Friday, July 25, 2014

Diplomado Fiesta de Despedida

Yesterday I told the teachers to drink lots of water and get a good night's sleep for the final examination.  As we walked into the room this morning, the participants were a bit stressed and yet they have built such a community of support that the mood was light.  Since we explored collaboration, a few thought they should collaborate on the exam!  :-)  nice try.

The "fiesta de despedida" is a "farewell party" but I'd prefer to think of it as more of a "sending forward."  Everyone has worked so hard that I feel good about sending them forward.  Kris had the great idea to make books using pictures from the past two years as gifts and to give UNO pins. There was a ceremony in which the vice-dean from UNAN-Leon spoke of the gratitude for the collaboration between UNO and UNAN-Leon.  She gave each of the teachers a Diplomado certificate and the  significance of this ritual was evident in the numerous photos! :-)  With Nicaragua moving more toward a dictatorship (again), the importance of training teachers is even more urgent!!  

There was such a positive energy in the room and I can only attribute that to the sense of pride & accomplishment in becoming even better teachers.  The gratitude was palpable also in the gifts the teachers gave us which were individualized.  The dean's office ordered meals for each of the teachers and Johanna Jiron made some pasta for us.  She also brought fresh vegetables and garlic bread.  :-)  

One of the first things that made me fall in love with the Nicaraguans, is the authenticity of the relationships.  They have so little in material possessions but they are wealthy in ways that most Americans can only dream about and I am blessed to share in it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Module 6

It's hard to believe we are almost done with module 6 and the entire diplomado.  I am inspired by the teachers' commitment and desire to become more effective teachers for their students. This is the first module that all four of us (Mitzi, Kris, Julie and Beth) were at, and it has allowed us to bounce ideas off of each other and determine the best way to proceed for the final module activities!

On Monday, we began with a review from the previous modules.  The participants were in groups to discuss the major concepts and to share how they have used it over the last two years.  There was a sense of confidence in their sharing as well as support from their colleagues.

Mitzi introduced the topic of collaboration and the participants were so engaged in the activities!  The self reflection took a lot of extra time because Nicaraguans are not generally expected to do this.  We could have spent days on this topic and they would have loved it.  

Moving on to families, the participants created their own genograms and discussed how their families communicated and reacted to varying events.  We spent time on the grieving stages that families experience when realizing their child has a disability and the importance of being sensitive to other people's emotions without judgment.

Indiana's group were here "foes"
She was instructed to walk on desks

Kris spent Tuesday afternoon introducing Social Emotional skills of children.  They especially loved the label activity!!  Wednesday morning Kris continued the teaching of social emotional skills and gave away some awesome books by Julia Cook (Fremont, NE) that were in both Spanish and English.

Beth & Mitzi realized the participants were at their saturation much content that we covered over the past 2 years and  with the final exam looming on Friday, they decided to scrap the Writing Strategies information and begin some intensive review.  Cooperative learning groups were assigned different modules and created four questions for each module.  We were very impressed with how the students examined the content of the modules and chose the most important concepts. This truly shows the growth the teachers have made over the past two years!

Thursday morning the groups presented the information while also sharing how they have used the strategies in their classrooms.

Thursday afternoon, the groups used the game boards from last summer to review over 35 questions! This was also collaborative because different people remembered different content and were able to help explain information to others.  This also helped our one and only translator Martha Celia.  It was an exhausting week for her as our only translator, but we appreciate her commitment! Thank you, Martha!

The final day.....Friday morning. The students will complete a self-efficacy survey on inclusive practices, the final exam and the evaluation of the training. 

We know they are cooking up (literally and figuratively) a great party.  It is going to be so hard to say good-bye to my friends-- but I hope I will be able to visit them in their schools someday.

- Julie

Monday, July 21, 2014

Rancho Esperanza: hostel with a conscience

Lydia and I in front of our cabana.
With most of the country heading south to Managua for the Sandanista Revolution 35th anniversary celebration, Ulises, Mitzi, Lydia and I went on an excursion a few hours north of León.  We stayed at Rancho Esperanza in Jiquilillo—which is self branded as a hostel with a conscience.  This was the first hostel I’ve ever stayed at and the first time I ever slept with mosquito nets! It was all part of the experience!

Our cabana with shower/toilet

Everything about Rancho Esperanza is focused on the village/economy of Jiquilillo.  They provide long term volunteer opportunities, use local foods and labor, conserve electricity and water and even compost toilet waste.  No flushing—just adding saw dust.  This was intriguing!

There are hammocks right by the beach and the sounds of the ocean waves were soothing.  My daughter Lydia was thrilled to get a surfing lesson!  We stayed in a cabana with a thatch roof, bamboo walls and our own semi-private shower (it had no roof) but the bathroom walls were made with recycled glass bottles.  According to one of the backpacking/surfer guests, this was the best and friendliest hostel he has ever seen. We met people from New York who volunteered with kids club for 7 weeks, the cooks are local villagers and the assistant manager is from Norway and speaks at least 5 languages!

Tortilla making class with a local villager

The three of us were all wanting to bring
3 year old Maria Jose home with us!

We took public transportation back, which was quite the experience.  Ulises said that earthquakes feel a lot like riding a bus in Nicaragua—really fast and bumpy, while always being worried something is going to fall on you. 

-- Julie Delkamiller

Diplomado Module 6 begins tomorrow:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Education and Mentors

Education and Mentors:  the two things people all around the world need in order to move out of poverty. With these projects, I am able to do both!  This kind of work cannot be easily quantified in numbers due to so many uncontrollable variables and progress is much slower than any of us would like, but it can be seen.  Between 2008-2010, I observed, assisted and modeled for the teachers.  It wasn’t until 2011 that I began to see the improvements, but they were there.  Each trip since then has reaffirmed my passion for the teachers and the kids!  

Giving Juan a "high five" after matching 1-5 on Math-U-See Blocks

This week, the mentors for the school were varied:  two successful independent deaf adults (Jonathan and Johanna), a hearing peer (Lydia), a professor in deaf education (myself), and Nicaraguan young adults (Rotaract volunteers).  Reading "The Very Hungry Caterpillar", playing "Around the World" for math review and buying a globe to study the continents were just some of the things we did this week. It was so hard to leave because the students were enjoying learning this week and we were simply loving them.

Introducing Geography-- so many didn't know there was a world outside of Nicaragua

-- Julie Delkamiller

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

World Cup around the world

We are back in Nicaragua!!

Watching the extra time in the World Cup Futbol
championship match in Masaya Nicaragua.
And my 13 year old daughter Lydia is with me for the first time and Jonathan Scherling's sister Johanna is also here for the first time.  We are World Cup soccer fans and were concerned about missing the championship game due to our flight to Managua.  When we arrived, we noticed so many people wearing soccer/futbol jerseys and travelers waiting at the gate watching the game.  Our driver Julio even stopped some random people on the street to ask the score (which was still 0-0) and we listened to the game on the radio.  Once we knew the game was going into extra time, we stopped in Masaya at a Tip Top ("fast food") to watch the game with the locals.  Many people were supporting Argentina.  In Granada though, the majority had Germany's colors painted on their faces. Then, when we arrived in Leon we noticed people still out celebrating the World Cup and numerous signs in front of businesses advertising they would be showing the games.  There was such an energy surrounding all of this!!  Soccer/Futbol is an equalizing sport around the world and witnessing this in another country made it very real to us.  Jonathan prefers baseball but was gracious in supporting our need to be part of this world event.
After Masaya, we stopped at Tio Antonio's Hammock
shop in Granada Nicaragua.  This hammock was made for 17 people
but has held up to 30.  These hammocks are hand woven by
deaf or blind individuals and are the best in the world!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Martha has the four littlest boys and
 has their attention!
When I first came to Nicaragua in 2008 to provide a teacher training workshop, I assumed the teachers had a strong foundation in pedagogy.  What I actually saw was a severe lack of materials and the class activities were seemingly unstructured with no sense of curriculum scope and sequence for students at any grade.  I saw very little preparation by teachers before starting each lesson and the students wasted over 30 minutes each day running around for recess.


It is so gratifying to see the school actually resembling.... a school.  In 2008, it barely resembled a poorly run day care.  The deaf students had virtually no language, one was a biter, the teachers had no structure and there were very few expectations in place.  It has taken several trips over the last six years but each one has been better than the time before.  We saw students sitting in their desks, there was a mini lesson plan on the white board, teachers placed students in groups, and the students were signing all the time!  Of course my biggest accomplishment a few years ago was convincing them to get rid of recess!  They are only in school for 3 hours/day and I kept reiterating that there is no time to waste!  ;-)

We spent the first day interacting with the students.  They had been looking forward to my visit which definitely made my day.  Great big hugs!!!  They were asking for Maia (my older daughter who has traveled here before) and of course, they wanted chicle/gum.  Immediately they saw the resemblance between me and Lydia-- and Lydia has already fallen in love with the students.  Jonathan and Johanna Scherling are exemplifying the possibilities of a deaf individual being a successful, educated, independent adult!!
I am working with Eddy and Yuirman on
 basic counting using the Math-U-See blocks

Julie and Lydia on top of the Cathedral
 Tuesday July 15, 2014

We started in the morning climbing to the top of the Cathedral.  Since being designated a historic site by UNESCO, it is undergoing many renovations.  This time we went up yet a different flight of stairs.  To go on the roof we needed to take off our shoes for the newly whitewashed ceiling.  One of the workers stopped Lydia and told her to get her sunglasses on because the bright white was not good for her eyes.  He then explained his pounding headaches in the middle of the day, working in the heat with jeans and long sleeve shirts.
Johanna & Lydia in Nubia's math class
At the school, Johanna and Lydia worked on teaching math to Nubia's class.  I helped with basic counting and math using the math-u-see blocks.  Jonathan led the group in the Elephant game again which is an all time favorite for everyone.

The Elephant Game-- every student enjoys this game!

Many people ask me what I do in Nicaragua and how I got involved. Here is an article that I wrote about my first experience in the country, in case anyone really wants to read it.:  
Delkamiller, J. (2014). Nicaraguan education initiation: A case study.  International                                 Journal of Science Commerce and Humanities, 2(3).

--  Julie Delkamiller

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Erasmus IP Conclusion

Today was the last day of our Erasmus two-week intensive program on research methodologies at the University of Eastern Finland. It was a long, memorable two weeks of developing relationships and discussing theoretical approaches to research. Despite some theoretical and practical differences across the Universities, we made some wonderful friends and had some great experiences.

It was a great opportunity to build on existing relationships with friends from Siauliai University and the University of Eastern Finland. It was also a great opportunity to develop a new relationship with friends from Anadolu University Turkey who sent us home with some wonderful gifts including Turkish coffee and Helva, a Turkish treat. A visit to Anadolu University is definitely on my list of future travels and collaborations. We have also extended an invitation for them to visit us in Omaha and a few are even considering participation in the UNO IPD program.

Our final week included a trip to beautiful Koli National Park in North Eastern Finland.

We also found time for a Finnish baseball game, which is very different from American baseball.

We had an amazing and intensive two-weeks (including Saturdays). Now we all look forward to having some time to ourselves. Good-bye from Joensuu Finland.