Jayne Davidson | GLP Rwanda

Jayne Davidson, a Geography teacher at St Machar Academy in Aberdeen, spent four weeks living and working in Rubavu in the Western Province of Rwanda during the summer of 2016.  Jayne shares some tips for engaging students and colleagues at the early stages of programme participation.

It doesn’t’ seem that long ago since I began GLP, but thinking back, there isn’t a right way or a wrong way to start engaging students – it’s about what is right for your school.  I’m lucky, our school is very receptive to Learning for Sustainability.  We are a multi-cultural school, plus one of my colleagues already participated on GLP in 2014, so there was already a support structure I was able to piggy-back on.  I looked for projects and world events that captured everyone’s imagination e.g. the Miniature Earth Learning Programme and the Olympics; they became the building blocks for some great discussion.

I really wanted to get the most out of my time on the GLP Programme, so I got my students to help me plan ahead and think about the information I needed to take back to school

In my efforts to actively raise awareness of my trip to Rwanda, I engaged and empowered the Duke of Edinburgh group to help me fundraise.  Together, they decided on fun and profitable fundraising initiatives such as making and selling hot chocolate and, developing and selling a quiz.  The students took full responsibility for promoting both initiatives, helping me reach my fundraising target whilst raising awareness of my trip across the school.

At a class level, I wanted to generate enquiry and discussion before my trip.  The adventure was new to me and to my students and I was keen that any discussion or questions we had before my trip, should be followed up with lessons when I returned.  This multi-stage approach helped me to plan ahead and think about the information I needed to take back to school.  Successful lessons included:

Postcards: My S2 students created postcards of Scotland, which I took to Rwanda and was able to use as a resource to support English literacy lessons with Rwandan students in S3.  To ensure it was reciprocal, I asked the Rwandan students to write postcards back to my students; they contain a real mix of detail and are a rich learning resource which I am currently developing a structured lesson plan for.

The Life Goals Project:  I worked with my S3 students to baseline their perceptions of the ambitions of young people in Rwanda.  Before my placement, I asked my students to think about their own life goals and compare them to what they thought the goals of Rwandans (the same age as them) would be.  The answers were very stereotypical and included phrases like “having enough to eat” and “having clean water”. To establish if this was true, I asked S5 and S6 Rwandan students about their life goals and I filmed their answers.  Upon return to St Machar, I showed the students I had worked with (pre-placement) the video clips; they were astounded to hear that the Rwandan students had pretty much the same aspirations for success as them.  The discussion that followed was really rich.  An exercise like this really helps to challenge stereotypes and perceptions; it focuses on the similarities and goes some way towards bridging the barriers that exist between “them and us”.

The Olympics: We were lucky to be heading to Rwanda in the same summer as the Olympics.  In class I asked students to predict how many medals the Rwandan national team would win.  The students then investigated the reasons why they thought Rwanda would win no medals looking at income, perception of sport as a career, fairness and opportunity.  Oxfam’s Top Trumps was a great resource as was “Land of Second Chances” by Tim Lewis.  The lesson promoted lots of big questions and great group discussion.

The benefit of engaging students before your overseas placement is that it makes for exciting conversations upon your return.  In my first week back at school I knew there would be lots of questions but I didn’t feel pressure to deliver Rwanda focused work.  I was happy to discuss my placement, but I was keen that the learning would be applied in a relevant and meaningful way.  I am in the early stages. I have some great resources (photographs, video clips and postcards) which will add value to structured lesson plans, but I am keen to incorporate my time in Rwanda as one example among many others; it is a stepping stone to deeper, richer global discussions.  For now, I’m developing some units to incorporate learning opportunities around the Sustainable Development Goals, and, working with colleagues on whole school projects using Geography as a building block for things like the Miniature Earth Learning Project.


Inspired by Jayne’s experiences?

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