Monday, March 7, 2016

Report from the Field: F2F Volunteer Ryan Kesler at Jarabacoa Environmental School in the Dominican Republic - Part I

It has been just over three weeks since I arrived in the Dominican Republic working for Farmer-to-Farmer and the National School of Environment and Natural Resources in Jarabacoa and it feels like I’ve been busy every moment. But, before I get into my experiences, I should probably tell you all just who I am. My name is Ryan Kesler and I am an undergrad student studying Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). It is my final semester at UW and I am fortunate enough to spend it here in the DR. Here I get to practice not only my Spanish skills, but also my teaching skills as I am helping the Environmental School with their English classes. Thus far it has been an excellent experience and I would like to share some of my experiences with you all.

For the first two weeks, I worked with Rick Hall and Maria Moreno, two additional Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers based out of the UW-Arboretum called Earth Partnership. Earth Partnership works with communities both in Wisconsin and Latin America (through a project called Colaboración Ambiental) to teach educators in methods of integrating a more environmentally conscious curriculum into their schools. They have developed an entire course guide of activities for educators to use to help students learn through observing nature and constructing conservation projects such as rain gardens. The first week here, we had a meeting at the National Botanical Gardens in Santo Domingo to present the Earth Partnership curriculum to the director. Earth Partnership is currently only working with the Environmental School but is looking to expand to other local schools around Jarabacoa. During this first week we also had meetings with three local schools to put the Earth Partnership curriculum into action.

F2F volunteer, Rick Hall, leading a course with Jarabacoa students
During the second week, we coordinated times to do a few activities from the Earth Partnership course guide with the students of the environmental school. One of the activities we did is called “Noting Notable Features”. In this activity, the students went out onto the school campus and took observations from everything from soil type, to the slope of the landscape to the diversity the fauna and flora in the area. It was a hot day but the students seemed to really enjoy the activity.

After two weeks, Rick and Maria left and I have been on my own (however I use the phrase “on my own” loosely). I have since moved into one of the houses on the school grounds where I will be until the end of the semester. Teaching English has proved to be challenging but rewarding as all the students are on very different levels of English comprehension. In the class itself, the students are working on projects around the school yard and preparing presentations for the end of the semester. I am helping the current English professor with working with the various groups. He has appreciated my help as there are 38 students and he can’t get around to working with every group every day. In addition to the normal English classes, I have been holding group discussions in English every week as a way to gain extra practice. The students seem to be really enjoying it but I’d be lying if I said I’m not enjoying it more! I am really looking forward to seeing their progress throughout the semester.

I want to thank you all for reading the first of 3 blog posts that I will be making during my time here. See you next time!

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful opportunity to practice Spanish and learn about culture and farming. It should make for some very interesting stories and interviews, like the one above about women in agriculture.