Learning Beyond the Lesson: Wheelock Student’s Nicaragua Service Experience

Part 2 of a series of blog posts about Wheelock’s Nicaragua service trip. Read the full series

Outreach 360 Staff and Wheelock Service Team, with the children of the village.

A majority of our Wheelock group of 9 students came with little to no expectations of what the experience would be like in Jinotega, Nicaragua. In our latest debriefing together, the group expressed that everything went beyond their expectations: the children and their willingness to learn, the Outreach 360 staff and their seamless organizational skills, and how beautiful, simple, and yet comfortable and welcoming our accommodations and host family have been.

After four days of teaching over 40 children English (2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon each day), we felt more confident and successful and anticipate a second week, although in a new teaching location in the center of the city. In groups of twos and threes, we instructed in rotating stations to teach English. Stations included: English, Art, Extracurricular and Review.

The themes of English instruction for this one-week learning camp were items and rooms in the house. Before meeting the children on Monday, we considered culturally responsive teaching and how to teach certain concepts in English that may not cross-over into Spanish and in a Nicaraguan home. For example, even though children may not have a traditional idea of a living room from the American perspective, we were reminded by our Nicaraguan staff leader, Andrea, that children learn many concepts via television.

We are learning to be flexible teachers as we set up four stations on the floor of a one-room church. Our main resources, besides our creative brains, were paper, crayons, and play doh. There was no computer or printer, and so we created active games such as a snowball fight using crumpled balls of paper that included words and sentences for children to read and act out.

Keeping learning active and engaging was our best strategy to help children understand and use English vocabulary. In our debriefing after this first week of teaching, Corazón said she was reminded that learning can be fun.

Daisy sitting with her students, reading aloud to them.

By our fourth and final day of teaching with this particular group of children, there was a clear level of comfort, respect, and love with these children. Communicating love is one of the 10 Outreach 360 principles and this was exchanged among all of us.

On our last day we saw an impact on the children, as they did not want to leave and held on to us for long hugs. Wheelock student Daisy, who is blind, noticed the most dramatic change in the children over the four days. On the first day, children stood apart from her and asked the other Wheelock students and faculty questions, like, “Can she see? Can she read?” Daisy had books in English Braille with print and was ready and willing to read aloud (as we all read aloud for the first 20 minutes of each learning session), but the children seemed nervous to sit with her. By the end of the week, Daisy had a cluster of 3 or 4 children, some sitting on her lap, to have her read the Braille book aloud. They learned to tap Daisy on the arm to get her attention or before handing her items. They learned to say their name before hugging her. They learned to hand the ball to Daisy when playing Hot Potato. They started asking Daisy questions directly, such as how old she was, was she born blind, did she go to school?

Over just four days we became very attached to these children and we are looking forward to meeting a new group next week at the Outreach 360 Learning Center.