A 7.6 magnitude earthquake just struck less than 100 miles from the site of our Nicaragua pilot. Tsunami warning is in effect. Our thoughts are with our mentors and students, along with everyone else in southern Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica.
(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 Timothy Falconer, from newsletter)
As I write this, Hurricane Omar is about to make landfall on the US Virgin Islands. From my talks with our friends, it’s fair to say that everyone’s scared. Guy Benjamin School has been closed all week. Ferry and mail service have been stopped. Mary Burks has moved her live-in boat to Hurricane Hole. Jan Kinder has been boarding up buildings since 6 AM. Everyone’s braced for impact.
Looking at the satellite images tonight, I’m reminded of our first Waveplace proposal, which starts: “Each summer and fall in the Caribbean, locals watch the weather with a collective pending dread. Every counterclockwise swirl of white that makes its way westward over the Atlantic might be heading their way.” Later it discusses how the Caribbean suffers greatly from “economic downturns”, which couldn’t be more relevant this October, with a very bleak tourist season expected.
From the start, Waveplace has had the same mission: “to create a thriving new industry in the Caribbean independent of tourism.” By teaching children to create with computers, we’re setting the stage for a future where they can earn a living exporting their creativity to the world without leaving their homes. Never has this need been greater than right now.
In the last year, Waveplace has achieved some pretty remarkable things. We’ve held pilots in Nicaragua, Florida, Haiti, and the Virgin Islands. We’ve given laptops and training to more than 100 children and taught 25 adults to become Waveplace mentors. We’ve shot some incredible video and created two versions of our courseware which are now being used by groups around the world.
To finish out the year, we hope to complete our documentary and courseware. Before that though, we’re having a live video event with all four pilot areas on Friday, October 24th at 4pm ET (GMT-4). Children from St John, Haiti, Florida, and Nicaragua will present their Etoys storybooks live to the world, so be sure to tune in by visiting http://waveplace.com/awards. If you can’t make that time, you’ll still be able to watch the recorded video later.
Speaking of video, Bill Stelzer somehow found time away from his own hurricane preparations to upload his latest new video of our pilot in Nicaragua. Watching this one brought me to tears. Never has the heart of our efforts been so skillfully expressed. Bill’s a true talent. I can’t wait to see his fuill documentary.
(the next morning) Great news! Everyone’s okay. Omar missed Saint John.
(by Mary Scotti, from newsletter)
Each day the children in Nicaragua waited excitedly in the schoolyard. Others on their bicycles anticipated the first glimpse of my taxi as it rounded the bend toward Buenos Aires. Waving and calling out greetings, they would ride along the puttering cab towards the school. Boys gathered round, anxious to be the ones to unload the computers. A mad dash for the door ensued as the children jockeyed to be the first in the classroom. The mentors were usually engaged in playful banter with the children. During the entire pilot, this excitement never waned.
The tone had been set from day one. Of course the laptops themselves generated an unexpected privilege and opportunity for the children. From the interviews I learned that each child believed the computers to be important to their futures — that they would propel them into the world of the “professional.” Still the fellowship and accomplishment that unfolded hinted at much more. Without struggle, the mentors developed into engaging guides, never simply teachers with a lesson to deliver. They too were enrapt, fostering and supporting the children and each other in their progress. It was this continual atmosphere of cultivation and innovation that was so inspiring.
This is the key to the success of Waveplace. By encouraging mentors and guiding the children to become active participants in their own education, a special magic happens. There is always a danger that a teacher can take the Waveplace course and teach the material in a rote manner. The mentors in Nicaragua were aware of this and expressed their desire to become ‘trainers of trainers’ to insure this doesn’t happen. They very much want to spread the joy of this approach, inspiring others to, as they put it, “teach with love.”
The pilot ignited a spark which continues to grow. It is my dream that these future engineers, executives, doctors, police officers, teachers, stargazers and mentors, dreamers all, will have the opportunity to carry that spark forward for the benefit of all Nicaragua, and the world.
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.