(by Adam Todd, from newsletter)

Imagine for a moment a small school in a small town on the outskirts of one of the smallest cities in the poorest country in Central America. Imagine a school without electricity or running water, windows without screens or glass, roofs littered with holes and areas that have collapsed, tables and chairs that are virtually falling apart. With all of this in mind, we couldn’t have thought of a better place to run the first Waveplace pilot in Central America.

Only an XO would be versatile enough to adapt to these conditions and allow children who otherwise would not have the opportunity to learn computer skills to then be able to turn around and rank some of the highest results in the recently held Waveplace Awards ceremony. Wrangling the Seymour Award for the top student, Wendy was the icon of our success with her story of a Butterfly Queen. After our overwhelmingly successful pilot in Buenos Aires ended only one question remained for us, what next?

Two weeks later on the National Nicaraguan News came the top story of President Ortega’s Announcement that the largest cell phone company in Nicaragua had donated 3,200 XO laptops to the Ministry of Education in an attempt to “elevate the quality of education” throughout Nicaragua.

Soon after the announcement I had the Ministry of Education tracking me down asking questions about the XO’s, Campo Alegria, and Waveplace. Suddenly our small school in Buenos Aires become much more than a “pilot” and was now the starting point of a nation-wide prototype that would spark the interest of the government and 200 schools spread throughout Nicaragua.

Yesterday we completed the initial basic training of the first forty schools that have already received laptops. Starting with an overview of the XO and a general introduction to some key programs most useful to elementary schools in Nicaragua. The teachers quickly became aware that Etoys would be the most important tool on the XO for their school children and that they would need more than just an introduction. Immediately the question was raised: how and when would they get further training in order to begin teaching Etoys to the 3,000 students currently waiting?

Most of the teachers had never touched a computer before and it was amazing to see their faces as we navigated to the video application and seeing them suddenly realize that they were being recorded by the XO’s video camera. Many ducked and a few even began to put their makeup on as if the XO was an electronic mirror. It was a great feeling to see all of the teachers leaving the day feeling encouraged and ready to get started on such a monumental task ahead.

Nicaragua is advancing slowly. Even as the meeting wrapped up yesterday we were greeted in Managua with chaos and rioting in the streets as the political situation continues to deteriorate after the recent municipal elections. Questions still remain: How will it look to train over 3,000 students and teachers on an XO? Where will the funding come from … and what hidden obstacles that are yet to be seen lay ahead. All things considered, we all agree, it will be worth the journey.

(by Mary Scotti, from newsletter)

Wendy Garcia of Nicaragua was awarded the first Seymour Award bestowed by the Waveplace Foundation and we are proud. Her family is rightly proud. Buenos Aires school and Campo Alegria are proud. Her classmates are too.

Wendy joined our pilot a few days into it and spent time catching up. Her first day she had figured out how to spin out stars and patterns of such intricacy with the pen tool that they mesmerized her peers. Geovany praised her abilities. “She is so smart! She just gets it.” The principle nodded his recognition. Demonstrating to the class, she shared her work easily.

This slight, lovely, introspective girl described her world in this way:

“My house has three people, my mother Joanne, my father Ricardo and me. I have an older sister who is fourteen years. She lives with my grandparents on the Pacific side of Nicaragua in the district of Tola. Our home is very far from the school. My mother will not let me come all this way alone. She rides with me on her bicycle until we reach town where it is safe. She meets me on my way home after class.
(by Mary Scotti, from newsletter)

In my spare time I like to go to the lake and bathe. I also like to draw in my notebook. I don’t live in a neighborhood. There are not many houses by me so I learn to play alone. I love to read and have a few books of biblical stories. I help my mother cleaning the house and doing the dishes.

I would like to study English and become a translator. I want to go to the University. I would like to live in San Juan del Sol. It is very beautiful there and has a beach.

I used to think that laptops were good but really I had no clue about them or how to use them. Now I especially like learning how to draw with them. I would like to keep making art. My parents are very happy for me and think this is very good.

I want to remember everything that happened here in this class. This is an unusual chance and time. I especially want to remember our trip to the camp. That will always be a special day for me.”

Wendy’s essence engages and inspires. She is imbued with natural talents. In the states we would declare her “gifted” no doubt. Thanks Wendy. May your light shine and your dreams be realized.

(by Christa Crehan, from newsletter)

What a privilege it has been to be involved in this Waveplace extravaganza! I just finished watching the Waveplace Awards video. What an amazing accomplishment for all of the children. Watching them combine computer programming and storytelling to create their final storybooks was the best gift from this experience. All children have something important to give and it is up to the adults around them to guide them and show them they can accomplish anything they want.

Maria (winner of Best Artwork) and Eric (winner of Best Scripting) began the program with trepidation. What they created is from their heart. We allowed each child to take his or her gift and focus on that gift to create a story all their own. Maria’s focus was her incredible eye for detail in her beautiful artwork, while Eric chose to focus on learning complicated programming skills. There is something for every child in Etoys no matter what their contribution to the world may be. We will help them find their voice.

On that note, I was showing the video from Nicaragua to a friend of mine who speaks Spanish and English. She turned to me and said, “Christa, you don’t understand how powerful this song is.” My friend began to translate as the video progressed, “… I hear you … I hear your voice in stories … I am the voice of the future … I am the voice that you call for freedom …”

What a powerful message the song sends children. No matter who they are or where they live, they may follow the voice in their heart. That is the voice of freedom.