I intended to publish this article a few weeks ago, but I have been trying in vain to get the photos that the English teacher took on his smartphone. I figured that if I waited any longer it wouldn’t be worth the effort of posting, so I am just throwing it up now, sans photos.
In Nicaragua the US Embassy has a number of educational programs, mostly based on the English language. ACCESS is the largest, and offers daily intensive English classes to high school students. The results have been great. However, not all students can commit to extra classes every day, so they have an alternative weekend only version called CHOP. A few months ago I met one of the coordinators of CHOP, and she was very eager to invite Peace Corps Volunteers to collaborate. Once a month CHOP includes a cultural component. The coordinators suggest a topic, but the Volunteers, or whoever is helping out, is free to plan whatever they wish, as long as it relates to English and American culture.
The suggested theme for January was Martin Luther King Jr., and I signed up. Yesterday was the class, and it was awesome. I asked the kids where they come from. Some of them are students at my schools, and some students come from towns outside of León. It was the kind of diverse group that I would expect for a weekend program like CHOP.
I started with an explanation of the setting: Jim Crow South, racism, and segregation. I had to re-explain most things in English. Then we got into who Martin Luther King Jr. was, what he accomplished, and how he did it.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
I asked some questions about racism and discrimination in Nicaragua, then we talked about MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.” I explained to them that a dream is not only something that you have when you are asleep, but that it is also a positive vision that you can have for the future. In preparing for this session and listening to the speech, I realized how frightfully little I personally know about the history of the civil rights movement. I didn’t even know that “I Have a Dream” was delivered during the historical March on Washington. I recommend that everyone take a few minutes to watch a short recording of the speech. It is a lot more powerful when you realize that a Black man delivered this speech standing in front of a massive statue of Abraham Lincoln.
After I Have a Dream (which we unfortunately did not have time to listen to) we played a game. I put the name of a minority group (women, indigenous people, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, etc.) on a little piece of paper and gave it to a student. That student then had to get his classmates to guess the group without using bad words or stereotypes. The kids were pretty good at it and got most of them on the first guess.
My favorite part of the short session was at the end, when I had the kids come up with their own hashtags, in English. I explained Black Lives Matter and how they are using technology, like Twitter, to get their message out. Then I handed out paper and markers and told them that they had to come up with a hashtag for a racism or discrimination issue, and it couldn’t be “Lives Matter.” I was blown away with the thoughtfulness that the kids put into this little activity. During my 45 minutes with them we had not spoken about people living with HIV, homeless people, or sexual abuse victims, but different kids all came up with hashtags for those groups, among others. I was very impressed and I hope I get to work with these kids again before I leave Nicaragua in May.