Early Education Project

EARLY EDUCATION  PROJECT UPDATE
This section provides the latest information about the status of the Early Education Project. For a complete description of the Project, its inception, the reasons for the Project, and who is involved, please scroll down to “The Early Education Project”.  The Project has also developed additional initiatives: the Cross Cultural Exchange Project, the International Book Buddies Project and the Legos Project.  

SISTER CITIES ESSEX HAITI RECIPIENT OF SCI 2014 INNOVATION AWARD!!

SCI Innovation Award to Sister Cities Essex Haiti

SCI Innovation Award to Sister Cities Essex Haiti

Early education teacher using new methods

Early education teacher using new methods

Sister Cities International selected Sister Cities Essex Haiti as the recipient of their 2014 Innovation Award in Youth & Education for a population of less than 100,000!!!  The award was given for SCEH’s Early Education Project. SCI established the Annual Awards Program in 1962 to bring international recognition to “exceptional sister city programs”.   We are extremely grateful to have received this award.    To learn more about the award, please click here.  

Please click here to see a short film about the Project. Many thanks to Pam Murphy, Director of Technology at Chester, Deep River and Essex Regional School District #4.

Early Education Teacher Training Project Update-March 2014
SCEH EETT workshop March 2014

Early Education students in Deschapelles, Haiti, working with hands on manipulatives for learning

Student double-tasking using both manipulatives and books!

Using newly donated books and a manipulatives workshop was held in March 2014 with 22 children and more than 30 pre-school teachers who had attended the second workshop in August 2013. Because some of the pre-school teachers did not seem as comfortable using the manipulatives and reading to children in the classroom as others, the Deschapelles teachers suggested that Vera Dowell, Diane Huot and Jenifer Grant should model those skills in a 2-hour “camp” for 3,4,5,6 year-olds in a school setting.

Using the maniputalives

Using the manipulatives

 

We welcomed the children letting them choose manipulatives and books already set out on tables. After a period of “discovery,” we did other activities and then focused on using materials, especially Unifix cubes and “found materials” for math exercises, such as counting and simple addition, We ended each 2-hour session by reading to the children in French or Kreyol. The Haitian teachers, as observers, were encouraged to take note of different children, how they adapted, and how they became more involved in the use of the materials. After the two hour “camp” session we met with the teachers to discuss the teachers’ observations as well as other relevant academic matters.

Teacher working with the students using manipulatives and "found" objects

Students using unifix cubes to understand addition and subtraction

As the week progressed, we integrated the teachers in “morning meeting” as well as outdoor or recess activities with the children. We reiterated our goals several times: that children should have the opportunity to explore appropriate hands-on materials of their choice upon arrival at school; that hands-on materials are excellent to use for teaching of math and other concepts at lesson time; that children can take responsibility for putting the materials into separate containers and putting them away; and the value of reading to children in the classroom.

Using unifix cubes in the classroom

Using unifix cubes in the classroom

We encouraged the teachers to observe how the children “explored” without adult oversight. We encouraged them to observe a couple of children over a period of a few days to see how they developed their interests and their skills. We modeled and stressed the use of materials, especially unifix cubes and also “found objects” such as rocks, sticks, bottle caps, for mathematics. We are optimistic that all the teachers now have a better degree of comfort in using the materials they have in their classrooms.

 

Using "found" objets to understand the number 5

Using “found” objects to understand the number 5

Early Education Teacher Training Project Update-August 2013
SCEH EETT workshop August 2013.

Vera Dowell, Diane Huot, and Bob Lamothe joined Jenifer Grant for the second phase of the EETT project.  Six of the original students from the April 2012 workshop were comfortable enough with their knowledge and familiarity of what we had presented and what they had integrated into their schools to take responsibility for being the leaders or “formateurs” for the workshop or “formation.”

The trip began at Bradley for Jenifer, Diane and Bob.  We each had two 50 lb bags, four of which were filled with manipulative materials and books, enough for the 10 new schools and the five schools who had participated in the original workshop.

Jean Edrige Cadet, Marie Antoine Joseph, Wisly Demeran, Kettelie Petit-Loute, Odverne Charles and Wednise Beaubrun, leaders of the workshop.

Jean Edrige Cadet, Marie Antoine Joseph, Wisly Demeran, Kettelie Petit-Loute, Odverne Charles and Wednise Beaubrun, leaders of the workshop.

We met with Kettelie Petit-Loute, Odverne Charles, Marie Antoine Joseph, Wisly Demaran, Jean Edridge Cadet, and Wednise Beaubrun on Friday before the week long workshop to work with them to finalze their plan.  After discussion, when they continued to defer to us, and we were all too happy to give out ideas, Vera reminded them that the workshop was in their hands and that they needed to do the planning and we would step away to give them more freedom to plan themselves.  Best idea so far!    By the end of the morning when we regrouped, they had formulated the plan with each person taking responsibility for different aspects, and everyone felt ready to proceed for Monday.

Kettelie was kind enough to hold the workshop again a second time in her school.  She had cleared the room of all vestiges of her materials which are more numerous than any of the other schools, set up tables and enough chairs for the new participants.

As supporters and purveyor of materials and books, we arrived on Monday morning at 7:00 to help set out the materials for the day.  The teachers began to arrive at 8:00 and as in the former workshop, they were unsure of what to do with the puzzles, unifix cubes, and other materials.  Although we encouraged them to “adventure” they were tenuous in their approaches.

US and Haitian teachers reviewing the morning and planning for the next day.

US and Haitian teachers reviewing the morning and planning for the next day.

The formal day began at 9:00, a little later than anticipated as the participants straggled in.  The morning focused on ways to start the day and how to teach the letters to the youngest children.  The morning continued, shifting from having the participants put themselves in the shoes of their students to discussion as adult teachers.  Outdoor and indoor  physical activities actually doing the activities as students would were as good a break for the adults as they are for the children! The workshop also included singing at every opportunity as a teaching tool for almost every subject.  The first day ended with a “histoire” which was a story related by Jean Edridge.

Our goal was to have the formateurs convey to the new group the value of maniuplative materials for learning as well as the value of reading to the children.  We also hoped they would incorporate ways to give the children more independence such as taking their own attendance.  Two of the ways were using craft sticks and wooden clothespins with their names which they picked up on arrival and placed in the appointed spot.  We also hoped that they would convey the value of having materials for the children to explore when they arrived at school until the formal day began.

Planning the day

Planning the day

The formateurs or Haitian leaders, were sandwiched between having their former teachers watching them teach a new group and being responsible, probably for the first time, for teaching fellow teachers new concepts.  They grew in their confidence as the days progressed.  Each day began and ended with a prayer, each time delivered by different person.   Prayer is very much a part of the lives of Haitian people, at meetings, schools, and in their personal lives.

Kettelie leading a song

Kettelie leading a song

Throughout the workshop we were impressed with the wealth and depth of traditional Haitian presentations of material.  Songs for almost every occasion, leaning days of the week, individual letters, etc.   Although we had come the year before with some of the traditional activities used in US schools for physical activities such as “you put your right foot in, you put your right foot out…” they brought out a wealth of Haitian activities that did the same thing.

At a “learning to read” session, one of the formateurs presented a blackbord lesson on what we thought would be familiar to everyone; the joining of a consonant with each vowel to produce different sounds.  We learned later that this particular approach is not widely used or understood, so it was indeed a valuable lesson.

Each day included a story either read or told orally and activities to review the story which ranged from drawing three scenes of different parts of the story, to re-enacting as a play (definitely the favorite).

One learning lesson was conducted outdoors, focusing on the cycle of life of a mango tree, from mango to tree to peeling the mango to find the seed.

Probably the most wonderful and successful activity was Vera’s homework assignment after her class on the value of the use of unifix cubes to explore the number 3.  The teachers were assigned to bring in three of something- they could be things that were similar or different.  It was evident when a large number of participants  presented three leaves, all from a nearby tree, that some had forgotten the homework, but quickly solved the problem.  Each person presented his or her items.  The first couple of presenters stood, showed what they had brought and counted the number.

As the presentations proceeded, some began to say – I have three whatevers – one in one hand, two in the other and saying 1 plus 2 equals 3.  Or – I have three bottle caps – one is green the others are red- 1 pus two equals three. Then each successive person began to adventure…. I have three kenep (fruit) – counting one, two, three.  I give one to “x” and now I have two.  All the combinations of three were presented: 2 +1, 1+2, 1+1+1, 3-1 3-2 and the best was when an elderly man who had been quite reserved much of the workshop stated, “I Have three limes.  I am giving all three to “X” and now I have none.  3-3 = 0.”as he smiled benevolently at the recipient.

Repetition is a key element especially in Haitian learning which is often oral and rote in great part due to lack of materials.  It is often a repetition of addition facts, without any visual aids.  This lesson was both visual and held the attention of each person in the group as well as repetitive as far as the number 3 would allow.  The fact that successive presenters became more imaginative and every student was attentive to each presenter was indeed one of the highlights of our joy in what they were accomplishing with the hope that each of them would return to their classes and use both the visual and individual presentations to see and understand concepts.

Transitions from one period of activity to another is challenging for all culures.  The traditional Haitian way of making transitions is to close down the work being done by saying “OK OK OK?” – the “students reply “ok, ok, ok !”  this happens perhaps three times and voila – everyone is ready for the transition.

Sessions included “teacher to teacher” sessions where a formateur would present information.  Bob Lamothe talked about the difference in the approach to learning between the Haitian schools and the American schools. Having attended Haitian schools until the age of 12 when he emigrated to the US and where he continued his education, his presentation was especially credible to the attendees.  He especially noted the Haitian tradition of memorizing without much opportunity for questioning. This prompted many questions including the US system of higher education, how public schools are funded, and quality of schools.  He also stressed that the US schools have a myriad of materials, both consumable and long lasting.  The lack of these materials in the Haitian schools sometimes serves as an advantage to both the teachers and the children in Haiti as they are forced to use their own imaginations and be creative.

Following the end of each morning session, the SCEH team and the Haiti formateurs would sit for as long as an hour reviewing the morning.  Vera asked them each day to tell what they thought about their own presentations for the day, both “successful” and “needing work” and then we progressed to comments about the day in general or lessons in particular, all with positive voices.

The end of our last day was getting feedback from the “students.”  Responses included “this is the best workshop I have attended”  “I learned a great deal” “it has helped me understand how children learn” to “I want to attend the next workshop.”

A comment which was echoed was that some were disappointed that there was no food.  After further discussion with the formateurs at our final debrifing with them, we learned that almost all workshops entail food.  Some serve coffee and a breakfast something upon arrival, customarily there is a mid day meal, and then at the end a little something – The previous year at our first workshop, we had provided sandwiches each day and then continued until 2:30.  We found that the participants were quite tired in the afternoons, so we (the US team) decided in advance that this year we would start at 8:00 and end at noon or 12:30 and we would provide water and little breads and jam at a mid morning break.  In retrospect, we realized that in the future, we should provide food to be in step with Haitian tradition.  One of the reasons we resorted to the shorter day and only a mid morning snack was because I (Jenifer) could not figure out how to provide food for five days in a row to 35 people.  Kettelie reported that they could find someone local to provide the food and the cost might be c. $400 US for the week.  This is something we should add to our budgets for the workshops.

"Students" receiving their Certificate of Completion

“Students” receiving their Certificate of Completion

Each “student” and each “formateur” received beautiful certificates at a special ODES meeting.  The Certificates were designed by Besly Belizaire, each with the participants name written in wonderful computer calligraphy.  The ODES meeting also included awards to the winners of a month long youth tennis tournament.  Often the Fanfare Band will perform at such a gathering but this time the musicians were all the students (about 15) who have been learning to play under the tutelage of the Fanfare musicians. They have been studying for about 9 months, all with his/her own instrument, thanks to the continued support of Sigma Alpha Iota, our wonderful musical fraternity’s People to People program.  They played several pieces together, all from the skill books which we had brought down and using the stands which we had brought back in June 2011.  A wonderful end to a wonderful week.

A wonderful end to a wonderful week!

A wonderful end to a wonderful week!

Early Education Project Update-March 2013

Kettelie Petit Loute at Essex Elementary School investigating snow!

Kettelie Petit Loute at Essex Elementary School investigating snow!

Sister Cities Essex Haiti was delighted to be able to welcome Kettelie Petit-Loute to Essex March 4-5, 2013.  Kettelie is the Director of Ecole Flamboyant, a school in Deschapelles, Haiti, and is also a pre-school teacher.  She participated in the SCEH Early Education Teacher Training project in March of 2012, and made her school available for the week long workshop.  Jenifer Grant arranged for Kettelie to visit several schools in Essex on March 4th and 5th.  Essex Pre-School at the Essex Congregational Church welcomed her for the early part of the morning which included the wonderful music program with Dossie Laudon.  From there Jenifer and Kettelie visited Schoolmates, located at Bushy Hill which takes advantage of its local to create educational materials from nature.    Kathleen Maher, SCEH President, hosted a lunch for Kettelie and members of the SCEH Executive Committee.  

Dr. Joanne Beekley, Kettelie Petit Loute, Scott Jeffrey, Dr. Ruth Levy

Dr. Joanne Beekley, Kettelie Petit Loute, Scott Jeffrey, Dr. Ruth Levy

Ruth Levy, Superintendent of Region 4 Schools, Joanne Beekley, Assistant Superintendent, Scott Jeffrey, Principal of Essex Elementary, SCEH Educational Committee members Jane Syme and Sue McCann met Kettelie at tea at Jenifer Grant’s house.   On Tuesday, Kettelie was welcomed by Scott Jeffrey and classes of the Essex Elementary School.  In the afternoon SCEH Education Committee member Jeny Sarwar took her to visit the Montessori School in Old Saybrook.  At 2:30 Jenifer and Kettelie dropped in on the drop-in reading hour at Essex Library.  Coincidentally, the drop-ins that day were all from Essex Pre-School and were delighted to reconnect with their new friend from Haiti.

As an educator, Kettelie had long yearned to be able to visit schools in the US. Her training in Haiti consists of having passed the Rheto and Philo levels (required to graduate from secondary school) and a 4-year Teacher Training Program in Port au Prince.  She has returned to Haiti with many ideas to augment her already very fine program and will share her new found knowledge with her fellow teachers who participated in the SCEH Early Education Teacher Training Project.  

Kettelie’s visit was made possible by Ted and Becky Crosby in Old Lyme, who have established the Crosby Fund for Haitian Education.  The organization supports students in the Deschapelles Haiti area who have been identified as outstanding students and have demonstrated need for scholarships.  Kettelie serves on their Haitian Advisory Board and is also in charge of their primary school scholarship program.  For more information about the Crosby Fund for Haitian Education, please click here

Early Education Project Update-January 2013

By: Jenifer Grant 

Kettelie Petit Loute and David Evangelisti

Kettelie Petit-Loute and David Evangelisti

The teachers continue to use the manipulative materials we had brought down with varying degrees of commitment in the four schools.  We were able to send three teachers from three schools to a more in-depth educational conference in Port au Prince and Raphaella Baker, a Haitian woman who has a wonderful learn-to-read program with songs and stories about each letter, came out to Deschapelles to do a workshop focused on this method which each of the original EETT participants were invited to attend.  Our next step, at the request of the teachers in Haiti, is to have four teachers well versed in use of manipulatives travel to Deschapelles to spend a week-long in-school trip where they can help the teachers even more in the use and importance of manipulatives as well as reading to the children.  This will set the stage for our ultimate goal which is to provide a week long workshop in manipulatives and reading to children 3-6 for all the interested schools in Deschapelles.  Furthering our goal to establish meaningful relationships, we will have the great pleasure of having the director of Ecole Flamboyant, Kettelie Petit-Loute visit Essex in early March.  She will have the opportunity to visit several schools in southeastern Connecticut to increase her knowledge about how schools and libraries function in Essex as well as give those here knowledge about someone who works so well on behalf of the children in Deschapelles.

Early Education Project Update-June 2012
By: Jenifer Grant

Jenifer Grant, Diane Huot, a first grade teacher in New Haven who has joined our EETT efforts, and Anny Frederique met with the EETT teachers on Sunday evening to discuss Diane’s and Anny’s visits upcoming visits to the schools.  The schools are slowly integrating the manipulatives as well as story time in their curriculum.  They are eager for further workshop training offered by one of several Haitian programs.  They are also interested in having several individual EETT teachers travel to Haiti to spend a collaborative week in the schools which took part in the EETT workshop.

Early Education Project Update-April 15, 2012
By: Jenifer Grant

From April 9-13, 2012, we held the first session of the Early Education Project with directors and teachers of three schools in the area of Deschapelles who teach 3-6 year old children.  “We” were myself (Jenifer Grant), Vera Dowell, Jenny Miller and Janine Fraser, all of whom have close ties to Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, have graduate degrees in early childhood education, and all speak both French and Kreyol.

Familiarizing themselves with early education materials

Familiarizing themselves with early education materials

We chose to work directly with the directors and teachers to familiarize them with the materials and concepts which we brought to augment their curriculum.  The Descchapelles teachers then, rather than outsiders, would return to their classes as the source of the knowledge for the students.

We spent a week introducing hands-on manipulatives such as puzzles, unifix cubes, small 1″ blocks, geometric stacking “toys” and also included “found” materials such as bottle caps and small stones for numbers exercises.  We incorporated some of the wonderful ways that the Haitian teachers use to advance learning in their own schools, such as story telling, learning numbers and the days of the week through song, etc.

We also brought down story books, many in Kreyol, and some familiar to children in the United States such as Brown Bear Brown Bear,  Elmer the Elephant,  Tap Tap and Three Little Pigs which were either translated by us or came in a French version.  We modeled a variety of ways to extend the idea of “story” from discussion to felt board to dramatic re-enactments.

Sharing the materials

Sharing the materials

It was a wonderful week, and on the last day we divided the materials between the three schools to be shared in rotation.  The teachers will get together in their own schools to discuss what they find “works” and what they find more challenging, to remind each other of aspects of the workshop.  Beyond that all the participants will all meet once a month to share information on what was working for them and what they were finding challenging, and to rotate the materials.

Once the directors and teachers in the three schools become familiar and comfortable with the materials and their uses appropriate for their culture, we will do a second workshop with other interested schools in the area.  The “graduates” of this first teacher training workshop will become the leaders, with assistance from those of us who led the first session and others who might be interested in assisting. One of the goals of Sister Cities Essex Haiti’s collaboration with the people of Deschapelles is to establish meaningful relationships.  And that we did!

Deschapelles teacher "trainees"

Deschapelles teacher “trainees”

Early Education Update-October 22, 2011
By: Jenifer Grant

Vera Dowell

Vera Dowell

On my recent visit to Deschapelles, I was accompanied by Vera Dowell, wife of former HAS Pediatrician, then Medical Director over a period of many years. She has a MSEd from Bankstreet College of Education and has taught in Haiti as well as other places.

Before my departure I had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Ruth Levy, Superintendent of Region 4 Schools, some administrators and teachers from the three elementary schools, Essex, Deep River and Chester, in preparation for deeper involvement.

Class in session

Class in session

We had an opportunity to meet with the three directors of the three participating schools, Kettelie Petite-Loute, Wisly Demeran and Mari-jos Dutreuil.  We also visited each of the schools to give us base line information to help us all lay the groundwork for the first Early Education Teacher Training Workshops which will take place in February.  The schools had only just opened and this was their second week.  Each school had three classes of children from 3-6.  I stayed for an hour and Vera stayed the whole morning which gave her a thorough view of what goes on a regular day.  While each school had its own distinct personality, they also had similarities.  The directors and the teachers are all eager to take part in this workshop.

Eager to learn

Eager to learn

It was a joy to spend time with the children, all in their uniforms, and the teachers.

THE EARLY EDUCATION PROJECT

 In August 2011, ODES and the SCEH Executive Committee approved an application from three directors of schools in Deschapelles serving young children for an Early Education Project.  While it is still in the early planning stages, the mission of the Project will be to enhance existing curricula, introduce hands-on manipulative educational materials important to cognitive development especially in very young children, provide the necessary equipment and materials, and learn from one another regarding the teaching of young children.

 Plans are being made for a newly formed committee comprised of several American educators with past experience teaching in Haiti and who speak either French or Kreyol and teachers from southeastern Connecticut, all well versed in the use of manipulative hands-on child centered materials, to develop the program.   All materials will be culturally appropriate. It is anticipated that the Project will initially consist of a week of workshops with the three directors who wrote the proposal, all their teachers who instruct children from ages 3-6, and the SCEH teacher trainers.  After the Haitian teachers have had enough time to use the new skills in their classrooms and are comfortable with their knowledge, they, in turn, will hold workshops with other interested schools in the area, supported by some of the same US teacher trainers.

Schools in Haiti, especially in the rural areas, are spare.  The quality of the school varies widely.  Learning is traditionally by rote.  Papers and pencils are scarce, The younger school children often have child-sized tables and chairs, but the older ones have wooden bench/desk arrangements which will hold often one more child than you thought would be possible. Each classroom for older children has a blackboard. They have few materials, including books for reading pleasure.  Their school yards, if there is any space at all, is often just hard dirt and only rarely is there playground equipment.

Sister Cities Essex Haiti’s Early Education Project is a beginning step to address some of these issues by collaborating with educators in the Deschapelles area to introduce cognitive-based teaching methods and materials.

This program has been embraced by Dr. Ruth Levy, Superintendent of Regional School District 4, and the administrators of  Essex, Deep River and Chester Elementary Schools, John Winthrop Junior High School, and Valley Regional High School.