I visited a very poor fishing village today with Adam, who runs the camp, and Oscar, whose wife is from that village, is Nicaraguan and lives here with his family at the camp. A church from the states had sent money to repair a roof on a church there and Adam needed to inspect it and take some photographs. It is a remote fishing village and the roads to it are in sorry condition. They were having a celebration of thanks for the new roof and served sandwiches of white bread and spaghetti. What is shocking is that every once in a while you see a fair blond and blue or green eyed child – all their siblings will be dark and yet there they are. I imagine it must be very strange to grow up, a natural child so strikingly different. It really throws you off.

The school in this village is in great disrepair. The teachers all live in the village and have their certificates but this doesn’t necessarily mean a lot. They do not have to go to a college to get this and many are no older then 17 years.

This great need makes me ponder the sustainability of our pilot program in Buenos Aires. Certainly we have the manpower to continue and make it so. Roxanna, Geovany and David are all proving themselves capable of carrying on and being competent teachers of teachers. Patrick and the fostering of a relationship with Peace Corps volunteers can certainly contribute to the future success and spread of the knowledge learned. Fundamentally what is still needed is some seed money to help the project grow.

Once we have the solar panels in hand, (they took a side trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina), the recharging issue in the village may be resolved. The other looming question seems to be the issue of theft. My dream is for full saturation in the village (140 more computers) which would mean that everyone would know that the XO’s belonged to the children and I believe that this would virtually eliminate that concern. Full district saturation (360+/-) would even be better but lets it one step at a time. The children themselves express the desire to teach their siblings and friends what they know. I can easily envision a creative and innovative after-school program being managed by our already trained mentors and co-taught by them and our junior mentors. What a grand opportunity for fostering leadership, camaraderie and skills-transfer that would be.

It seems at the moment that the possibility of a safe room for storage in the village may be an immediate solution for future easy access to the computers for children. This would entail the access to some seed money. How wonderful it would be to announce to the children that their XO’s are truly their own. Some decisions need to be made. It would be a shame for the children to lose access once the pilot comes to an end.

Two children burst into the camp kitchen seven am on the dot as I was just pouring a fresh cup of brewed coffee into a cup. Yasser and his four-year-old brother were ready for an early morning swim. I downed a few gulps and we were out the door and down to the lake. After an hour or so of frolicking in the water they ran home to change and before I finished showering and dressing they were back wishing to work on the XO’s.

Just quickly I would like to note how leisure time to explore and experiment enhances the overall interaction with the XO. Life needs balance. The children in the program give their full attention as much as possible to the classroom lessons. The extra hour to play is welcome but they are also somewhat burnt out after two hours of focus and concentration. They do not have the luxury of taking their computers home to go back to in the evening or whenever to freely explore at their leisure.

Yasser has had this time because I am present at the camp and he can come up and do just that while I am busy writing or cooking. It is during these times that he really discovers the possibilities inherent in story making and telling, funny scripts, and surprising accidents. It was during one of these relaxed evenings when he had produced some marvelous and intricate patterns using the pen tool and changing it over and over from line to dot to arrow, switching colors and thickness and thoroughly engrossed and dazzled by his random creations. He wrote an entire script for a simple sketch with the pen tool and then filled the sketch with no color so it became invisible. When he clicked go to set the script in motion a pen pattern emerged without an object. Now this had some awesome implications. We were wowed.

It is just that freedom of solitary discovery that the pilot children are lacking. There must be a way to over come this and realize a way to let them access this other world of engagement. By doing so the XO’s can be naturally incorporated into their daily lives.

The prospect of delivering lesson 14, animation and holders, found Geovany bubbling over with excitement. “Yesterday was hard,” he stated. “We’ll probably have to go back over a lot of the startOver script stuff, variables and all, again and again. But today’s going to be easy.” I was impressed by his enthusiasm.

He began by talking about cartoons and the amazing Walt Disney. The children were calling out names of cartoons they have seen and enjoyed. Geovany showed them a sample animation of a ball bouncing over its shadow and the children were entranced. “This is what we’re going to do today,” Geovany bellowed. “Let’s get started.”

It was apparent that Geovany had prepared long and hard the night before. He had created his own version of Seymour, a house, and a sun. “I just wanted to be sure to get it all right,” he said. The children’s eyes were all affixed on his screen as he walked them through the process of first animating his sun. He duplicated it and pulled down the holder that he resized, teaching the children the steps, and snapped the duplicate in place. He then duplicated the duplicate another 2 times and snapped the clones into the holder. He demonstrated both using the eraser tool and the paintbrush to make changes. After taking them through the scripting process, he took a moment for effect, drawing a deep breathe, and pressed go. The children ooh-ed and aah-ed and Geovany gushed with pleasure.

Covering all bases Geovany next animated his Seymour making him grow by duplicating him twice and making changes to the second duplicate before cloning it again to show that this was a more efficient process in some instances. Proudly he set the children loose to work on animations of their own.

Wendy continues to be a wonder. She’s able to grasp complex concepts with ease and in no time had produced an elegant fluttering butterfly. She then lent her understanding to several of her peers who were seated near to her. After sharing her skills she went on to animate a bird and a flower.

Aaron produced plumes of smoke from the hood of his truck. Ivone made stars that flashed neon and grew. Daisy had a flower that smiled and frowned. Some, like Luis, began adding sound to their animations. He had a football that deflated and went “splat”.

All of the mentors kept busy throughout this exercise being called on for guidance again and again in navigating scripting issues. There were some glitches here and there and two computers needed to be restarted. Juan quickly remembered the “bug” conversation from the day before and acknowledged that this was “one of them”.

The children shared their animations with the group as they succeeded in creating one. The entire class was animated as well. As we began to wind down for the day there was still chatter about what they were going to animate next. Marcial and I passed watermelon slices all around to more smiles and thank you’s.

The only disappointment came when I said see you on Monday and several children queried – “What about class tomorrow?” David told them to enjoy their weekend saying he had work to do to get ready for Monday when he’ll be leading the class. “I could use the extra day to prepare,” he quipped to giggles as the children rode off on their bikes.

Geovany is a natural teacher. When I arrived, he greeted me as his usual upbeat self, telling of the challenging night he had had preparing. He had watched Tim’s video and reworked lesson 13. “This stuff is pretty hard,” he offered. “I hope I can do the kids justice.” And then he went on to do just that.

Like Roxanna he employed the children’s direction to locate tiles and describe process. Never saying no, he would say, “maybe but how might I do this.” He went over the difference between variables and commands in several ways until the children all nodded and voiced that they understood. The children pulled out the x and y coordinates and watched how they changed as their sketches moved. They then pulled out the heading variable and turned their attention to rotation. More and more the children are grasping that each and every sketch or object carries it’s own ‘backpack’ so to speak. Its halo, its scripts, its own redrawing palette. Naming is the key to organization of multiple objects as well as multiple pages. We mentors recognize that we can’t over stress this issue. The more complex a page becomes, with more objects doing more things, the greater the importance of naming. Organizing is paramount to reducing frustration.

Then the conversation turned to ‘bugs’, which led to uproarious laughter. The children were all coming up with Spanish names to describe a bug – mischievous imps that can disrupt your world. I found myself wishing I had a better grasp of Spanish so that I could have better understood the puns and nuances of the discussion.

At the end of this class Geovany was exuberant. “I think most of them got it,” he exclaimed and they had for the most part. For the next hour the children were encouraged to explore these concepts in relation to objects in their stories. Geovany left them with some of Bill’s advice. “The key is to experiment. Have some idea of where you want to go and head there.”

Roxanna seemed transformed today. During the last two weeks of teacher/mentor training she was serious and quiet, concentrating and applying herself to the lessons. Her soberness softened only when she mastered a task and then beamed with earned self-accomplishment. But today she was radiant. She had prepared well for the lesson and oozed confidence smiling and engaging the children. That was the key – the way she engaged. She didn’t just instruct but led the children through the lesson by urging and inviting their participation with questions and prodding. She overlooked no one in the class.

With everyone working on the XOs, now the playing field is leveled. Roxanna walked around carrying the XO so that everyone could read and see the scripts. She demonstrated by showing her own work on the lesson from the class with Bill and invited the other mentors to do the same. The children then set to work on their own.

The mentor/student ratio is a real plus. Two of the children were absent today and that allowed for a 5 to 1 ratio. This plus the fact that the students who complete the task and “get it” also act as “junior mentors” means that everyone is getting the attention they need to get through each step. Roxanna’s enthusiasm was catching and the atmosphere was both involved and upbeat. The children applauded her at the end of the class.

As we met to discuss tomorrows lesson David commented on how it would be hard to match her poise and self-assurance. Marcial was very proud. He is spending time reviewing the lessons and trying to work through them along with the children. I am impressed by this display of initiative. Geovany stepped up to take on the class tomorrow, as Patrick didn’t feel that he had grasped the lesson well enough at this point to lead it. Geovany expressed some concern and, questioning him, he admitted that he really wanted to teach lesson 15, animation. “I just love that stuff,” he said. We all had a laugh at this and assured him he could teach both and he smiled broadly. We reviewed tomorrow’s lesson together and then checked in on the children who were ready to shut down. The boys were anxious to start a game of football in the courtyard. The girls rushed off to the broken down classroom where bicycles are stashed during class and began a game similar to musical chairs that elicits screeches and howls of delight.

As we were all readying to leave, everyone complimented Roxanna once again. As she donned her helmet to scoot away on her motorbike, her eyes sparkled with pleasure and gratitude. I felt confident that the days ahead would hold many more individual and group rewards.

Today marked the first day of my being solo here at Campo Alegria. I woke early and went for a swim and then made preparations for this afternoon’s class, reviewing the lesson, watching Tim’s video and checking that all of the computers were charged. Promptly at 12:30 my taxi arrived to transport me and the XO’s to the school in Buenos Aires.

Marcial was away for the day attending a AIDS forum in Managua but Roxanna, David, Geovany and Patrick were all present. Jose and Marvin rushed to the taxi to fetch the XO’s and carry them into the classroom. Cindy and Luis distributed the computers while Wendy passed out the mice. I sat down at a desk in front and the children quickly began pushing their desks into a tight semi-circle around me as they had day after day around Carolyn. I invited the other mentors to join me.

We began by talking about how the class would be a bit different now. Explaining that the teacher/mentor’s had just completed all the lessons that the children would be learning we discussed how we were all learners and that the emphasis now would be on cooperative learning. We talked about stories and how each one would be working on their own unique narrative. How each day one of the adults would present a new lesson and that these lessons were important because they would provide new skills and techniques that each one of us may want to incorporate into our story. We then turned to our expectations for the future classes. These were quite simple. The first was paying attention, as some of the concepts are rather difficult. The second was respect for one another. The third, cooperation and sharing – everyone in the class is a professor and is welcome to share insights and learning’s. And finally, exploration and discovery.

Some of the children had missed a few classes so we opted to have David convene a catch up group outside with them. It had become apparent to me yesterday that the children who had fallen a bit behind were reluctant to say so and would have silently tried to plod along. We decided to offer the opportunity to review or make up missed lessons an on-going possibility. A few who probably would not have admitted being a bit lost seized this chance.

We began by opening a new project and everyone, including the teacher/mentors, drew a very simple sketch I less then 3 minutes – this was quite an accomplishment to start as the children have consistently been hung up in perfecting their drawings. They took turns calling out the steps to write a simple script to move this object horizontally to the right or the left. A second very simple sketch was made and another script written to make it fall or rise. At this point Wendy reviewed the pen usage tool and many of the children opted to use it on one or both of their sketches. After this exercise all of the children had grasped the use of that tool. Everyone remembered to name their sketches, and after dragging a book out of the supply bin they named their page and added P1 to their sketches and scripts. From here Geovany and I explained startOver scripts and guided them in the process of creating them. Working in a simple, uncluttered desktop environment seemed to enhance grasping the overall concepts – clearly visualizing how each command affected first a singular sketch and then two in tandem by employing a worldScript.

After exploring this process the children were free to work on their individual story ideas or continue. Outside the children had caught up to lesson 10 and were ready to start on the lesson we had just presented.

Back inside the children were abuzz. German had created a 16-page flip-book with an abstract sketch that drew a different elaborate pen tool design on each page. As he demonstrated it he beamed with satisfaction. Small groups huddled together adding sound or bounce to their scripts. Others were rapt in singular concentration. For the first time we began hearing the expressions, “look at my world” or “in my world.” To me this was very exciting as it illustrates how the personal creative expressions they have been working on have become outward, sharable manifestations of a part of their inner realities.

Much to my delight Roxanna volunteered to lead tomorrow’s lesson. During the free-exploration hour Roxanna, David, Geovany, Patrick and I met to plan for that lesson. Roxanna outlined her understanding of the lesson and how she thought she would present it. Everyone listened and offered suggestions. All of the adults are excited about engaging in a cooperative and supportive teaching approach. They appreciate the idea of setting a positive environment for creativity and are excited to employ this approach. This evening everyone is tasked with reviewing at least tomorrow’s lesson and attempting to do the Starfish Challenge. I’m looking forward to tomorrow already.

We gathered in the courtyard to wait for my taxi and an impromptu game of football began with Geovany and David as ringleaders. Lately these two seem to possess boundless energy. The boys all joined in and the girls began hand-clapping games off to the side. I asked them if they played football and they giggled, rolled eyes at me, and shook their heads. I think it best to take things one at a time.

Some days are bitter sweet. Days of parting after sharing unexpected closeness are like that. Everyone felt it today. Carolyn and Bill are departing.

The children’s lesson began as usual. Carolyn led them through scripting. StartOver. A task. They listened and achieved.

Ruben moved his desk aside and worked on a story about his brother’s birthday party. Cakes with chocolate and vanilla. A piñata. Pigs, swing sets, trucks, and stars rotated, spun. Got named.

Still the real part of the day was the piquancy of parting. A singular hug started it. And then the freedom to hug took over.

In the teacher class it was the same. All thirty lessons were accomplished. At the end of the day everyone scripted siblings able to interact with an object of counter vectors. A school of fish, a convoy of trucks, a swath of ghosts could interact as a group.

Important matters happened in small things like thank you’s. That great heartfelt question – “will we meet again?” The joy of sharing.

This morning I had the privilege of hearing Daniel from Chop Point speaking to his mother and father on the phone. He’ll be seeing them again tomorrow. Skype was not working quite correctly but they were making assurances about how to find each other. “Maybe I’ll be asleep in the airport,” “still I’ll make myself known to you,” said his father.

The stuff of love dawning again and always, each and every day. Have a great first day at school Chop Pointers. And learn from your mentors. Perhaps they have seen things you might not know or seen and vise versa. Share.

Safe travels all. Love to my family too. Let the hugs go round.

Jubilance captures the description of the day.

At one pm we heard the far rumble of a bus making its way toward Campo Alegria. Moments later 19 of our students with siblings, mothers and grandmothers tore off the bus near the main hall where we were waiting to welcome them. We gathered outside and Bill made introductory remarks and introduced Carolyn and myself to the crowd. We then invited them inside where tables were arranged in a u-pattern for the children with chairs situated behind so that family members could look on as their “computer whiz’s” showed off their new abilities.

Realizing that we were behind one lesson we seized the opportunity to catch up and led the children through the class. This provided their families a first hand experience of just what their students have been up to these past two weeks. Following the lesson we encouraged the children to share aspects of their work. A few of the children came forward and presented examples of scripting, story scripts and illustrations to the group. Siblings were especially entranced by the presentations.

Refreshments were offered and everyone loaded their plates with freshly fried plantain chips, fried cheese, melons and cookies. Still the XO’s, or more importantly the work the children had done on them, held center stage. Everywhere in the room small groups were huddled over an XO with one of our students proudly instructing their audience in the nuances of their computer. Excited chatter filled the hall. Soon pictures were being taken with the XO’s camera and an array of sounds echoed from the XO’s speakers. Giggles, laughter and ‘wow’s’ were heard all around as siblings vied for a chance to try things out too.

Still the beach and the lake beckoned. Daniel and Jonathan were on hand to act as human catapults as older children swamped them in the lake, climbing on their backs and shoulders begging to be launched. Younger ones frolicked by the shore and others engaged in a lopsided football game against Geovany blocking his skillful attempts to find a hole in their onslaught defense. Geovany keeps reiterating that he’s not such why but lately he’s feeling “not just good, but great. And happy about it.”

The funny thing is that the lure of demonstrating and using the XO’s continued throughout the afternoon. Small groups were scattered about the lawn, huddled on a wall or bunched together on a porch exploring the possibilities. Parents were duly impressed remarking over and over again how this was a “blessing” for their children.

David, Geovany and Roxanna were all interviewed. Overwhelmingly they spoke of how this was the first time that they had experienced “teaching with love and exploration” as opposed to strictness, by rote and enforced structure. They explained that this has been a joyful and enlightening experience for them and that it has inspired them to learn more, stay involved and spread engaged learning wherever they can. Bill was wondering who scripted their responses. The bottom line is they were speaking from their hearts.

As the children and their families prepared to board the bus for their trip back to town expressions of gratitude abounded along with the question, “when are we coming back?”

The event here at camp was a pleasure for everyone involved. It certainly offered Bill and Carolyn a well-deserved sense of accomplishment to carry home with them.

Six am we made for the beach to try to meet the fishermen setting out on the lake in pursuit of their daily livelihood. Bill had hopes of filming them in their preparations and launching of their vessel. As I had suspected we were too late. Five am is the hour. Still we met Will, a Nicaraguan from up north, who was rather familiar with English as he left for Miami in 1979 after his brother was killed at the start of the war. He was happy to practice his English and engaged us in his tale of his experiences both here in Nicaragua and in the states. Around seven his friends the fisherman reached the shore with their catch. Bill got his film opportunity while Carolyn and I queried and after purchasing a string of fish for dinner we headed back to camp.

Splendid are the times when the direction one chooses to navigate towards a given goal produces the results that you hoped for when setting course. Today’s class illustrated the benefits of our prior decisions. The book was introduced today along with a presentation of Tim’s Seymour story. The children were able to recognize elements and scripts in his story that they are already capable of creating and were also impressed with the possibilities that future lessons will allow them to utilize. Disappearing images was one of these. I demonstrated how to drag a book out of the supply bin, and the differences between the world and the page. The children followed along dragging objects into their book and ‘testing’ to see if they had placed them there or if the were simply ‘floating’ in the world.

Next Carolyn led them in a brainstorming session to flush out character, place, who, what, where, when and why story ideas. The children were very animated during this activity. They realized that they were now going to embark on bringing their sketches to life and the idea thrilled their imaginations. The rest of the class was spent working on a first page but by mid-session a few had already moved on to second and then third pages. We feel that the strong foundation the children have internalized in working with the tools, saving individual sketches, consistently naming sketches, objects and scripts all have contributed to a smooth approach in conceptualizing the creation of their unique stories.

During the teacher/mentor session Bill introduced the random script. We wrote more startOver scripts and world scripts and then went on to create siblings and to move and object along a curving path. By the end of class everyone was successful in accomplishing all of the above. Quite exhausted from the intensely rigorous week we were all a bit taken aback as it dawned on us that there was only one more teacher/mentor session left to go. Surely we have steered a steady course and come Monday we will have navigated all 30 lessons. It has indeed been a worthwhile adventure.

Today I taught my first lesson to the children with David as translator. We felt it was time to begin the transition from Carolyn delivering all the lessons in Spanish to a new format that will feature a collaborative teaching approach in the weeks ahead. Carolyn and Bill will be leaving Monday of next week and the new mentors will have completed all 30 training lessons. From then on the mentors will take on the primary responsibility of presenting the material with my support and facilitation. By the end of the pilot the goal is that all of the mentors will be both confident and competent in delivering the training to other mentors and students. The ‘teach a man to fish and he will continue to thrive’ philosophy.

The children were receptive although I know there are a few young boys in the class who are carrying a crush on this lovely yellow haired young woman who has graced their world as a teacher for this short while. Ruben for one spent many guarded moments creating a sketch of an ‘amarillo’ haired ‘Carolina’, an ultimate tribute to her. And Marvin practiced the word ‘handsome’ in English over and over before getting up the nerve to approach Carolyn and blurt it out with a smile. He was trying to say she was pretty in the best way he knew.

The lesson acquainted the class with the supply bin and some of its contents. They became familiar with the difference between objects and sketches and then were introduced to the text tool. Their task for the day was to create three signs using both the objects and text. At the end of the class they shared their messages with one another. We had vendors of tomato’s, and ice cream, no littering and no smoking signs, and most unusual for us gringos, but without qualms to the class, pork skins with hair.

We are trying to arrange for a celebration/sharing event on Saturday. An opportunity for the children to introduce and show their families just what they have been up to these past two weeks. At the moment transportation is an issue. The camp is quite a distance from the school and the children’s families do not have the means to get there. We have decided to look into the possibility of a bus. If that doesn’t materialize we will hold an event at the school, with ice cream and snacks.

The ants and mosquitoes were prolific and particularly feisty and biting in the late afternoon as we reconvened. Everyone, other than Marcial, is keeping up pace and “getting it.” Marcial has many obligations as principal and is often drawn away from the lesson. He recognizes that he is not “mastering the material” but he is gaining a real appreciation and overview of the course, the XO’s and the implications for the future. This in and of itself is very important for the potential and realization of the next stage of the overall project.