South Africa Educational Study Program

Journal Entry - One

Greetings from Edendale Primary School! We are now in our third day at Edendale, having safely arrived Monday night in Pretoria. Rina Prenzler, Edendale Head of School, met us at the airport and took us to her home in Silver Lakes for a dinner with our host families. Then it was off to bed after a seventeen hour flight from JFK.

Our first day at Edendale included a lot of jet lag and a warm welcome from Edendale faculty and students, including Edendale's energetic Director of Schools Gustav Gr^pp. The teachers put on a special feast for us in the faculty lounge, the children sang a special welcome at Assembly, and then Skidmore students went off to meet their classes. After school we went off to the Mohau Center, a hospital for 34 children who have been infected by the AIDS virus or who have lost parents because of AIDS. We played with the children during play time in the dormitories where we met six rambunctious boys who jumped from bed to bed and wanted piggy back rides. Others just wanted to be held and hugged. Sadly there were several children who were too weak to get out of bed. It was an emotional experience and reminded us that these are children who want to play and be loved.

Our driver then took us to the Voortrekker Monument which documents the northward expansion of the Dutch settlers in the1800s and their eventual clash with the Zulu. This monument stands on a high hill and is surrounded by a sculpted wall of wagons. Many of our students made the comparison to Westward Expansion in US history and the displacement of Native Americans. Powerful connections.

We ended day one on a hill above Pretoria at the Union Buildings where we had our first experience at an outdoor flea market.

Day two was spent on Edendale's campus where Skidmore students hit the ground running. Many began by conducting literacy interviews and surveys on the reading habits and reading interests of the elementary students. Throughout the day Skidmore students could be found clustered with Edendale students under trees, on the steps, sitting at picnic tables, and gathered in classrooms. Susan and Karen documented these interactions and were impressed with the depth of many of the individual responses. They are both anxious to analyze the data after their return to the States.

To give you some of the day's teaching highlights.....

Rachel and Becca taught a dynamic lesson with first grade children using Lois Ehlert's IN MY WORLD. When Susan walked in, the children were gathered on the floor creating a gigantic chart of things in their world, including found objects. Magnificent oral language and art!

Steve and Alli invited fifth graders to write and draw about their favorite hero. Many children chose to write about Nelson Mandela and how he epitomizes their vision of what a hero is. They were so intent that many ended up writing for two class periods. When next they meet, Steve and Alli will read Floyd Cooper's beautifully illustrated picture book biography of Nelson Mandela's life as a child.

Suzy Burke, Skidmore alum and former traveler to South Africa with Karen and Susan, had her fifth grade children from Thorpe Elementary School in Danvers, MA, write and illustrate an "All About Me" book. Suzy shared this with a group of fifth grade children who have now begun work on their own "All About Me" book.

This gives you a taste of the exciting teaching that our students are doing. The connection between Skidmore and Edendale students is electric! Warm, energetic, playful, and intense. Strong literature, good conversations, journal writing and art.

Today is sports day at Edendale! Neighboring schools are coming for soccer matches and netball. Edendale students challenged Skidmore students to a soccer match. Our students beat the fourth graders, but tied with the fifth and sixth graders!

Tomorrow, Friday, we are off to Kruger National Park where we will sleep on platform tents on the Lower Sabie and go on a night ride to see the local animals. More about those adventures next week. We will be out of touch for a few days and will return to Edendale on Tuesday morning. Don't worry if you don't hear from us. We are in good hands with Rina and our Kruger guide and driver. Excitement is high and every one is anxious to go on safari!!!