By Erin Mulfinger
Last Sunday morning, we said goodbye to the hostel that had been our home for the past week and a half. We paired off and ventured into different areas of Nebaj to begin our stays with local families. Now, instead of sharing experiences as a group, we have been getting to know individual members of the community by learning their stories, eating their food, and getting a glimpse into their everyday lives.
We have gotten into a routine of eating breakfast and dinner with the families, and spending the day together, either working as a group or in small teams on what we came here to do. I have spent the past few mornings working with Nick and Steve on plans for creating a curriculum for teaching English at the Exploration Center. Currently, the children have English class scheduled three times per week, but for those times that a teacher is not available we will hopefully be creating DVDs for them to watch.
During the afternoons, the three of us read with the children individually at the Exploration Center. For the most part we read with the same children each day in an effort to track progress. Reading at home is not something many of these children experience on a regular basis. Therefore, they are not given the opportunity to develop the imaginative and creative thinking that results from such stimulation.
I have noticed a partiular difficulty among many of the children with distinguishing fantasy from reality. We read The Magic School Bus in the Solar System and one young girl nodded her head when I asked her whether a school bus would actually be able to go into outer space. When I asked her why she thought so, she was unable to answer me. I have also noticed such a struggle to answer when the children are asked what their opinions are about the readings or anything else.
Developing imaginations and critical thinking through reading is an important goal of the Exploration Center, and one with which I am in strong agreement. Although reading seems like such a simple exercise, I know that I sometimes forget how lucky I am to have begun reading with my family at such a young age and to have had parents and teachers who talked to me and asked me about my opinions from when I was very small.