First Photographs!

Last week was a big week for our photography project! In Jersey City, NJ, Hamilton Park Montessori students compared images taken in Jamaica, and in the NYC area. We looked at light, color and composition, and discussed the similarities and differences between the images. Our students are now busily at work taking pictures, and we can't wait to see what they come up with.

Meanwhile, in Jamaica, the students of Bigwoods Primary had their first lesson in composition, which they immediately put to excellent use in taking portraits of their classmates. Here are a few examples of their work, which are a testament to their hard work and focus, and Donald's teaching. We're excited to see what's next!

Graduation!

Congratulations to today's 6th grade graduates: Odette Blair, Monecia Graham, Nadalia Simms, Jason Graham, Anthony James, Zendae Lewis, and Richard Logan!

 Graduation ceremony

Graduation ceremony

Attending a Jamaican graduation is a lot like attending a southern baptist church service with everybody in their Sunday best! I don't make this comparison in jest, rather that it feels familiar. (Remember, I am from the south.) Truth be told, graduation from the 6th grade in Jamaica is on par in importance with 12th grade graduation in the U.S.! 

It is not a short ceremony (a little more than 5 hours long) nor is it intended to be taken lightly. Reflections in praise, faith, uplifting messages, and cautionary tales of inevitable pitfalls, are all in the name of Christ. 

The running theme today among each speaker and representative (I believe divinity intervened) was cultivation of seeds (students) so that they may 'blossom/grow (thrive) in the soil they are planted in'.  

There is a concern within some Jamaican communities that the local (high) schools are not always worthy - and while it's true that many struggle financially to keep up with the larger cities - there is a major push for technology (tablets), funded programs, and clean water to reach even the most remote of communities! 

Truth be told, as many struggles as the Bigwoods Primary School students and teachers endure - they have still managed to exceed the national averages in every subject!! These incredible teachers are the true embodiment of what it means to be an educator! 

The accolades and awards portion of the ceremony followed and was lengthy in recognitions. Awards varied from attendance to grade performance and sports achievements. I was very surprised in the midst of the award presentations to be called up and acknowledged for my time with the children and it was with heartfelt thanks that I accepted their gratitude. 

We began our ceremonies around 10am and just after 3pm the graduates took their final march back up the aisle to celebrate and embrace with their families and friends. 

 Worn out from the ceremony, a younger sibling takes a nap!

Worn out from the ceremony, a younger sibling takes a nap!

While my time at Bigwoods Primary School has been short my impressions are well rounded. The teachers and children in this community play hard, learn intensely, and love fiercely. I leave here a better person for having met each and every one of them. 

 

I don't know what their futures hold, but I know God holds this community in high regard and His blessings are sure to continue. Many of you contributed to make my journey possible and I'm forever grateful for it. I hope I have been able to paint a clear image of my experiences and maybe in some small way encourage you (in your own way) to find a way to help. 

Every child needs love, support, good nutrition, and education, it is up to us as citizens to do our part. 

Thank you for joining me, supporting me, and loving me so that I could be strong for these amazing Bigwoods Primary students! 

Tomorrow I drive back to Kingston to catch a 4am flight back Saturday, July 4th. I'll wish you all now, a happy 4th of July!

 Reading "Where the Sidewalk Ends", one of Kim's gifts to the students.

Reading "Where the Sidewalk Ends", one of Kim's gifts to the students.



Bigwoods, Week 2, Day 8

The water was an exceptional shade of turquoise as I wound my way back from Bigwoods this afternoon. It may appear inviting but on this side of the island, it's rather dangerous to swim.

 Kim with the students

Kim with the students

Today was the final day of testing for the fourth graders and we broke at noon. Ms. Wiggins and Ms. Berlin headed out even earlier in preparation for tomorrow: Graduation Day!

Outside of the fourth graders, only 16 out of the remaining 52 students attended the lasting two days.

We made good progress in our book, making it all the way to chapter 15 before I finally needed a rest from reading.

It looks like I may need to find a hard copy of the book and send it down in the hopes that one of the other ladies will reveal the mystery: is it a boy or a girl!?

 Island life!

Island life!


Bigwoods, week 2

It's Monday, June 29 and attendance is suffering this week, in part due to it being the last week before summer break and in part because of the breakfast & lunch situation. Ms. Wiggins is out today, leaving Ms. Berlin with the fourth graders and me with everyone else.

After morning scripture and devotions, I worked with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd levels and the few curious 5th and 6th on a fox drawing.

 Drawing a fox!

Drawing a fox!

 More fox drawing...

More fox drawing...

Before lunch, we tried settling back into our book for a read aloud. I'm still plucking away at attempting to finish "Sliver of Sun" - it requires me to put on a heavy southern accent which amuses them. We've made it to chapter 7 - we'll see if we make it through all 19 before Wednesday.
Considering they'll probably leave around 1:30 the next two days as well, it's hard to determine. But they're interested!!

Tomorrow the 4th graders begin their exams. Send them great luck and some good juju for good measure.

Bigwoods: Days 4 & 5

It's been a week now that I've been with the students of Bigwoods Primary and each day I grow more and more attached. Truth be told, I didn't want to fall in love. Falling in love creates attachment and I wasn't sure I was prepared for the magnitude of what that might actually mean in my heart.

 Kim with the students

Kim with the students

Every day I'm struck by how much these students accomplish with so little. How they can cheerfully play with a ball with a hole in it. How they can share a deck of weathered cards and still have a successful game - even if it involves "licks" (smacks on arm if you lose)! They cross barbed-wire fencing to retrieve their soccer balls.

*Speaking of - today I showed the boys (and myself) I still have some skills by scoring the only goal during our game!! And the ball... Well, its being so loved that it's already fraying a bit at the seams.

 The card game

The card game

Not much is being done in the way of academics, except communications practice (letter writing) for the 4th graders in preparation for the GSAT exam next Tuesday & Wednesday.

Yesterday morning I worked with the 1st & 2nd graders on their Me Cards and in the afternoon taught a landscape art lesson to everyone which went over exceptionally well!

Today while I worked with the 5th & 6th graders on their cards, the remaining students (except 4th) colored in their unfinished projects. I think there was some real shock and awe in what they themselves were able to accomplish!

 Coloring Project

Coloring Project

 

At 1pm we dismissed and I drove some of the children home.

It's amazing what they overcome simply to be present. Yesterday was the last day the school would provide lunch ($100 JD) which may have added to the lack of attendance today.

Looking forward to some relaxation and good food this weekend as I gear up for my final week with these incredible children! They're already asking when I'm coming back!! ❤️

Welcoming Kim Heiter!

We're excited to announce that we'll be kicking off our blog with guest blogger Kim Heiter. Kim is an Elementary school teacher based in Jersey CIty, NJ, who will be travelling to Jamaica next month to work for two weeks with the students of Bigwoods Primary School. After working hard all year, Kim is giving up the first two weeks of her summer vacation to work, unpaid, at Bigwoods, and we are so grateful to her. Kim is also raising money to cover the cost of her accomodation and a very necessary car rental. If you can help her out, please check out her page at GoFundMe; http://www.gofundme.com/kim_jamaicaproject

Bigwoods Primary currently has three teachers, including the principal, to teach six grades of school. When asked if he could use another teacher for June, Mr. Mitchell, the principal, described himself as 'elated' at the idea of receiving some much-needed help.

As well as teaching, tutoring and conducting extra-curricular activities, Kim will be blogging her adventures both in and out of school, right here at The Jamaica Project. We can't wait to see how she gets on!