Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Eco Club

The Eco (or Green) Club as it is known, is an extracurricular activity at The First Twelve Year Secondary School of Arvaikheer. Though I have started and am involved with various activities specifically at the dormitory, this is the only club at my school that I have worked with this year.
Officially, there are 32 club members, all hand picked by teachers in the school. I take issue with this process, as it appears that students are not given free choice to follow their interests; they are told what club to join, etc. Good for those who have high grades in science and are referred, but what about those interested and may not excel in that academic area? Seems to me this is a leftover viewpoint from the days of communism (whispered)... To further fuel the fire in me on this notion, one of the school social workers told me the governor will come and speak to the graduates, telling them what potential job growth there will be in our city; essentially telling them what to study at university, then to return to Arvaikheer to work. huh....
Back to the eco club...the students and I have floundered through recent months with me preparing power point presentations in both English and Mongolian. This has been fairly effective, but not exactly the enthusiasm I was expecting. I need that dose of reality once in awhile, as I am getting spoiled by what M20 PCV Wally G. calls "celebrity status" accorded to us here in Mongolia.
With the onset of Spring (at least some recent days... just like in my home state of Ohio), the students interest in the Eco Club seems to been peaked. Just in time for a "composting" lesson again. My big plan was for each club member to receive free of charge a medium sized plastic trash can with lid which they would use for composting their household scraps. Viola ! I thought by now we'd have gallons of compost for the gardening projects I have been envisioning.
Our club applied for financial sponsorship through World Vision; a great organization which provides monies to children's' organizations. By the time we got our papers submitted (2 months of missed meetings and lack of translation of my ideas/proposal) it's been over 6 months and now we are actually expecting our requested materials! Too bad I didn't ask for the equipment to build composting bins! I thought just like at home I could find some old cast away materials; boards, wire fencing, etc. Not happening....
In honor of Earth Day, the Eco Club has two weeks of green activities focusing on ecology. Last week our school hosted the annual meeting of all the area Eco Clubs; two of the four other secondary/high schools attended. There was a competition for the high school students (10th and 11th graders) for presentations given on the importance of taking care of the Earth.
In addition, I got to present my PP on the importance of composting, including step by step directions on how to build a compost pile, materials, to use, etc. My club students had been interested in it (they saw it earlier in the week) as were the others in attendance. The instructor form the tech school invited me to their school to give this presentation, and another teacher from my school urged me to present this to all the teachers at our school!
Whether or not this will transpire is another story, however, their enthusiasm encourages me!
Next week at our Eco Club meeting, we will be building compost piles near our school. Prior to that I have much work to be done, finding "free" or "nearly free" materials to build it with, gathering some tools and getting the school director to agree to let us build it in my chosen location.

Monday, April 11, 2011

play ball!!!

This is the story of me being a persistent trouble maker and some deflated balls....... Since I first came to my school dorm to work, there have been several large cardboard boxes underneath the computer tables. Early on I tried to find out what was in them... big mystery.....
Turns out these were boxes full of great donated items (which I believe my PC predecessor acquired for the dorm students). After a couple months, one of the teachers reluctantly allowed some of the items to be taken out for use by the kids. These included books, some games, etc. The boxes were then taped back up and returned to their lair....
At one point during the cold winter months, I took out many jump ropes for the little kids to play with. After a few days they disappeared. I am not sure but I believe staff put them away.
I recalled many brand new balls in those boxes.... basketballs, volleyballs and soccer balls. When I asked several times about getting them out, I was informed we don't have a pump.
Now that spring appears to have arrived, I started a quest for a pump. You would think it wouldn't be that difficult to find a little hand pump, but for me it certainly was. Two weeks ago while visiting my friend Sharaya in a neighboring town (5 hour bus ride) we saw in the market hand pumps!!! I was so excited that I bought 2; each costing the equivalent of $2. I decided one for me (and my bike that I need to be riding) and one for the dorm kids and those balls!
Earlier this week after the English class I told my counterpart Altai I bought a hand pump for the balls and would bring that evening when I returned for our life skills class.
And that's just what I did.... I brought the pump and started getting balls out of the boxes. Sometimes I just do stuff instead of really thoroughly thinking it through. Occasionally I need to check my attitude and motivation .... However this time I think what I did was ok. I applied the philosophical questions of "if not me, then who?" and "if not now, then when?" and concluded the balls might sit there and rot before the children they were intended for, derived the pleasure they should, from them!
The young teens in the life skills class were so excited at the new balls...and quickly pumped them up and began tossing them around. During a break in the life skills lesson the kids chattered excitedly about the balls, putting them under their shirts, etc.
Later, Altai told the kids they must leave the balls in the big room and I was both angered and dismayed, though reluctantly agreed. Knowing that Altai has worked with these students way longer than me, and figuring she had some pearl of wisdom about the situation, I told the kids and Altai I would stop by tomorrow..... (even though I did not have anything scheduled at the dorm Tuesday, I told the kids that I would get the balls out ...)
I did return Tuesday afternoon and went to the big room...where both dorm teachers were locked inside discussing the "ball situation". They did let me in and when I asked about taking the balls outside, they reluctantly said ok. I took 2 basketballs, 2 soccer balls and a volley ball out and gave them to the dorm students who were out on the playground.
Feeling somewhat devious and smug about it, I left... The next day Hajid explained to me that they would keep the balls in the teachers office (good idea) and kids would have to ask and come get one to play with. She said they are concerned students will ignore their lessons/homework if allowed to have open access to the balls. Imagine my excitement to find that I totally agree with her, and my pleasure at seeing the dorm students have some new equipment to play with !