Monday, February 27, 2012

Lessons in the Garden

Our garden is now ready for formal lessons with our students.  In the coming months, the teachers at MDFT will be spending a lot of time transforming their traditional classroom lessons into Project/Challenged Based Learning lessons.
We will not only create the lessons but we plan to write the books that we might need and also build all the learning materials.

This is a very ambitious project but with the end of the school term coming soon.  The teachers will have time to prototype some lessons but then spend the months of April and May learning new teaching methods as well as understanding the freedoms and possibilities of creating ones own customized classroom tools

One of the themes that we hope to develop and study next term is that of collaboration and team work.  Children that grow up in poor or needy communities learn quickly to fend for themselves.  Many times, the actions of providing for one's survival become increasingly self-centered and leave very little room for kids to think about actions that benefit their environments, their neighborhoods and communities as a whole.

Actions like throwing trash in the streets and not bothering with creating a beautiful space for themselves are common scenes in the environment our children come from.  People rarely work to benefit the group but are often focused in themselves and their immediate families.

We hope that our students begin to understand the power of working collectively and for a common good.   By first teaching them about the importance of their own roles in the Flood Garden, we hope that they will understand how each child's role is important to the group and to the goal.

students visiting the rabbit house s
The clean up crew making sure our gardens are clean and beautiful
MDFT's students are an important part of the future of Tanzania.  During their time with us, we hope to give them the tools they will need to improve their lives in the future.

Friday, February 24, 2012

In the Flood Garden on Inauguration Day

This was a very special day indeed.  Not only was it a wonderful way to show our community how beautiful our Flood Garden has become but it was also Uncle TJ's birthday.  So we celebrated with songs, speeches, great food and a wonderful tour of the Flood Gardens.

THE GREAT REVEAL!! Head Master David Gido was very proud to reveal the Flood Garden to today's visitors

Our duck house is painted and all ready to house our new tenants. The fish pond looks great and soon the plants we planted around it  will really make it look like a real pond.  We need to fence the animal areas before we can move in the ducks and the tilapia 

WE HAVE RABBITS NOW!! They have become very fat and soon we hope to have babies and learn all sorts of lessons from them.  We also have Guinea Pigs and one of them has had babies.  We will devote more posts on just our animals as they become part of the classroom lessons.

This is one of our rabbits behind their little chicken wire doors.  The rabbits do not have names yet.  Maybe we will have a contest with the children to see what names win!!

Auntie Robyn loved the rabbits

The Maasai house will not only allow us to study Tanzanian history and culture but also makes a very handsome kitchen!  I especially like the Maasai warrior drawings on the walls of the house and the painted tires!

Salum, a garden volunteer and friends of David, David himself, Uncle TJ and Mr. Mwasaga, MDFT's new advocate

Inside our Maasai House Kitchen.  It is very spacious and unbelievably sturdy.  It is also provides an unexpected shelter from the intense Tanzanian heat.  Many, many meals will be cooked here from now on.

With just a few bed sheets and blue tarps, David Gido and the MDFT teachers transformed this once garbage dumb into a wonderful banquet space.  It looks good enough for a wedding reception!!

Flowers are always beautiful and today they added a wonderful elegance for our inauguration banquet

Our greens are looking great considering how hot and dry it is during the Tanzanian dry season.  In fact, our flat leaf veggies are the only ones thriving in the intense heat.  We have learned an important lesson in seasonal planting, even when we think it is not too hot for humans!

Mr Mwasaga and TJ were kind enough to speak to the group on this important day.  Mr. Mwasaga is a member of our community who has come to our aid and advocates for MDFT whenever petty local officials come around looking for excuses to fine the school. He told us how important the Flood Garden has become for community and how it is important to invest in the youth.  Mr. Mwasaga is a retired park ranger and use to work in the Safari tourism scene.  He is very familiar with the written and unwritten Tanzanian history and geography and hearing him speak really reminds us of the importance of the elder generation in the lives of our children.  We hope to use his wisdom and guidance in our attempts to recreate traditional culture for our kids.

TJ travels from school to school in the state of Michigan challenging students to play their part and pick up the slack in the economy through service and volunteering.  Today he challenged everyone in the audience to consider their roles in the growth of the children at MDFT. he reminded everyone that each one of us is like a drop of rain, we have a purpose and thus must fulfill that purpose.  By ourselves we fulfill a purpose but together we can start a flood.

We would like nothing else than to flood Arusha with Flood Garden schools.  Since December, when the first seeds were planted in the ground, we have already witnessed the change in our students, the growth in our teachers and a sense of wonder and hope in our community.  People stop by just to hang out and many have a lot of questions.  Soon, we hope to plant flowers, fruits and veggies throughout our neighborhood.  In a few years, we hope that our entire village looks like our flood garden; a busy but clean urban environment with tranquil, beautiful and bountiful garden spaces.

In the kitchen getting food

February 17th, A Very Joyful Day

Here are some highlights of this special day:

The wonder in our child lost in song makes us understand how important it is to preserve their sense of discovery.  

Uncle TJ showed the children videos of themselves on his iPad!  They went NUTS!! These children seldom , if ever, see themselves on film or photos so this was a real treat.

We are no where near being able to afford technologies such as interactive tablets but watching the children watch themselves on the iPad was truly amazing.  We currently cannot afford electricity for the school so this dream will have to wait a while.
Uncle Rich recorded video of the children too!

Auntie Joyce also showed the children the wonders of her interactive tablet.  Just look at them!!!
Auntie Joyce and Auntie Robyn signing our guest book during their visit

A Very Special Day!!

Uncle TJ came to spend his birthday with us at MDFT today !! He is our favorite uncle, the founder of New World Flood and the inspiration behind the name of our garden "Flood Garden".  Uncle TJ is a former American Football star and the supporters of many social causes in the USA and so it it an honor and an inspiration every time he comes.
Uncle TJ brought us lots of sweets!!!

He is our biggest fan and a great supporter of MDFT
He came with lots a sweets and a simple message:  Everyone is a drop of rain and it only takes one drop of rain to begin a flood.
At MDFT, we will be raising children who understand Uncle TJ's philosophy about playing one's role in life. The children at MDFT have a big role to play in the future transformation of Tanzania.

First the children sang welcome songs led by teacher Jackie, teacher Agnes and teacher Nixon.  Then after our guests signed our guest book, they were treated to classroom demonstrations in the baby class (our Seeds), the middle class (our Sprouts) and older class (our New Stems).  They were great!! They more songs and had a blast playing with Uncle TJ's videos on his iPad.
the older children singing welcome songs!!

Then Uncle TJ and his team were taken to see our Flood Garden. We are very very proud of our garden.  David Gido, the head master and his wonderful team of teachers and helpers covered the garden so that we could have a GREAT REVEAL!!.  Everyone was shocked and touched at how beautiful our garden looks.  It is pretty enough to perform weddings in!!!

The Flood Garden wrapped up in bed sheets and ready for the big REVEAL!!!

The MDFT staff served a wonderful buffet of rice and traditional beef stew accompanied by vegetables from the garden and fruits.  The food was delicious!!

Inside our Maasai house  kitchen, the helpers served a wonderful meal
The cucumbers were grown in our Flood Garden and went well with the other fruits and veggies

What a great innauguration day Feb. 17th turned out to be!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

January Updates

This is the smallest pond.  We hope to house our Tilapia fry 

You can see our MDFT Primary School building in the background.   Our front yard has has been transformed!!

Our painted hen house is all ready for new tenants
A view of the entrance to our Flood Garden.  The Maasai house on the left will serve as our kitchen so we can have wonderful meals in the garden. 
Our duck house and pond are all ready.  As soon as we can afford to fence the animal area, we will begin to bring in the first of our animals.

This is another view from the animal homes

Friday, February 3, 2012

Successes and Failures...

So a lot of our veggies are really doing well but we have also experienced some little failures.
Our proud cucumbers

For example, we planted some cucumbers but many seedlings did not make it.  You can see in this picture that we have a couple of cucumber plants climbing poles.  Those are the ones that did pretty well and we are so excited to see really fat cucumbers growing right in our front yard!!

We also had insects that destroyed our cucumber crop and we will have to figure out what to do about that.

We planted more tomatoes in the places where we lost the cucumbers.

To protect the seeds and seedlings from the sun and from the birds, we started using traditional methods.  We have covered them with banana leaves!  Hopefully this will work and we will lose less veggies.

These are all wonderful lessons...especially the failures.  It will be very exciting to watch our children learn like we are learning.  So, we are now writing a small manual to keep track of what we are doing and to record our thought process as we create the garden.  These records may also prove helpful when we expand this garden school concept elsewhere.
Protecting the seedlings with banana leaves

Professional Development

Our teachers are very excited to learn more about gardening.  Cecilia, our local horticulture expert opened her farm to MDFT teachers today. So today is Professional Development day!!

Crossing the Indiana Jones bridge
We call Cecilia's garden Flood Garden 2 (FG2).  This is because we will be doing much of our learning here.  We also hope to send our older students here to learn from Cecilia's ponds, flowers, exotic plants and animals.

The fun way to get to Flood Garden 2, is to cross this scary Indiana Jones bridge.  There is like a 15 foot drop into the river and when it rains, it cakes with mud and makes crossing this bridge quite interesting. It is all quite beautiful, peaceful...

So, today our teachers braved the bridge to get to Cecilia's farm to learn.

In this beautiful farm, we hope to pick up tips, ideas and tools to help us make our school better.  Cecilia pants ornamental plants and grows exotic fish.

She is Maasai and her farm is part of her Maasai family property.  The Maasai have a long history of farming and we hope to be able to understand Tanzanian history and native practices.
These are gourdes the Maasai carry milk in

Our young teachers spend the day walking through the grounds, learning about the plants and talking about how to apply Cecilia's teachings into our school curriculum.

The plan is for the teachers to create learning stations in Cecilia's farm.  Our older students, as well as visitors, will be able to learn about the plants and the fish by following the directions on the learning stations.

Gold guppies pond

We want to use as much as we can as learning tools. In this small pond, there is a lot of pond science to learn.  We hope our students will do many small experiments!

Learning to chase chickens....hehehe!

Head Teacher Jackie in Cecilia's beautiful gardens
We would love ideas for simple experiments we could include in our learning stations for our 7 year olds to learn.