Just a few days ago, RCEF concluded our fourth Summer Volunteer Program. Every July since 2005, volunteers from China and abroad have come to rural villages to put on enriching camps for local children. This year, three camps took place in Yongji, Shanxi Province, RCEF’s main site in rural China. Volunteers from 5 countries worked with 30 rural teachers to put on the two-week camps. Classes were designed to supplement the regular education that children get in school by offering subjects not normally taught, such as Theater Games, Arts & Crafts, and Community Research. The classes are focused on increasing students’ self esteem, creativity, and interest in learning. RCEF also facilitates students to learn more about their rural hometowns, in an attempt to build community awareness and pride. For example, students at Nanzheng Primary School spent two class periods in a row every day doing research projects. The four groups researched (1) the history of the village wall (2) the stream in the village (3) general history of the village (4) education in the old days. Here are some excerpts from their reports on “education in the old days”:
“By surveying several elderly people we were able to learn that at that time, even though tuition was only 2 yuan, which these days is only enough to buy a meal, then it was very hard to come by. It is said this money was subsidized by the country. They had to pay for cafeteria meals which altogether came to 10 yuan. How much hard work around the clock would this require! Normally at first light they would get out of bed and go to school on foot. As soon as they got to school they would grab a book and start to read. At nine they would eat breakfast and normally would study math in the morning.”
Next, the older students researched the natural environment of the village. Annie, the volunteer who taught the science class, led them on a field trip into the nearby hills to collect plant specimens and Karen, who taught art, showed them how to draw plants and other elements of nature they observed. All in all, about 250 children benefited from the free summer camps.
Next, we are preparing for a rural teachers retreat. This will bring together rural elementary school teachers from three schools to share experiences and make action plans for the next semester. All 17 teachers from Guan Ai Elementary School, RCEF’s main program partner, are coming. For many, it’s the first time they will have left their region and we have planned trips to museums and historical sites along the way. This retreat will be a chance for the teachers to build team spirit, reflect on our common educational values, and set concrete goals for improving their teaching.
We are excited about the 2008-2009 school year. We will keep you posted on all fronts! Please continue to visit the RCEF website and blog for frequent updates! (www.ruralchina.org)
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Co-Founder, Co-Executive Director