When students picture a typical classroom, they think of high-tech Promethean Boards and expensive calculators. But for a group of student volunteers this summer, that picture was completely different.
Over the summer, 13 students traveled to Tanzania for a three-week service trip led by history teacher Michael Curran and special education teacher Laurie Safran. Students worked in two different orphanages and taught Tanzanian schoolchildren in the morning and afternoon.
Students stayed at a Mzungu (white person) compound between the two orphanages, which had staff cooks as well as night guards.
Senior Julia Brown decided to go to Tanzania because she always wanted to go on a service trip, and the teaching aspect of the trip appealed to her.
“I definitely gained a new perspective on a lot of things by going on the trip,” Brown said. “I feel even more appreciative of our school and medical systems.”
The Tanzanian school day differs then the American one because schools are overcrowded. Students attend school for half a day, either in the morning or the afternoon. The volunteers taught classes all day at the orphanage, so students got a full day of classes, Curran said.
Volunteers taught math and English to children, but sometimes taught chemistry and biology to older students.
Junior Jessi Li enjoyed teaching because the students were eager to learn, though a language barrier made teaching more
Classrooms were ill equipped and lacked supplies like calculators and pencils so students had to adjust their teaching styles. For the first days of the trip, volunteers weren’t sure what level to teach the students, but quickly adjusted, Li said.
Li’s favorite memory from the trip was teaching a boy the quadratic formula and watching him get a difficult answer without a calculator.
“They weren’t nice whole numbers. He got really complicated answers without a calculator,” Li said. “It was amazing.”
This was the first year that students had the opportunity to travel to Tanzania. Curran lived in Tanzania for four months in 2006 and had stayed at one of the orphanages that the students volunteered at this summer. The trip took eight months to plan, but Curran’s contacts in Tanzania made the planning process easier.
He wanted to take students to Tanzania because he wanted students to have a meaningful experience outside of the first world, Curran said.
“Students gained better perspective about how the majority of the world lives outside of Bethesda, and what it’s like for them, especially with the AIDS community in Tanzania,” Curran said.