Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Memorable Journey

Friday was Class Field Trip Day!

Remember those days when you loaded up on a bus with your fellow classmates?  You were so cool if you got to sit in the back.  Hopefully, you got to sit next to a group of your friends.  But even if you didn't you were just happy to get out of school for the day.  It didn't matter where you were going, you were just happy to be going somewhere new, exciting, or different.  Last Friday was one of those days for the students at Essaba Secondary School...and I got to go along for the ride!
Here is a picture of the school bus we loaded.  It's not quite like the school buses I remember.  Let's review why:

1. It's not yellow...duh

2. Students sit in rows that spread 5-7 seats across (depending on which row you sit in)

3. The driver is in his/her own compartment SEPARATE FROM THE STUDENTS!  (Thank god we had instructors to ride along so there wouldn't be any chaos)

(Pause for some background information here)
As I was beginning to put my legal pad away at the end of one of the classes I was observing at Essaba secondary school one of the students raised her hand and said to the instructor, "Madame, there is a little time left in the class period.  Can we please ask our visitor some questions?"  The instructor looked at me as if to way, "Well?" so I jumped out of my seat and invited the students to ask me anything that they wanted to know.  The students began to throw out all sorts of questions about America like:
"What is a staple food that American's eat?"


"How do Americans survive the harsh weather there?" (this one still cracks me up)

So one by one I began to answer their questions.  I found it interesting that most of the students were disgusted when I described our "staple food," the hamburger.  "Why so many ingredients pressed together?" they would ask, and all I could say is...that's just the way we eat them. (In Kenya foods are prepared in a much simpler fashion).  Even my discussion about winters in America seemed to shock them.  I tried to convert 32 degrees Fahrenheit (freezing) into Celsius (Kenyan weather units), but this seemed to really shake them up.  However, after I answered all of their questions to the best of my ability they seemed to be a little more at ease with how Americans lived.  And, apparently, the teacher was impressed with my answers because she stated, "The children need to hear more perspectives like this so that they can learn about the world."  I felt happy that I could help the students to understand that the world isn't such a large place, but then, to my surprise, the instructor told me that I should come with the students the following day to see some other parts of Kenya.  She felt that this would help me to bond with the students.  So now I was faced with a moral dilemma:

1. Continue my classroom observations so that I could understand as much as possible about  how learning occurred in the Kenyan classroom.

2. Take a field trip to some awesome places in Kenya with some VERY bright students.

Easy decision!  And hey...I would call this trip "field learning" which embraces the Clinton School experience. (At least, that's what I'm telling myself) 

(End background story of how I got to go on this amazing trip)

Our first stop on the trip was to see a famous Kenyan monument known as The Crying Stone.  It's a natural anomaly (meaning that it shouldn't exist) because it's a massive boulder suspended on top of a tall pillar of rock.  
From a distance, you can see why it's called the crying stone, because a stream of water constantly runs down it.

Up close, it's even more amazing.  Apparently, there is a depression between the boulder and the pillar of rock that holds water every time it rains.  As the water collects, it slowly flows down the rock.  It was quite impressive to see!

It's customary that when you go to see the crying stone you touch it and say, "I have seen the stone."  I invited David Watterson along for the trip and together we stated, "I have seen the stone." 

    Here's the view from the top of the hill we had to climb to touch the crying stone.  Why does everything in Kenya have to involve hills?!?

    After seeing the stone we got back onto the bus, and after several hours of driving we arrived at the Western Kenya Museum.  

     However, this was NOT your typical museum.  In Kenya people interpret a "museum" to also mean a "zoo." (The idea being that you go there to experience ancient and current products of the culture)  

    We began by walking through the zoo where we met this guy:

    He's called a Black Mamba and he's one of the deadliest snakes in the world.  The sign above his cage said that his bite can kill a man in 2-3 minutes.  Needless to say I kept my distance.  For some reason I didn't think that the glass separating us was enough protection for me.

      Then, we saw this guy, "Just hanging out."  Look how close the students were able to get to it!  This exposure to a crocodile would never be allowed in an American zoo.


One of the students got a little too friendly with the family of turtles that we saw.

    In the middle of the tour of the zoo we were shown this invention.  It removes the methane gas from cow dung and captures it in canisters to be used for cooking, lighting, etc.  I thought that this should be used by every American cow farmer considering the number of cattle we raise in a year.

    We also saw some traditional African huts used by the first Kenyan settlers.

      Among them was this strange hut called the "first wife's hut."  At first I was under the impression that the first settlers of Kenya were very short.  Then, after talking with some Kenyan teachers, I found out that this was a security feature.  The first wife of the village stored fire wood, precious cattle and goats, and all the village leader's money in her hut.  And so, if a thief did try to steal anything, by the time he/she made it out of the hut with the goods, the village warriors would have the thief surrounded.

     Outside of the huts, some of the guys thought that they needed to take a "tough" picture to commemorate the trip.  I thought this was pretty funny.

 As we were leaving the "hut area" I saw these directions about how to enter a hut and had to laugh.  Then I thought...other people might want to read them and laugh too.

Inside of the museum we saw lots of cool artifacts from ancient Kenyan tribes.

I finally got to see some authentic African shields and spears.

One of the more interesting displays was this set of herbs used to treat all sorts of ailments.

Including this one used to treat syphilis!  I knew that the STD existed back then, but who know that there was an herbal treatment for it! 

Upon exiting the museum we saw this old-school tractor.  Thanks to a little help from power point and Microsoft Picture Viewer, I was able to blow up the sign on the front.  The museum makes a point to note things that were used by white settlers. 

Afterward, we took a trip to Mt. Elgon.  It's a famous mountain in Kenya because its' slopes are layered, meaning it's easier to walk, bike, drive up the mountain.  Unfortunately, as we arrived it started raining heavily, so the driver could only take us this far up the dirt roads (ironic, I know).  But I managed to snap a picture.

Our last stop on the trip was to see the waterfalls of Webuye,Kenya.  From a distance they looked pretty impressive.

But when I got closer I realized how truly breath-taking they were.  Here's a panoramic of the falls.  Sorry for it being a little off-center, but it was still raining and I didn't want my camera to get wet.  Rain or shine, though...I could have stayed here all day! 

This was not your typical class field trip, but I REALLY enjoyed myself!


Hallie Shoffner said...

Wow, Patrick! That sounds like a fabulous field trip! Much better than our trips to the potato chip factory. Would you do a blog post about the style of teaching in Kenya? For example, what kinds of text books do they use, is it very interactive, etc?

Rebecca Morrison said...

I wish I had been a student of yours when you were a teacher. Also, could you teach ME how to convert Fahrenheit to Celcius because I don't know either.