On Friday, the project does art activities and games with the students that are different from the normal small group instruction they receive Monday through Thursday to support their academic skills. These activities are designed to be creative and let the children experience additional opportunities to work on their social skills, social-emotional development, and their executive functioning. In addition, these are activities that would not occur in a normal primary classroom in Tanzania but are designed to support their development by thinking in different ways. Given that we are trying to help these students make big gains to close the achievement gap between them and their peers, it is important to use multimodal teaching techniques and multisensory activities to help them integrate what they are learning.
This week we taught them to dance the Makerena, we bowled, and we made paper bag puppets. This was all really fun, but a different type of fun and experience than in the United States. I will post pictures later of the Makerena. The biggest challenge for both the Tanzanian teachers and students was the idea that this activity was creative and there was no right or wrong answer. We had to keep saying that “Usiwezi kukosea” or you can’t make a mistake. Sarah had made an example, but at first they all wanted to copy the example. After a while, the teachers started to understand, but the children were still timid in picking materials to use. They were expecting to be told what to do and how to do it and whether it was right or wrong. This was the first time they had done an activity like this. Typically, art in Tanzanian schools is drawing and they draw and color pictures based on real objects and there is a right and wrong way to do it. This is very reminiscent of the Harry Chapin song “Roses are Red and green leaves are green.”