Welcome to the twelfth edition of Sunshine Laos Newsletter. In this newsletter we would like to share the latest happenings in our Sunshine School community. Please feel free to send us your comments and suggestions.
NEWS FROM SUNSHINE SCHOOL VIENTIANE CAMPUS
September - November, 2012
The new school term opened with a good turn out on Septebmer 3, 2012. In August we managed to place a billboard ad on a busy corner in downtown Vientiane, right near the famous Morning Market. Competition is tough these days with many new schools opening up and government incentives to state schools, but Sunshine is still going strong.
TEACHERS' DAY PROGRAM
October saw our regular Teachers' Day celebration. M1 and M2 students stole the show with a lively presentation of Irish songs (Westlife's 'My Love' and the 'ol' Molly Malone') and an Irish jig.
M3 YOUTH CAMP
The most exciting event of the season was M3's three day youth camp at our farm in Veuntaen Village.
24 students and 10 staff and volunteers, led by Joseph (Giuseppe) from the Brighten Foundation (www.brightenfoundation.org), participated in the program.
For two nights and three days we all enjoyed, and endured, sleeping under mosquito nets in our farm huts, rising early morning with yoga, meditation and sports before breakfast, and eating vegetarian meals ('Yuk!' said the students) followed by a desperate gobbling up of the more savory 'cup noodles' smuggled in from home. The days were a non-stop progression of games and thought-provoking group activities for honing our coordination, cooperation, conflict resolution and life enjoyment skills.
The site, facilitators and 'benefits of the camp'
Group games, yoga and outdoor fun
This year the school organised the class field trips for the cooler season. M1, M2, M4 & P5 had a memorable morning at Wattay Airport where they not only listened to interesting descriptions about the various activities that make an airport run, but were also offered hands-on experience of hi-tech airport equipment.
Volunteer Richard writes: Learning is more fun beyond the boundaries of the classroom. The field trip was a fantastic experience for the students; they had the opportunity to walk through a grounded aeroplane and experience a ride on a dummy Lao Airlines plane, visit the control tower and the operations room where they were offered hands-on experience of airport technology.
P1 & Kindergarten 3 spent an afternoon at the City Library and enjoyed a story telling session. P4 visited the Lao History Museum, and P2 and P3 visited COPE (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) to learn about the work of providing prosthetic limbs to victims of UXO and other accidents in Laos.
PROJECT WORK IN ENGLISH
During this term the M1 & M2 'English project' integrates the students' art, sports, music/dance and technology subjects. For two months the classes focused on an Ireland theme under the guidance of volunteers Pat (Paddy) and Kew, a couple from Ireland/Singapore/England. The Irish immersion included learning to sing Molly Malone, dancing the Irish jig, a crash course in mini-Gaelic football and craft classes producing shamrocks, leprechauns and Celtic crosses. Currently the same classes have changed their project theme to the United Kingdom and activities have included making models of London landmarks and a Loch Ness monster out of recyclable materials.
Making Loch Ness monsters and London Towers
NEWS FROM DONKOI CAMPUS
The intra-district high school football competition was held at our Donkoi field this year with 13 schools participating in the event.
Volunteers have been the life-blood of our project work this term. Starting with Pat and Kew who stayed with us for two months spearheading the high school Ireland project. Jyotirmaya (or Joseph or Guiseppe) came for only a short time but was able to 'wow' the kids with his great repertoire of interactive games.
Pat and Kew write: For both of us one of the highlights of our time here was the three day English Camp spent out at the School Farm. We played, laughed, solved problems, and challenged each other. We also had an introduction to Meditation and Yoga.
We would like to thank the staff of the Sunshine School, especially Saba and Jock for making us so welcome and part of the Team, and also the students for putting up with our lack of Lao.
A Japanese group of five lead by Masato dropped in for only a few days but also left a memorable impression; what they lacked in English speaking skills was more than made up for by the fact that some of them could draw amazing cartoons for the kids.
Next came Paul and Emma from the UK. They both got thrown in at the deep end on their first day - Paul by being asked to take over the primary and high school sports classes. A daunting task for someone not used to teaching and also having the slight disadvantage of metal clips in his leg!! He's great; the kids love him; the sports store has been reorganised and re-equipped and we have a new basketball hoop up that is never free. Emma was left to fend alone in the M4 English class, which she said was a scary experience on the first day; after a month, however, she had become a pro and we will miss her steady input.
Paul writes: Having now been at Sunshine School for a month, I can certainly express how beneficial the teaching methods are for the children's development. This, coupled with the fun-loving ideology that is present, results in a very happy environment.
Emma writes: The Lao teachers have been so welcoming and friendly. ‘Think of me as your sister’ I was told on day one; and so I did and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been invited for coffee, for dinner, for avocado shake (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!) and to celebrate several festivals, including setting floral offerings afloat on the Mekong and joining a candlelight procession by the golden stupa.
Not only have I taught grade seven and grade ten students about life in the UK and English language, but also (somewhat more surprisingly!) I have helped them make seasonal cards, build UK landmarks out of recycling and I’ve learned to play Laos playground games.
It’s also been amazing to work with and socialize with the other volunteers. To share ideas about teaching and lesson plans and to learn about their lives and the countries they are from.
Sunshine school is friendly, relaxed and welcoming. The vibe is an international and holistic one and it’s a fantastic place to get involved in Laos life and to meet genuinely warm and enthusiastic people.
Richard, who is a high school science teacher from the Philippines, has been a whizz at helping to guide our teachers in many ways by organising teaching resources, performing teacher observations and offering many suggestions about curriculum development and assessment methods. Hopefully, before he leaves, he will also manage to set up a mini-science lab and write up guidelines for exciting experiments for each of the high school classes. Richard is being helped by our old teacher, Baikham, who is translating the main high school science modules so that our non-Lao-speaking volunteers can incorporate the information into their lessons.
Laureen (Ireland), Carol (US), Sonia (US/Korea) and Kent & Bear (US) have been short term volunteers. Each of them made valuable contributions to our school; they also made new friends and took away many fond memories. Laureen, a youth worker in Ireland, helped starting off the England project and organising lesson plans; she also spent a weekend interacting with the village youth out at the farm. Carol, an experienced teacher from the US, continued on with Laureen's project development. Sonia was in and out but managed very efficiently to organise many of the project files as well as participating in some classes. Kent, an artist, has been the leader of the mural re-painting project which highlights Lao endangered animals. You can see the amazing results in the pictures below. He had help from a handful of high school students as well as Bear and other volunteers. And Bear bravely took on the whole M3 English class alone on the day that Saba was assigned to the airport excursion group!!
Kent & Bear write: In the 8 days we volunteered we were absolutely impressed by the positive attitudes of the students and the great energy of the teachers. It’s obvious that the fellow volunteers and teachers have a heart for their work. Thank you for this opportunity. We learned enough lessons for to fill a lifetime.
Carol writes: It has been a gift in my life to experience teaching in many venues and in many grade levels in the United States. Therefore, I came to the Sunshine School with a very American background. Your school opened my eyes to a new theory of education: one that is positive for the students and the teachers. As a parent of 4, I know how hectic it is to get kids ready and on time for school; everyone arriving a little stressed. Starting the day with meditation, bringing the students' focus inward, should be the first part of any curriculum. Giving the teachers ample time for lesson preparation changes the environment entirely. The teachers can spend their evenings and weekends with their families instead of grading papers and making lesson plans (as is so typical in the US). Because of this, Sunshine School teachers arrive with a patience and calm often missed in the US. Having the teachers in a common room for lesson plans encourages cooperation and the sharing of ideas. Teachers typically have a desk in their classroom and stay there most of the day in our classrooms. Incorporating volunteers from around the globe is a REAL leap of faith, yet you seem to know where each person can best be utilized and by opening this door! What a variety of 'English' the students hear! The English language is rich in dialects from different countries and even within a country. Sunshine students experience this rich variety while exploring the world's cultures through volunteers from around the globe.
From the top left: Pat, Richard, Emma, Paul, Carol (with Jock and Saba and coconut coffee), Kent & Bear, Kew
FARM DEVELOPMENT AND VEUNTAEN CAMPUS NEWS
Veuntaen youth joined in M3 youth camp benefiting from 3 days of group activities.
The 'island' slopes and half of the rice field have been planted with 'wai nyeh', an edible relative of the rattan plant family which is a perenial flood reisistant plant with good soil holding qualities to help with erosion prevention.
Below are pictures from a volunteer excursion (Laureen, Emma, Glen, Bashanti and their son Lucas) to the farm – twilight swimming, mud packs, boat trips and bicycle rides to the Buddha Foot Print Temple, the latter of which left us covered head to toe in red road dust.