By Linden Parker
Last week we completed the advance work, began to brainstorm teachable themes and concepts, and established a process for organizing our ideas into comprehensive curriculum units. This felt like a solid foundation for the first stages of curriculum development for the alternative experimental school being introduced to the local community. These steps were necessary for us to ensure that the curriculum we establish is well developed and made culturally relevant. While we intend to use the competencies of the QEP to direct the features and outcomes of our units, we need to ensure that the topics are specific to the community and the local environment. While we continue to have many questions for our local co-learners, after the interviews and field trips from last week, we feel better suited to proceed with the next phase of our curriculum work.
This week Dr. Stonebanks has joined us to shed light on both the current status of the school construction and the big picture of the curriculum development process. The school construction is intended to be a collaborative community effort and yet the process of establishing this sustainable ideal appears to be challenging. This is interesting to hear considering the verbal support voiced by the villagers for this development project during our interviews with them. It is not unduly surprising; however, it is still disappointing to discover that while they support the idea of a new education initiative in the area they do not fully grasp the role they could play in its development. Where does dependency end and initiative and accountability begin for this community? Dr. Stonebanks made the very interesting and relevant connection between this dilemma and the curriculum development work that we are conducting. He emphasized the significant need for a curriculum designed according to pedagogy of empowerment and pedagogy of hope. Having these concepts drive our vision for the school will hopefully help to stimulate a new and more actively sustainable culture in the community.
Spurred on by this vision, we dove straight into our curriculum development work. With renewed commitment after the weekend at Lake Malawi, we once again broke into small groups to develop units. However, now that we felt that we had a solid grasp of the process and the local culture, we decided to officially begin constructing unit ideas from the beginning to the end of the school year. This is an exciting progression of work because it provides a solid sense of achievement as we complete the framework for each unit and move further and further into the year. At the end of day two of this process, I can proudly say that we have strong ideas for the first six months of school in this grade one class (see the progress picture). On a side note about cultural relevancy, we constantly have to remember that in the Malawian school system, many students enter grade one with no previous schooling or organized social experiences. This means that we need to ensure that we address a combination of competencies from the QEP for kindergarten and grade one.
I honestly cannot wait to see a whole year worth of ideas displayed on the wall and am so optimistic that this can be accomplished before I leave on June 24th. Because of our final trip to Zambia, next Tuesday will be my final day of curriculum work here in Malawi, so we have a lot of work to do to meet this goal. Fortunately, I am working with some very talented people who all share this same dedication. Now that we have some concrete ideas to present to the LEARN community, I also look forward to receiving input and ideas from even more knowledgeable minds. Let the hard work begin and, as my husband tells me, don’t sweat the small stuff.