A Reflection from one of the curriculum team members

A Reflection from one of the curriculum team members
Fri, 04/01/2011 - 09:03

As always, it was a pleasure to be with Rotary District 5370 and the Belize Rotary Clubs in March 2011.   I feel honoured to be asked to continue the hard work of many Rotarians and educators  in Belize.   My primary focus was to collaboratively work with the Belize Education Curriculum Development team and our Rotary team of educators – Sandra, Evelaine, and Courtney on  completion of the mathematics curriculum, developing an math implementation plan for September 2011, as well as, supporting Courtney in her work on the science curriculum.  

As entire team, we met on March 20th to get the vision of our work for the week.  I met some new faces and was reacquainted with some former friends and colleagues.  The energy and excitement in the room was inspiring and refreshing.  There was a fervour for the work ahead.    Our task as the Curriculum Team (Sandra, Evelaine, Courtney and myself) was to meet with Nelson Longsworth – Ministry of Education – curriculum to complete the mathematics curriculum and devise a tentative mathematics implementation plan for September 2011, as well as, complete the science curriculum. 

On  Monday, the team met with Nelson at the Quads.  Nelson gave us copies of the work that had been  completed to date and gave us the history of the project, timelines and anticipated outcomes.   Being new to this part of the project, I appreciated the information shared and learned as we collaboratively shared thoughts, ideas, and insights.  There was a great deal of discussion around the professional development piece as it is vital to successful implementation of new curriculum and program of studies.  The curriculum team worked all day on different pieces of the science and mathematics.   I focussed on the developmentally appropriateness of the curriculum at different levels, adding bullets to specific outcomes to enhance teachers’ understanding, as well as, I briefly scanned the scope and sequence of the mathematics to see the progression of skills throughout the curriculum.  The task is huge so Nelson and I discussed that this would be one of those pieces I would work on in early April for Nelson and his math team to discuss and make revisions for later.  It was great to have the expertise of Evelaine and Sandra when looking at how to integrate techology into the science and mathematics curriculums.  They have amazing insights into what is effective and feasible.   The excitement was high even as we left on Monday.

On Tuesday, the entire team attended a full day meeting with District Education Managers, Education Officers, Faith Leaders and Principals from across Belize.  I had the privilege to work with Courtney for the entire day formulating pieces of the science curriculum that had not quite been completed.  It was a amazing day to share with Courtney.   She has amazing insights into how to create curriculum that has  Belizean cultural, historical, and environmental issues so delicately interwoven into the fabric of the curriculum and its implementation.   She was truly passionate about the task and her vision of the new Science curriculum for Belize.

Wednesday was the best day ever.  In 2009, I was fortunate enough to be on the Rotary team that worked with Belize City and Belmopan Principals in Belmopan with Jennifer Lawley, Donna Barrett and Lynne Paradis.  At the time, I only imagined what school was like for the teachers and students of Belize but on Wednesday, I was able to see for myself.  Thanks to Nelson, we were able to visit 2 different schools.  I observed 2 math classrooms – what a thrill.  I saw talented teachers sharing with students.  I witnessed eager and enthusiastic children learning.  I saw classrooms with very little space for extra things.  I saw children working hard on the problems they were presented.  I saw teachers working skilfully  with limited resources.  I witnessed masterful teachers, excellent teaching strategies, cooperative learning, sharing of learning objectives, solid use of mathematical vocabulary, problem solving, interactive activities, games, and best of all students enthusiastic about mathematics.  I have a greater appreciation and understanding of the classrooms in Belize but better yet the list of opportunities, challenges and obstacles Belize teachers face when presenting the mathematics curriculum.  The new mathematics program of studies has a strong emphasis on conceptual understanding.  Teaching fewer outcomes but to a great depth of understanding.  I believe this is accomplished through experiential learning, which could be one of those hurdles to overcome  in the classrooms I was privileged to witness. (no manipulatives, lack of physical space to store manipulatives, lack of space to move around the room to cooperative learning spaces,  lack of resources).  It was an eye-opener and pleasure to be part of their world.  Again, it was wonderful and a highlight of my work here in Belize.  I think more than anything, I witnessed some of the practices that have been shared by former Rotary teachers in past summers.
• Curriculum outcome posted
• Cooperative learning
• Word walls
• Visually stimulating classrooms
• Questions that engage students
•  Critical thinking
• Use of manipulatives
Evidence of good teaching practices was obvious in the classroom.  Does Rotary Summer PD make a difference?  Rotary you have made a significant difference.   You should be proud of your contributions to the wellbeing of the Belize educational system.  My colleagues were equally with thrilled the opportunity and there many a conversation about what we saw.
Wednesday afternoon, I continued to work on the science units and the mathematics professional development implementation plan so I could share with Nelson’s mathematics team on Thursday.   In collaboration with Nelson, we established a Mathematics implementation plan that is presently in draft form. 

On Thursday, Nelson brought his Mathematics and Science teams to the Quads to meet with the Rotary Curriculum Team.  It was an opportunity for the Belize team to share insights, give clarity, and direction to the draft math and science curriculums.   Nelson has assembled a powerful group of teachers and administrators passionate about thoughtful change to curriculum.  There was a strong voice of wanting Belizean students to learn about their amazing environment, local opportunities and integration of science and mathematics.   The Belize team was familiar with the mathematics curriculum and thrilled with the introduction to the scope and sequence of the science curriculum. 
Thursday afternoon, I continued to work on the mathematics scope and sequence and  my husband - Doug, a Red Deer Rotarian,  explored the local area.  Doug and I,  took Nelson and Erwin (technology support for the Ministry of Belize)   out for supper to get reacquainted as Doug and I hosted Nelson and Erwin at our home in April of 2009 when our Belizean friends visited us in Alberta.  It was a great evening of sharing.  It is nice to know that you when you travel to Belize you have friends you can meet up with.  Thanks to Rotary all of this is possible.

What a wonderful experience to again be a part of the Rotary Literacy Project. 

Brenda MacDonald