be a better use for them rather than having them stacked up collecting dust.

As we walked to the villages and schools, as well as on our walk to Kasungu, a few of us kept asking our cooperative learners what the different types of trees were called. It was rather funny because we expected them to know (they knew some but not all) but if they were to come to Canada and take a walk with me and they started asking me what the names of all the tress were I think I would only be able to name two or three. It was just an assumption that we made thinking that because they are from here they must know all the names of the vegetation around.

Thinking of assumptions, it reminds me of another silly question that I asked one of the night guards. One night the security had made some fires around the village, which I had not noticed before. Out of curiosity I went up to one of them to ask them why they had made fires. I was expecting some elaborate answer, which would include some cultural tradition about who knows what and this is why I did not expect the answer that followed. Now brace yourselves for the answer. He told me that they made fires because … it was cold. I laughed and told him of course, that makes complete sense; we do the same at home.

Creatures Creatures Everywhere and One Just May End Up On My Plate!

By Amy Simpson

Baby goat

Baby goat

Wherever we walk we see chickens, chickens of all sizes and colors. We see chickens with chicks, chickens with roosters and chickens with other chickens. Whenever we hear a noise in the bush it is not some exotic creature but a chicken. In the village there is one rooster that looks like the most typical rooster you can think of. Yes, it looks like the painting of a rooster that you have hanging in your kitchen. In the morning as the sun is rising this rooster does what most typical roosters will do, it cock-a-doodle-doos. The best thing about these chickens is they lay the biggest eggs I have ever seen and they are delicious.

Besides chickens there are goats. Some are tied up alone, some are tied up in pairs and others roam around the village freely. There is one goat in particular which is tied to a tree not too far from our hostel. This goat never stops bleating and the moment you think to yourself “Wow, I think that goat finally stopped.” it bleats again just to make sure you haven’t forgotten about it. Ever time we eat goat with our dinner I somewhat hope it is this goat on my plate.

Also running around and eating the rice which defines the perimeter of the volley ball court are piglets. Usually in groups of three they walk around munching on whatever they can find. They are the cutest little things when they run and their big pink ears flap around in the wind.

Among the cute creatures there are also two geckos living in our hostel. One bigger than the other; they like to chase after each other and play hide and seek behind the Malawi map poster on the wall. Besides that, their activities also include eating smaller critters while hanging from a piece of straw with their two back legs and staring down at us from the ceiling.

Then there are the not so adorable creatures which include the three spiders living above my bed, the cockroaches and giant centipedes which take a minimum of five shoe hits to kill. I think it is best not to think about these.