Journal Entry for May 17th
Today, it was early to rise to begin our journey. Some of us left the Skidmore campus at 5:30 AM starting our adventure to JFK International Airport and we met the rest of our traveling companions at the airport. We made our way checking in, baggage check and we were off. The trip over the Atlantic was a very long nonstop flight, 14 hours.
Journal Entry for May 18th
May 17th and 18th melted together. We probably got a maximum of 4 hours of sleep on the plane. After watching 3 or 4 movies and having 2 airplane meals we landed at 8:15AM in South Africa. In the airport we exchanged our money for rand; our American money will go far here. (One American dollar is about 8.5 rand.)
Rina Prenzler, our tour host and founder of the Edendale School, picked us up, along with all of our luggage at the airport. We stuffed the bus with our luggage stacking it and piling it up in the center row of the bus once the underneath was full. We had a large amount of luggage including the many quilts and teaching tools needed.
We then traveled to the Edendale School grounds, more specifically to the hostel which is where we will stay when we are in Pretoria. Soon after we went to a shopping mall to pick up a few supplies. Basic things are very inexpensive here – a liter size bottle of water cost less then a dollar.
In the evening, we went to Lani’s home for a braai, which is a South African barbeque. Lani is Rina Prenzler’s daughter. They cooked sausage on an open fire in their beautiful backyard. Sitting around the campfire, in a half asleep daze, we learned more about Edendale, and met some of the administrators of the school and surrounding organizations.
On the ride to Lani’s, we passed by one of South Africa’s townships called Mamelodi. Driving by Mamelodi we saw three boys playing. There were a great many of these simple homes. The contrast between wealthy and poor homes as we drove to Lani’s was dramatic.
It felt great to shower and sleep at the end of the day.
Journal Entry for May 19th
Today we woke up early and arrived at 7:30 AM for our first day at the Edendale School! We attended a morning assembly where the students sang their school song and other prayers. They all have beautiful voices. We split up into our teaching groups and went to our assigned classrooms where we met our cooperating teachers and students. Some of us had the opportunity to start teaching the lessons and activities we planned. After school, we headed to the Voortrekker Monument, which is dedicated to the Afrikaner settlers of South Africa. Inside are beautifully carved friezes depicting the interactions between many diverse groups. We climbed the tall circular staircase to the top of the monument where we had a great view of Pretoria. (see Voortrekker link for photos) Afterwards, we visited some government buildings and a small flea market giving us a taste of some local community shopping.
In the evening, we ate dinner at the Edendale hostel. The hostel holds 35 students and functions as the dorm/mess hall, like a boarding school. Families pay for the school to house and feed students on campus.
After diner the students entertained us with rap music and dance with an expectation for us to participate. It was great to interact with students outside of the classroom, and learn about their lives after school hours.
Journal Entry for May 20th
Today was a wonderful day at the Edendale School! We started the day at 7:15am when we took a bus with the children to the primary school. Most of the classes spent the morning practicing dances and songs for a concert they will be doing soon, organized by music students of the University of Pretoria. The university students traveled to Edendale to assist in preparing the children for the show. The kids loved all of the singing and movement and had incredible rhythm and enthusiasm. When not rehearsing their performances, the students resumed their normal class routines. We continued our observations and lessons throughout grades RR-4.
We were greeted with quite a surprise today as well! While most of us were all around the school, we heard the 3rd and 4th grade students making quite a commotion! It turned out that there was a very large puff adder snake in the “velt,” or brush area between the classrooms. Puff adders are highly poisonous snakes and due to their poisonous nature, the staff was forced to remove the snake and dispose of it. It was quite a sight, especially to those of us who had not seen a poisonous snake up close before! But, not to worry everyone came out safe and sound.These can be daily occurrences in rural South Africa.
In the afternoon, we went to the orphanage and hostel to help out with homework, play with the children, and had dinner. One of the best parts of the day was after dinner. All of the Skidmore students and hostile students formed a large dance party with a whole group rendition of the dance “Jump On It." The smiles were priceless. Our tired legs and reminded us of a day and night well spent. Then we showered, wrote in our journals, and went to sleep.
Journal Entry for May 21st
It was our third day at Edendale and with each passing hour all us students began to feel more at home. We started our school day with a brief assembly where we all prayed, sang, and discussed the new play ground restrictions due to the Puff Adder sighting yesterday.
Because our group, specifically focusing on the people and landscape of South Africa, had not had a chance to teach our material until today, we were all eager and slightly nervous to get started. In two class periods, Taylor and Sarah taught our grade 2 class not only about what a landscape is, but the many different kinds of landscape that exists, as well. After reading books that spoke about both rural and city landscapes, each child had a chance to paint and/or draw their own urban and city landscape. The paintings that the children made were vibrant, colorful, and imaginative. When making the rural landscape, children painted the mountains, trees, and animals that surrounded their school. When it came to the cityscape, children drew high buildings with lots of windows, cars, streets, and even included their friends or the main character from one of the books Sarah had read earlier. One girl had told us that she had made the apartment building for the queen and king, while another young boy colored each of his windows a different color, creating a brilliantly colored skyscraper. We believed by the end of our lesson, each student felt proud and accomplished. It was insightful to see how these children took a new concept like landscapes and translated their interpretations of it onto paper. We look forward to our next lessons on all the different kinds of people in South Africa and the kinds of houses they live in.
Check the Lesedi link to read about the rest of our afternoon adventure.
Journal Entry for May 26th
Following an enjoyable weekend at Kruger Park, we were all excited to get back to work at the Edendale School. Tuesday was sports day at Edendale, a day in which three neighboring schools visit the Edendale sports field to compete in games of soccer and netball. The Edendale boys and girls were successful throughout the day. In the afternoon, some Skidmore students and faculty participated in a friendly soccer game against the second graders of Edendale. With solid defense played by Melissa Ross and strong midfield play from Jeremy Herrmann, the Skidmore students were able to edge out a close victory against the very talented Edendale side. John scored the game-winning goal in the 12th minute, ensuring a win for the Skidmore Thoroughbreds.
After we finished sports day at the school, we came back home for a chicken dinner with salad, which Susan had organized at the hostel. When we were finished with dinner we started to work on our story quilts. Everyone was hard at work to complete as much as possible. The group working on landscapes and people recreated children’s drawings of cities in South Africa. They received some help from some children in the hostel on the structure of several buildings. This help was appreciated, and added to the design of the block. It was a very productive day.
Journal Entry for May 27th
Today many of us continued our curriculum work in our classrooms at Edendale and the weather was gorgeous again! At around 3:00 we headed over to the high school, where we distributed some of the quilts we made for the children who live in foster care and some of the staff. We also handed out some much-needed toys and school supplies. It was quite emotional. Watching the children wrap these new quilts around themselves was truly amazing. The fact that they were all so appreciative of something as simple as a blanket gave us all a lot of perspective in terms of what we have and take for granted, as well as, what we can give and how we can make a difference.
One senior girl sang us a thank you song and it gave us chills and made many of us teary-eyed. Her voice was absolutely gorgeous!
After the gathering, we spent time with the children around the campus and some people interviewed staff members. We saw another gorgeous sunset in front of the Edendale house. It’s truly remarkable to see children laughing and playing in front of such a beautiful African sunset.
Later we had dinner again with the children at the hostel and had a huge tickle fight! Eric and Taylor had a pony race with children on their backs. We all definitely got our work outs for the night
Journal Entry for March 28th
Today was our last full day in the Edendale classrooms. Once again we arrived a little before eight in the morning and began our preparation for the day. In our grade four class, we planned out a short assignment that had our students first drawing a map of their world. This included the most important locations in their lives such as their homes, school, church and perhaps a few other locations. After they were done drawing their maps we gave the students paper to write a paragraph or two about one of the locations they drew on their map. In this paragraph we asked them to give us some details about what the locations looks like, what they do there, and why it’s important to them. The students were very engaged with this assignment, so it wound up taking up the entire morning.
While we had two of our student teachers working in the classroom with the kids on this project, our other two teachers were hard at work taking some of the fabric squares we had the students design earlier in the week and turning them into a quilt as well as other art work the kids had done. We hung up a picture of our children and us with personal messages on it as a way of saying bye to the kids and so they could remember us. We then played a game with them until it was time for us to leave for POPUP.
Please go to POPUP page for further details of our day.
Journal Entry for May 29, 2009
Today was our last day at the Edendale School. Some of us started out the morning by meeting with a teacher named Anina who works in the Special Needs Learning Unit on the Edendale campus. This is the classroom where many of the students go if they cannot speak English or if they need extra academic support. Anina talked about her philosophy on special education, which was really interesting to many of us with interests to work in an educational environment someday. Later in the morning, we went to the high school to observe a dance rehearsal for an upcoming senior competition. The students are so talented! We were given the chance to join in and many of us did. It was both challenging and fun to learn some new dances.
After the dance session with the high school students, we went to the primary school for our last day with our kids. Grade’s 1,2, and 3 performed a concert, which included dancing and singing with extensive props. Judges from local organizations and schools were in the audience to critique the performances. Students from Pretoria University’s Theater Department organized and directed the show. The kids were so cute and it was such a rewarding day. The teachers at Edendale prepared a special lunch for us to enjoy outdoors. Everyone shared their appreciation for the wonderful experience it provided to students, staff and administration. We all had a lot of trouble saying goodbye to our new friends. The kids, and faculty, were so appreciative of the time we spent at Edendale. We were also grateful to have met these children and teachers who will be in our hearts forever. This experience will have an impact on each of us for years to come. We are already brainstorming ways to stay involved.