This week marked the beginning of our final week at school, which was a thought that made us all very emotional. Monday’s Grade 4 lesson was all themed around space, so we tried to make the lesson as creative and interactive as we could-we knew that the kids enjoyed the last lesson where we had done this. We showed them some different facts about space and then asked them questions about these facts and they ran to the table which had the correct answer on. Despite not quite understanding what they were supposed to do on the first one (which resulted in them sitting down in their usual places!) they got the hang of it by the second question and loved running around the room. We used the interactive whiteboard for this lesson and used a PowerPoint with the facts on, which the kids all found extremely exciting and this incorporation of technology also served to show the teachers how they can utilise this new and exciting equipment. Continuing on with our space theme, we have given the teacher some lesson sheets that we didn’t get the chance to use and she seemed thrilled at the idea of being able to teach a more engaging lesson in the future. We’re hoping that our ways of making the lessons interactive and creative for the kids will be something that the teachers carry on doing once we have left, and seeing the teachers’ enthusiasm about our lessons is giving us hope that they will carry on what we have started.
In grade 6, the order of the day was ‘Global Warming,’ myself and Phil relishing at a science lesson (finally). As such, we set out trying to make the lesson as interesting and as engaging as possible. Considering the subject matter, this was a greater task than first imagined. I set out drawing a rather haphazard Earth and atmosphere, cute drawings of penguins by Caitlin followed and colouring sheets were created. Surprisingly, no matter the age of the children, the prospect of colouring in would never fail to entice. However, there were a few unexpected challenges, such as explaining the greenhouse effect when the idea of a greenhouse itself was a foreign concept. Though, after a considerable amount of trial and error, we were able to liken the theories to things they knew and gradually they began to understand ‘the Earth heating up is bad’ ideology.
On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to go hot air ballooning in the Drakensberg mountain; I however was reluctant to go, but eventually gave in after much persuasion and even though we had to wake up at 5 in the morning (freezing cold) we were all still excited and raring to go. We were greeted by the pilot and his team with cups of tea and biscuits around a fire while they inflated the balloon. After a couple of minutes, we were ready to go, I was amazed by how tiny we all were in comparison to the massive balloon…I guess that’s how Daisy feels every day…just kidding J. It was quite cool to see how quickly we managed to get up into the air as Raymond and the rest of the team became ant-like. As we kept escalating above the trees, the sun hit us as it was rising with the Drakensberg Mountains in the background. As we climbed higher, I tried to relax and enjoy the ride but I couldn’t help but think that there’s nothing more comforting than a thin plank of wood standing between me and about 1000 feet to the ground, and it didn’t help that the sound of the booming fire from the fuel lever made me jump every time the pilot pressed it. Having said that, the view was very nice with some snow still sitting on the mountain tops and in no time at all, we were ready to land back on the ground. The funniest moment of this whole outing would probably have to be when we were all climbing out of the basket and Kathryn (one of the lightest) was the last one to exit, instead of the basket staying on the ground like for the rest of us, it decided that it wanted to drift back up into the air and all we could see was Kathryn’s head perched on the side very confused, and like the responsible people we are, we helped Kathryn by laughing our heads off. To top it all off, we were met back at the ballooning site with a cooked breakfast overlooking the mountains and river.
On Thursday we were invited to attend a primary school in Bergville to show the difference in the standard of education. It was lovely to see, as the grade 1 class I was in were taught in English as though it were their mother tongue and Zulu as though it was an additional language. The kids were a lot more advanced in both English and maths and, may I add, more well behaved! We spent the morning there and thoroughly enjoyed shadowing the teachers of our classes. In my class the teacher, Monique, asked me to sit with a little boy to help with his mathematical skills. (I have no idea how to spell his name!). We used his colouring pencils to represent the number physically to help him take away a smaller number from a bigger number. He was very cute and was very happy when his hard work earned him a sticker and a potential lollypop at the end of the week. There was a break from 10-10.30 where we were able to get a lovely cup of tea and play with the kids until their Zulu lesson. Unfortunately I’m not quite fluent in Zulu yet so I had 45 minutes to kill and decided to spend this time reading in the sun with another cup of tea.
We couldn’t quite comprehend that our last day at the school had finally arrived. However, despite the variety of emotions felt, we all agreed that it was crucial to make today memorable for all the right reasons. We went into the school with smiles on our faces and with exciting lesson plans in our bags. Although all the kids are balls of energy, we thought it would be a real treat to buy lollypops for the entire school-this involved a purchase of 250 lollies, an amusing feat in itself, but the sheer excitement on their faces was 100% worth it. In Grade 1, we printed off a stencil of the Arden Academy logo and allowed the class to colour it in-always a creative task. We ended up with some very colourful emblems, some so inventive that I think Mr Murphy should consider modernising the current badge.
Additionally, we decided to wear our South Africa t-shirts so that the children could sign their names on them in farewell; a prospect which proved greatly exciting to all grades. Children crowded around us all, desperate for a sharpie, some drawing wonderful pictures on us and others leaving thoughtful messages. More often than not, children scribbled on us more than once!
Break times were of course spent with the children. We all thoroughly enjoyed racing around after them, sitting on the climbing frame, monitoring them on the trampolines and venturing onto the monkey bars. Many a photo was taken today, as we began to say our emotional goodbyes.
However, for me, the highlight of the day was the beautiful farewell ceremony organised for us by staff and student alike. It involved performances and speeches from each grade, truly demonstrating the extent of our influence among each year group and even individuals. The staff were kind enough to give us gifts as appreciation of the work we have done for the school and also to represent the importance of female empowerment, the historic reason for the public holiday fast approaching on Tuesday. As a group of six girls, the message of the gifts resonated and also complimented our educational endeavours in the school. We all received individual beaded South African hairbands and t-shirts, incredibly generous tokens which we didn’t expect but all greatly appreciate.
We have all absolutely loved my time at the school. Not only have we learnt more about ourselves and the type of people we’d like to be, but we’ve also thoroughly enjoyed bonding with all of the children, who are just such amazing and happy individuals. You never really understand how fortunate you are until you immerse yourself in a completely foreign situation, which all six of us have done by embarking on this trip. I cannot thank the school enough for this fantastic opportunity and I really hope that we have left the kids with lasting memories, but also the belief that with education, they really can do everything they dream of.