As part of the tourism training module that I have been designing over the course of this summer, I have been working to pull together lesson plans, as I have mentioned in previous entries. Aside from the usual challenges associated with designing lessons, namely my lack of experience working in education, I have met with some other issues as I considered my audience: street children.
I scoured the web recently for sample group activities to do with children to teach them about cooperation and team building. I found numerous websites offering suggestions, but disappointingly, few that I could use. Most of the websites were American or European, and I was amazed at the assumptions underlying these sample activities.
They assumed classrooms were well equipped with various school supplies: tape, scissors, cardboard, string, tables, desks, and chairs. Many activities called for building some sort of contraption or using materials to simulate situations or events. I skimmed right by these as Butterflies contact points lack an abundance of such things. Many lessons take place outside, under trees, or in night shelters. Butterflies has paper, crayons, pencils, and other things, but to use a large amount on one activity seems wasteful.
Another issue I encountered was the content of these activities. Some asked children to pretend to be criminals in jail, police officers, or disabled. I was stunned to realize that so many of these activities were inappropriate for children who were sensitive to all of these things: police brutality, abuse, poverty, and drug addiction. While many children in a classroom in the West may be able to play such roles — recognizing it is only make-believe, or at least feel safe and protected — children here live these realities every day, and the line between the real and the imagined is blurred.
In the end, I managed to find some suitable activities for the children. While these children have grown up too fast and are all too aware of the realities of their lives, they are still only kids, and still deserve a world of make-believe just as much as kids in formal schools. I found activities about aliens, exploring, and travel, that are appropriate in any context. I know Butterflies strives to provide some semblance of a childhood to these children, and having the freedom to imagine is an important part of that.
Posted By Donna Laveriere (India)
Posted Jul 25th, 2006