Saturday night through to this Monday morning displayed thunder and lightening storms of ferocious intensity and downpours to wash out the road and make pasture land look more like ponds then grazing fields. I wondered whether my taxi driver would be able to make it. A little late, his car caked with mud and tires that looked like chocolate donuts he puttered up to camp. He announced that he would never leave me stranded. I am indebted. We loaded up and slowly made our way through the water sodden roads often solely defined by the fence posts on both sides.
This is the last class. Roxanna delivered both lesson 29 and 30. The children were intrigued to learn that they can capture photos or graphics from outside etoys and bring them in to resize, trace and utilize in their projects.
Geovany was back. His grandmother had been released from the hospital and he is elated that he has the opportunity to relish her presence in his life in the days ahead. He is also so happy to here for this last class together.
I finished interviewing and photographing the remaining children. It is gratifying to hear in their own words how meaningful our time together has been to them. Over and over they have individually expressed how important and enjoyable these last six weeks have been. They all feel that this has been a positive and rewarding experience and hope that they will be able to continue learning and exploring in the future.
The emphasis now is on fine-tuning their stories. Plans are in place to allow them the chance to work on them a few afternoons a week under Roxannas, Geovanys, Davids and the peace corps workers tutelage. They will then have the opportunity to vote on the stories that they feel best represent them and their collective work at the web-conference that is planned for the end of October. The prospect of participating in that conference is very exciting to all of the children.
We ended our last class by awarding certificates of completion of the etoys course. Each child beamed as I called out their name and they came forward to accept it. I also presented the mentors with certificates of mentoring excellence. Their faces too were swollen with pride and surprise as they accepted them. No one wanted to fold or crumple them. They were honored and grateful so delighted in having a concrete recognition of their hard work and accomplishments.
The taxi pulled up and the children knew that our time together was drawing to an end. They reluctantly shut down their XOs and packed them into the boxes. The boys clamored to be the ones to carry the boxes out to the waiting taxi for the last time. Driving off I was followed by a parade of the children running along side or on their bikes waving and calling out their good byes over and over until we reached the bend in the road and slipped out of sight.
16. German Luis Romeros Alvarez
There are six persons in my house. My mama and stepfather, me and two sisters. one eight months old and the other fifteen years. We live in a southern sector.
I like to play, also to help my mom, study and similar things. I wash dishes and sweep the house. I also amuse the little one who has started to crawl.
My favorite sport is baseball and I like to watch TV., mostly channel 10. It has both cartoons and soap operas that I enjoy. I like the Simpsons, especially Homer.
Id like to be a policeman, yes to help the community. I want to chase criminals. I want to be big and strong. Some people might be scared about this but if you are fighting on the good side there is nothing to fear. I will study at the academy but first I will finish high school. I want to become a chief so I will have to behave well. My family supports my goal.
In the past I thought that computer programs for children were very important to learn so that they wouldnt have to just mow the grass. Now I believe that I have learned enough to have the basis to not have to grow up and work planting plantains in the fields. I would prefer to work in an office. I have many conversations about this with my family. My mother gives me lots of advice so I wont become a gangster in the future.
I want to always remember this project. Tomorrow I will know that this project helped make me a professional.
17. Jose Ivan Silva Gonzales
I live with my mother and four younger brothers. I am the oldest, fourteen now, and I help my mom by cleaning our house. My brothers are thirteen, twelve, eleven and five.
I like to play a lot. Its very good. I play football, baseball, volley ball, everything often in the park near my house. Its good to be outside.
I guess I would like to be an engineer. I would work in construction and build houses. I have done some work in Tola when my father took me there. Still I would like to live and work here in Buenos Aires.
I never thought about computers before. I think they are important and very good for learning. Right now I dont think too much about the future. Life is to play and I just want to play right now.
I would like to remember that I had the chance to study here. Thank you.
18. Luis Alberto Duortes
There are five people in my household, my brother and sister, myself and my mama and papa. We live in the Omar Varela neighborhood. I usually walk to school with my brother. It takes us about a half and hour each way.
I like to study. I especially like it when my older sister dictates words to me. Any word at all. It is a spelling game we play together. I also like to read. My favorite book is The Tales of El Cadejo. I am not really interested in sports. I do like to play Trompo, its a game we play with tops. I watch TV mostly the cartoon channel. There is a good one about a cat and mice.
I want to be a member of the police when I grow up. I want to save people when there is fighting.
I didnt think anything about computers before. I had only seen them. I like them now. I know that I can teach others about them. I like doing our work on them. Its okay.
I want to remember what I did and saw here during this time. I want to remember the assignments.
19. Luis Alfredo Rivera Casanova
I live in sector seven of Buenos Aires. There are seven people in my house, my uncle, grandmother, mama and papa, my brother Ruben and my baby sister. I do many chores like cleaning, washing the dishes and mopping.
My favorite thing to do is to play. I am not allowed to just play in the street but I often go play at my friend Michaels house or he comes to mine. We play football a lot over at the baseball field. I also like to play with my baby sister. She has just begun to walk.
I am going to be a policeman. I want to work to get rid of thieves. I listen to the news and there are many crimes. I want to help stop these. I plan to study and work hard.
I always thought that computers were pretty but I had never used them before. Now I think they are very useful to learn from. I also really like to spend time with you. Etoys is my favorite.
I want to remember my childhood, the computers and all of this time. I also want to remember all of you who came here to work and play with us.
20. Jose Ramon Maire
I am the middle child of five. I have two older brothers and two younger sisters. We live with my mother and father in El Cocal. My grandparents and many friends live nearby.
Of course I like to play. Almost everyday I play baseball at the field with my friends. I also like to watch television, mostly wrestling and soap operas. Around the house I usually help with sweeping.
I want to grow up to be an engineer. I want to be someone who commands and directs others, maybe in construction. I like electricity, plumbing and masonry also. I want to live here in this village. I will study hard.
I had never used computers before this. I love the games and etoys. The XO is very pretty and I have learned so much and have had lots of fun.
I always want to remember my mother and father because they are very good. My favorite times are when my father and I play baseball together.
21. Benito Antonio Galiano Sabullo
There are three people in my house, my mother Rosaio, my brother Jose. I walk to school everyday. At home I also go out to buy the wood for the kitchen and I also stack the wood for the cooking fires.
In my free time I like to play, draw pictures and play football. Mostly I like to make drawings of dogs, birds and houses. I am pretty good at this. I also watch a lot of television mostly channel 10. My favorite cartoon is the Simpsons. I dont have a particular favorite character.
I want to become a teacher. That would be very good. I would like to grow up and teach here at this school. All of the teachers here in this program have helped me learn so much. I have also had fun here.
I had never seen a computer before so I never thought about them. Now I know there are many things that I can learn from them. I especially like drawing with them. It is fun to make my drawings move.
I want to remember all of you who came here and helped me learn how to use a computer. Its great.
22. Lester Urbina Antonio
I live two blocks away from the school in a house with my aunt, uncle and two cousins. I have four brothers but they live in another pueblo in San Jorge. I am the oldest of them. Sometimes I go to visit them there.
I really like to help around the house. I do the sweeping. I like to see things are fresh and clean. I really enjoy washing the dishes. I guess thats a bit unusual by it makes me happy. I also enjoy swimming. I love to go to the lake. I enjoyed last Saturday swimming and playing at the camp.
I am going to be a plantain cutter like others in my family and I always want to live in the same house. I love it there.
I thought that it would be good to learn computers and I have learned a lot here. I am grateful for the way you helped and taught me when things were hard.
I always want to remember when I learned how to read not too long ago. I am very happy about that.
The bus arrived promptly a 1:30 under cloudy skies and slight drizzle. The children, family members and friends poured out of the bus smiling and animated. Jose ran to be first to greet me feigning exhaustion as he claimed he had run the whole way beside the bus. He needs no antics to impress me. Hes already stolen my heart. I was delighted to see Aarons father present knowing that he would be so pleased with his sons remarkable new abilities.
We had opted for no lessons today but rather to give the children the first opportunity to present their stories thus far to an audience. I had been forewarned that shyness might cause them to be reluctant to do so. Everyone streamed into the dining hall where tables and chairs were arranged for them. Adam, Shyra, David and Roxanna were on hand. We sorely missed Geovany but knew he was with us in spirit.
Benito and Katerine passed out the XOs and Jose the mice and the children booted up each with a small posse of onlookers pressed over their shoulders. We announced the plan to have the children read and display their stories and Aaron unhesitatingly stepped up to the plate. XO in hand his face alive with pride he took his place in the center of the group and began. David helped by repeating the text in a louder voice as the rain on the roof, the whirr of the fans and the poor acoustics of the room overwhelmed Aarons ability to project over. I was equally overwhelmed with respect and admiration as I watched this small boy present his work with unabashed confidence and delight. There was a hearty round of applause as he turned to go back to his seat where his father and small sister engulfed him in hugs.
Watching their classmate perform so easily stirred a new willingness in the others and one by one five other children came forward and did the same. The other children chose a particular page or pages to display as their classmates and guests made the rounds at the tables stopping to see an erupting volcano, a dancing monkey, or a traveling star. It was a tremendous accomplishment.
A dual highlight of the afternoon is credited to Bill. This morning I received a short video that he had spent the night putting together for us highlighting the previous event here at the camp with the children, their families and the XOs. Titled Waves of Change complete with a beautiful Nicaraguan music track it weaves a tapestry of the lively and joyous communication engendered through the childrens engagement and interaction with the XO. Seeing themselves the children were absolutely mesmerized, in disbelief, enchanted. Thank you Bill for this extraordinary effort.
The drizzle was still misting the air as we broke for snacks and small groups loaded up with plantain chips and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches huddled on the porches with their XOs and our junior mentors instructed their friends and family in the finer aspects of the OX. And then the sun appeared.
The rest of the afternoon was spent frolicking in the lake, playing football and exploring the XOs. I had the opportunity to converse, through Davids able translation skills, with many of the parents and grandparents that were present. They spoke warmly and appreciatively of their gratitude and amazement of their childrens growth and commitment to this project. All were anxious to see their children be able to continue.
At four thirty the bus driver made his appearance notifying everyone that it was time to get moving. The XOs were shut down and odds and ends gathered. I was the recipient of multiple hugs, handshakes, smiles and illustrated messages as the children and others boarded the bus. As it pulled out and made its way across the grass to the road the windows splayed with waving arms and voices bellowed until the bus was finally out of sight. All Adam, Shyra and myself could do was grin and sigh deeply too moved for words.
Once again storms and intermittent inter-net access prevented me from posting.
This week Patrick introduced moving an object along a path. This was one of the most well received lessons so far even though it involved come complex scripting. The children saw great potential in this activity and its usefulness in enhancing their stories. After explaining the process by scripting a star to shoot across a wending path the children hurriedly booted up, opened their journals and began tackling this new activity. The room was abuzz with consultations. Small groups formed as children who got it drew others around them to work out the scripts for themselves. While many of the children initially set out to replicate a star on a path as Patrick had done a few of our classroom mavericks had their own ideas in mind.
Aaron had a drawn a duck that he intended to meander across a curving river. Ruben created a race car to zip along a sharp cornered track. Julissa combined sibling butterflies fluttering from a previous lesson with one new on that flew gracefully arcing along the middle of her page. Others we not content with a simple star but embellished them: multiple different colored stars upon stars, stars with faces or circular tips on their rays. Lester amazed me with his careful attention and determination. While his star and path were quite simple they were also delicate. When he finally successfully had his star traveling its path he beamed calling for me to come see. His round face and dark eyes a twinkle as brightly as his creation.
Unfortunately Geovanys 87 year-old grandmother has fallen ill and had to be transported to the hospital in Managua. Crestfallen and fraught with concern he has traveled there to be by her side. All of our hearts and support travel with him.
Roxanna presented lessons 27 and 28 on Thursday and Friday. I think that the awareness that the pilot is drawing to a close is palatable. The children are attentive and then engrossed in developing their stories. Dasyi and Julissa had hand written the complete text of their stories and also had made some preliminary hand drawn sketches of some characters that they wish to add to their pages. Daysi had created little fanciful insect like critters, and Julissa flower-headed stick figures. They both set to work translating these into more elaborate etoys sketches and inserting their text into their book pages.
We mentors were kept very busy responding to individual requests in helping the children work through the intention they had in mind for scripting their individual sketches. Others were immersed with elaborating their pages. Ruben for one has created forests and richly colored pages with backgrounds. Luis has a herd of cows grazing in a field. Katerine has created a pueblo for her characters to romp in.
End of class Friday was met with query after query about what time the bus would be arriving to bring them to camp tomorrow. One pm. Everyone knew this still the question needed reconfirmation again and again. As the children rode off on their bikes or started home on foot they waved and called back happily, Hasta manna a la Campo!
12. Katherine Massiel Siesar Narljaez
In my house there are six people in my family. one older brother, 2 older sisters, one younger and my grandparents. One of my aunts also lives with us. Our house is in the El Cacal sector of Buenos Aires.
I like to watch the soap opera El Patito Feo (The Ugly Duck). Some of my cousins live by me but not many friends so I play with them. We play many games, mostly house and tag. I help with the dishes, sweeping, and run errands. I like to cook and know how to. My favorite food is rice with chicken.
By myself I like to draw. I know how to make bracelets. I learned at Campo Alegria when I went there for a session. That was fun.
I have to think about what I want to be when Im a grown up. Maybe a doctor. That way I could help the sick. I guess that I want a family. I would like to have four children and a husband. That is not too big or too little. We would probably live in Rivas.
In the past there was never a team who wanted to bring computers to us. I only found out about it the day before from the professor (Marcial). I didnt even know how to turn it on or off. I am glad for all the things I have learnt, especially drawing. I know I can teach things to others and I would like to be better at programming.
I want to remember my childhood. All of it – the playing around. I think this class is excellent. Like I said, no one in the past was interested in teaching us. I am grateful.
13. Daysi Raquel Cubillo Caliz
I am eleven-years-old and I have four younger brothers and three smaller sisters. I am the eldest sibling. We live with my mother and father and my grandmother. We live far out in the country. There are no other families immediately around us so I play with my brothers and sisters.
I help my mother a lot. I clean my room and I like to cook. My favorite is arroz negro (black rice).
I would like to be a secretary. One of my neighbors is one and she has told me about it. Secretaries help other people. I need to study many subjects a lot. The computer will be a big help. I want to go live in Costa Rica because most of my family is there. I was there when I was little and it is beautiful.
I used to think computers would be very hard to learn about. This is the first time I have ever used one and I was surprised that it is not that hard. I like to draw and paint the most so far.
There is a teacher that I want to always remember. It is my fourth-grade teacher. She always makes sure that I understand things. When I dont she will repeat until I do. She shows patience. Maybe I have learned some patience too.
14. Elmer Jose Harunes Garsia
I am nine-years-old and I live with my two sisters and older brother in Sector 7. We live with my grandparents and also my aunt and uncle and my cousin who is five. There are many people at my house. My mother lives in Costa Rica and I visited there when I was little.
I help around our house doing things for my grandmother. I take out the trash, do some dishes and make fires for cooking but I do not do any cooking myself. We also have two dogs at home and I help feed them. Im also very good with a machete and so I help my grandfather cut the grass.
I often play Libre (free) with my friends. It is a game I enjoy that we play outside running around. I have many friends to play with.
When I grow up I want to be an engineer. I dont know what that is really but I think it is someone who goes around to farms and checks on insects and what they are doing to the plants. They also help solve problems with insects and plants. Anyway, want to work on farms in that way. I like science and I want to do this work in Miami.
I always thought that one day I would learn to use a computer. I thought that by using them I would learn new things. Now I know that is true. I think the XO is pretty and important. I really like drawing with it.
I want to always remember that once I was playing with my dad and I got a broken ankle. This happened two years ago at my house. I had to be taken to the health center and then was hospitalized. It was pretty scary. I was in a cast for many weeks. Yeap, thats it.
15. Marcos Aurello Garcia Juitos
I live in my house with six people, two women and two men. There is another girl who lives there with us but she doesnt like to come to school. She comes whenever she feels like it and wants to. The house is in sector 7 of Buenos Aires.
Around my house I help out by cleaning the backyard, taking out the garbage and making my bed. These are mostly boys chores here in Nicaragua. When I have free time I take naps. At night I go to bed. I enjoy sleeping a lot. Years ago I would go out and play with my friends but not now. I like to sing all the time while I do my chores and then nap. Sometimes for a half hour or an hour at a time.
I would like to run my fathers farm when I grow up. Now, I help out there by carrying plantains. I dont know what I will have to do to do this but I think it will just work out. I think I will work on the farm on the weekdays and do something else on the weekends. I dont know what. Ill wait and see.
I had never seen a computer in the past anyway. I thought they were pretty and good. Now I know they are very good because we can really learn how to draw from them and other things.
I wish to remember that we learned a lot about computers. I also want to remember how I bothered David.
Vacation and yet all the children showed up for class. It was fun to see them out of their uniforms. A bit more of their individual personalities revealed in their day-to-day attire. Many were all ready waiting and others trickled in on their bikes. The greeting now is Goood Afternooon the ooos stressed and drawn out.
We held the lesson outside once again under the mango tree. A breeze wafts through the courtyard every once in awhile making the atmosphere much more comfortable then the stifling classroom. Many parents were on hand today as a parent meeting was scheduled for 2pm and they were pleased to watch over the childrens shoulders as they worked and listened to the lesson. As I observed their faces were serious and they shook their heads from time to time wide eyed and startled by what their children were doing. The children enjoyed displaying their skills. Their parents were openly impressed.
Roxanna gave the lesson introducing the obtrudes test to see if an object has moved off the page into the world and then using the x and y vectors to retrieve it. Random movement was also introduced giving the children more choices in how their sketches will behave on the page. Many of the children incorporate this lesson into a story page in their books.
It is not likely that the children will be able to take the XOs home with them so we have emphasized working on finishing up their first books as the pilot is coming to an end. On Saturday we are planning to bus the children out to the camp again for a day of sharing, celebration and fun. Each child will have the opportunity to read their story to the group. The three best will present them at a web-cam conference later in October that all of the children will be invited to attend. This is very exciting for them.
Theyve also just discovered many puzzle programs on the XO that they find intriguing. Block puzzles that reinforce math concepts and picture puzzles that require sequencing skills and forethought. One child discovered one and soon everyone was exploring another. Children doubled up on chairs to work together.
In the evening back at camp, the two Peace Corps workers, Patrick and Shyra, Adam and myself sat down to discuss possibilities and suggestions for the future of the program, the location of the computers and inherent needs for the projects sustainability in various forms. These suggestions will be presented to the donors for review with Adam making his recommendations. We are all anxious to have an idea of how this next stage will unfold.
Schools throughout Nicaragua are on vacation this week in honor of both Nicaraguas and Central Americas independence. The weekend was host to parades throughout the country. School marching bands, colorful floats depicting scenes from Nicaraguas history and uniformed children abounded. Today Buenos Aires pueblo, not wishing to compete with the larger Rivas, held its celebration. The march began at eight am and continued past one thirty in the afternoon.
Needless to say it was misguided to hold class today. Still eight of the children showed up exhausted from parading but eager. Opting not to give a lesson the eight delighted on being able to just work on their stories and have fun. They pulled some desks outside into the shade of a mango tree and went at it. Roxanna, Patrick, Shyra, David and I were all available to help when asked. This ratio gave rise to a lot of personal attention. Stressing the importance of developing their stories they dove in. It gave us an opportunity to ascertain just were these eight were at in comprehension and development. It became obvious that animation, speaking figures and drawing are the touchstone interests.
The taxi arrived early to take me back to camp and the children let out gasps of disappointment. I am hoping to get permission to allow the children to take the XOs home for the rest of the week. Assured that classes will go on as scheduled during the rest of vacation I think this would provide and excellent opportunity for solo exploration and extra time to flush out their stories. Im keeping my fingers crossed that the powers that be will agree.
Karen Ocon, a native Nicaraguan employed by the Peace Corps, visited us for an hour at the school in Buenos Aires today. We held class in a ramshackle room usually used to store bicycles. Our regular classroom had been transformed into a theater, the iron barred windows covered with paper to block out the goings on inside. A talent show was to be held there later in the afternoon and tickets were being sold no peeking allowed. We had our own talent show on display in our makeshift classroom.
The children pulled up their favorite lessons to date. Karen meandered around as the children shared and spoke as animatedly as their creations about their work. I gave her my enthusiastic elevator speech about OLPC, Waveplace and the Nicaraguan pilot. I am hoping that she will write a short piece for our newsletter with her impressions. She seemed duly impressed not only by the awesome display of creativity but also the childrens focus and the mutual engagement between the mentors and children itself. Once she had viewed their choice they immediately delved back into their work. She commented that she had never seen this kind of ready engagement in an elementary school environment in Nicaragua before.
After her visit Roxanna went into todays lesson that involved advanced scripts. David, Geovany and I responded to the many requests for one-to-one assistance. Shyra was also on hand working on familiarizing herself with the XO. The children love to come to her aid.
Exploratory time found the children headed to the sound recorder that was introduced yesterday. They are thrilled to be able to give voice to their characters and sketches. This enhancement seems to be impelling them to further embellish their stories.
Suddenly the children began shutting down in unison. I attributed it to the talent show that was soon to be under way. They moved their desks outside and placed them in a semi-circle. And then Marcial and Geovany (who had slipped away unnoticed) appeared with two beautiful sheet cakes one wishing David and the other myself happy birthday. The children burst into song with gusto. It was a lovely surprise. There was ice and soda and merriment. We also recognized Marvin, a child who celebrates a September birthday. I received tons of hugs and kisses and handshakes. Its a day I will always hold dear in my heart.
What is a present? A gift?
Is it a bestowing of something valuable from one to another? Ideally a sharing or token of appreciation? What sorts of gifts live on? What is aid and what of this talk about sustainability?
Geovany, Roxanna and David expressed that they have been given the opportunity to be engaged in their world. They feel empowered to make an impact in a few childrens lives, at a small school, in a small pueblo, in their beautiful but impoverished country. They now carry something special and relevant in their hearts hope.
They have been following the disaster laid bare by hurricanes in Cuba and Haiti. They appreciate the vulnerability of their own environment. Nicaragua after all is a land of volcano and a slice of terrain betwixt oceans that generate and birth furious storms seemingly lacking in compassion for any sentient being in their path.
An XO is a window not much different then a book or the stories these young handpicked children in Buenos Aires pueblo are creating. They are quite simply a vehicle to a larger imagination and creativity. Their very creation was a collaboration and persistent pursuit of a dream manifested. Still their beauty is the expansion of minds. Thats powerful. So what now? Into whose hands should they go? Exponentially how will these twenty some computers generate more hope? Will putting them in the hands of the children who have been participating and learning benefit their siblings and wider albeit microcosmic community or is it the mentors that matter? Either way how does this pilot move forward?
These are questions that we are waiting on answers to. As witness to this real life endeavor observing others as willing participants both capable and purposeful in carrying on I long to realize the next step. We are trying to put into place a model for sustaining this undertaking. Ask us questions. Let us know your perspective. Together we create tomorrows dawn.
Yesterday Roxannas computer was experiencing the fritz, simply acting erratic on its own accord so Geovany took over (quite happily he may have put a jinx on her XO) with Lesson 21 the joystick. I, as noted, was occupied with other issues so based on inquiry the children, especially but not only the boys were thoroughly engrossed. Still they found it a bit complex. We have decided by consensus to review this lesson in its entirety another day when a future lesson is readily grasped.
I want to note both Roxannas and Geovanys commitment to being prepared to deliver each lesson. I have been alleviated of the task of delegating who will present a lesson. They discuss this with Patrick and all prepare both to teach and support one another. They take the time and initiate the opportunity to give me feedback on their observations and suggestions. This is awesome in my book.
Patrick held sway in his discussion on flipping sketches and relational tests. A few yawns and chair slumping caused him to pause and await more engaged attention. As he continued questioning the children and having them actively participate in their understanding of vectors and headings the boredom gave way to enlivenment. Wow, a pause script command is worth knowing about. I also physically illustrated the difference between the terms turn and flip by drawing both a symmetrical and non-symmetrical image on paper, both back and front to show how a flip would result in an upside down version of the non-symmetrical image. The children then concretely grasped this concept. Thus it was necessary to draw a sketch facing the direction one planned to have it move across the screen. I also informed them that OLPC would appreciate it if any one of them were able to solve this glitch.
Later the children worked on their evolving stories. Often the mentors suggest that the children help each other. Why dont you go ask Adam about that. His script is doing what you want to do with yours.
And then it is playtime after explore time. Now, increasingly this means discovering the information available on the XO -pictures of far away places or events or accessing scientific information for example. Chatting has come back and Marcial loves it. There is something different, intimate and I dont know what about being in the same room and passing messages about. Outside there is also sporting.