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Dec 4, 2017

The Art of Making Mistakes- EFL Teaching at TYO with International Intern Katherine

Teacher Mahmoud and students roar in lion masks.
Teacher Mahmoud and students roar in lion masks.

“There is no such thing as a mistake in art.” Even now, years later, I can still remember my elementary school art teacher encouraging me to embrace mistakes. She showed me how a misplaced line or extra paint splotch could become a new design. There is always a way to transform an accident into an opportunity. As a child pre-occupied with perfection, art gave me space to develop at my own pace. I enjoyed learning without worrying about making mistakes.  

My elementary teacher must have known that using art in education helps students to develop and become well-rounded individuals. In June 2017, The Arts Fund USA released a statement confirming that students who learn through art are well-equipped to express themselves, show empathy towards others, and collaborate and solve problems. They are also willing to take risks and are resilient in their learning. The California Alliance for Arts Education adds that students with exposure to the arts tend to have higher test scores, higher school attendance rates, and are more likely to continue their education beyond the secondary level than their counterparts. They grow into critical thinkers and innovators.

I have come to appreciate the truth of these findings while using art to teach English to students at TYO. Including daily art projects in my lesson plans has provided children with a critical sense of both structure and accomplishment. They feel prepared for class each day and they know that even if they make mistakes while learning English, they will always be able to take pride in their work. Art emboldens students to be creative and to make the mistakes that language learners must make in order to develop.                

Art also gives students freedom to make mistakes and take risks in their daily lives. Many of my students live in crowded homes and neighborhoods. Due to space and noise restrictions at home, they do not always have the ability to buzz around in bee wings, make a kite and then fly it, or roar while wearing lion masks. TYO is a place where they do not need to worry about being perfect, still, or quiet. They are free to complete an art project, take pride in their work, play with it, and simply enjoy being children. I have seen that freedom translate into an eagerness to continue learning and attending class at TYO.

Art has instilled my students with a new sense of self-esteem and motivation in their learning. It has also enabled them to build stronger relationships with one another and with me. In my two months at TYO, I have watched every single one of my students grow through art. Art has fueled their imaginations and their curiosity about themselves and the world around them. Even after our session together ends, I hope they will continue to approach their education with enthusiasm and a willingness to take risks.

Students show off their lion masks in EFL class.
Students show off their lion masks in EFL class.
A TYO student smiles in his bee wings.
A TYO student smiles in his bee wings.
A volunteer helps students with their art project.
A volunteer helps students with their art project.
Oct 23, 2017

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

Entrepreneur In'am visits the TYO Center in Nablus
Entrepreneur In'am visits the TYO Center in Nablus

In’am was born and raised in Jamaa'en, Nablus. She studied mathematics at An-Najah National University and has been working with the Jamaa'en Governmental Municipality for over nine years. In'am needed an additional source of income and decided to transform her long time hobby into a sustainable business.  With the money she saved from her job at the municipality, In’am decided to purchase three calves. Initially, she focused her business strictly on the process of fattening and selling her calves. In’am would buy the calves when they are one-week old, feed them for six to eight months, and sell them once they weigh 300 kilograms. As In’am generated her first profit, she used it to purchase more calves.

In’am’s interest in Tomorrow’s Youth Organization’s entrepreneur program for women was sparked when representatives from TYO visited the Jamaa'en Women’s Association to present the project and recruit entrepreneurs from her village. While In’am had been running an effective, profitable business, there was always a chaotic element. She had never created a business plan and had only operated her business on a day-to-day basis. She needed assistance to identify the source of the chaos and address it.

When the training began, In’am was eager to learn how to develop a business plan. She learned how to develop sound and comprehensive business, marketing, and financial plans. During financial planning training, she began to understand the purpose behind documenting all of expenses and income of the business. She also learned through psychosocial training that she must document the money spent paying family for their labor as an expense. Through the Idea Sourcing and Product Development Learning Module, In’am learned creative ways to increase her business’s profit. The process of fattening and selling calves takes approximately eight months, resulting in profit generation every eight months. After the Idea Sourcing and Product Development training, In’am purchased cows in order to make milk and cheese and generate a more consistent profit stream. Through the Small Enterprise Center's (SEC) marketing training, she also learned to strategically pick a market and customer base where there is minimal competition. After Ina'am's participation in the Entrepreneur and More exhibition, she was able to expand her customer base. Now not only does she have customers in Jamaa'en, she also has a market in Nablus and its surrounding villages. Her customers constantly show their satisfaction of Ina'am's products and continue to order dairy products on a regular basis.

In’am’s business is her primary focus in life. She believes in taking risks, loves the action her business brings to her life, and is fully confident that if and when she takes risks, she will succeed. In'am started her business three years ago with only three calves, but she now owns eight cows and three calves. In the future, In'am hopes to further expand her business by buying additional calves and cows which will enable her to increase her productivity. She hopes her products will become nationally well-known and sold in every supermarket in Palestine. In’am’s work is historically categorized as “man’s work” and she could not be more proud to take the proverbial bull by the horns and break the sector’s glass ceiling in her village.

Sep 5, 2017

Giggles and Splashes

TYO students go swimming for the first time
TYO students go swimming for the first time

Growing up in Southern Illinois, swimming was a central part of summer activities. Each spring was spent in anticipation of the time when days would become warm enough to jump into water and play with friends. In this region of the United States, the high number of lakes, rivers, and ponds also make swimming skills necessary for safety. My parents made it their mission to ensure I participated in swim lessons from a young age. Although it took a long time for me to put my face underwater, I learned to count on swimming as an enjoyable and key element to my summer adventures.

As an adult, swimming became more than child’s play. The ability to float freely gives the body complete freedom of movement without the weight of one’s own body. The freedom of picking up my feet and feeling the water support me is an important part of my mental and emotional health as it is a place where I feel joy, comfort, and stress wash away. For me, being in water is as important as it is enjoyable.

As an American learning about the lives of local Palestinians and families living in refugee camps, I was shocked to learn that the majority of the children who participate in TYO programs have never had the opportunity to be immersed in water. It was hard for me to process this information. The children had never been immersed in water? Ever? No bathtub? No swimming pool? No trips to the sea 60 miles from where they live? How was it possible that such a central part of my childhood didn’t exist for these kids?

While it seemed unbelievable, there are clear reasons the students don’t spend time playing in water. Homes in the refugee camps don’t have the luxury of a bathtub and in the heat of the summer, families hope there will be enough water to both shower and do laundry. While there is a swimming pool in Nablus, the cost of transportation to reach the location and the price of entry is much more than what refugee families have to spend on entertainment. The city of Nablus is within an hour from the Mediterranean Sea, but obstacles including the ability to travel and financial limitations drastically decrease, if not completely remove, the children’s exposure to places outside their immediate neighborhoods. My heart broke as I recognized these children had never known the joy of swimming with friends on a hot day or freedom of floating freely without the weight of the world on their shoulders.

This summer, many children at TYO got to experience this freedom for the first time in their lives. Through the support of a group of Americans who recognized the need for children to have simple fun, TYO was able to take the students to a swimming pool for the first time. I watched as a group of 5 year old girls slowly made their way into the shallow end of the pool. For several minutes, they stood still with only slight hand movements as they walked further into the pool. After a short time, they started to slow move their bodies more. They began to jump to create waves and splash each other. Some adults held the students as they showed them how to float. As I dodged splashes on the edge of the pool, I listened to the laughing and shouts coming from the kids experiencing the freedom of water for the first time. It was an exhilarating moment for everyone. I watched the children laugh and play with complete abandon and grinned as the kids were able to just be kids for awhile.

For me, I am constantly reminded of the privileged life I experienced growing up in Southern Illinois. My childhood is filled with memories that seem common place for youth from my region and I have always been thankful for the happy and curious childhood I experienced. As an adult, I am thankful for the opportunity to witness children who deserve much more than circumstances allow having their own adventures that I so often took for granted. I am thankful for people who seek to give kids the chance to float free for the first time in their lives. I am thankful for their laughter and splashes, for their bravery to try something new, and for the joy they so freely shared with me from the water.

A student smiles as another dives below the water.
A student smiles as another dives below the water.
Young students splish & splash for the first time
Young students splish & splash for the first time
A student gently explores the water
A student gently explores the water
The joys of childhood!
The joys of childhood!
The smiles of children bring joy to everyone!
The smiles of children bring joy to everyone!
 
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