Education in Action (Program)

“Our highest endeavour must be to develop free human beings who are able to impart purpose and direction to their lives.”
Rudolf Steiner.

Our Educational House is based on a playful dynamic learning process in which the children of the island feel free and welcome to explore their own abilities in order to become a person of integrity, making, at the same time, the community of Praia Do Sol participate to the process of the island development.

Our House will be open to the children and Community during the week and weekends, providing them, not only the space to create and study freely, but also a set schedule of activities related to specific topics to work on every day. Theses topics (universal knowledge) will take place through the following workshops:

- Storytelling: As a folk art, storytelling is accessible to all ages and abilities. No special equipment beyond the imagination and the power of listening and speaking is needed to create artistic images. As a learning tool, storytelling can encourage students to explore their unique expressiveness and can heighten a student's ability to communicate thoughts and feelings in an articulate, lucid manner. These benefits transcend the art experience to support daily life skills. In our fast-paced, media-driven world, storytelling can be a nurturing way to remind children that their spoken words are powerful, that listening is important, and that clear communication between people is an art. ( Stories from all over the world will help them to interact with different cultures and to appreciate the meaning of a book.
Making this possible, requires a several number of books to be donated. Books are a treasure, and for this Educational House any book (mainly in Portuguese) will be a benefit for these children's learning.

- Guest Teaching: As I said in the beginning, theses children don't have much sense of perception of what it's outside the island (not even in the 30-minutes-away big city, Salvador)so in order to open their worlds and choices, the Educational house will always welcome volunteers from all over the world to give a one/two-months-course of the area they specialized in. beside the normal activities organized throughout the year, it will always be an exciting enriching experience letting these children learn from specific areas by their specific experts. My brother Gianfranco Giordano, artist and illustrator, has already offered himself to spend three months giving illustration workshops next year. And as much as they will learn from the drawing and painting, they can learn languages, how to make bread, the benefits of Chinese herbs, the sound of Indian flutes, how to restore antique furniture, etc.

- Cookery: Food is part of our social life. It's on the table where we share moments and create a sense of community. These children don't spend that much time at home, and even though they are independent people, they don't really know how to cook or realize what they eat during the day. Luckily in the island there are several sorts of fruits and vegetables available, but at the same time they are exposed to a lot of sugar and chemicals. Through cooking classes, I would like them to explore different healthy flavours (international and national origins) and to enjoy the creation of colours and tastes in their own meals.
Cooking books and/or recipes are welcome!

- Silence: It is important to encourage children to be comfortable with silence and solitude. Maria Montessori was the first educator to recognise the importance of silence. ‘recognize children’s innate need for intervals of stillness to nourish their inner peace’ (Wolf 2007). She suggested that silence ‘suspends normal life, and raises the person to another level of self’ (The Montessori Method). 2 Games of Silence to try in the classroom Over 100 years ago Maria Montessori created the Game of Silence where she asked the children to remain as quiet as they could and listen to all the sounds around them. The teacher would ring a tiny bell or whisper the word 'silence' or put up a sign to remind children to start their silence. Children would close their eyes and listen to all the sounds inside or outside the room. After a few minutes, the teacher whispers each child's name and they would listen out for their own name and walk towards the teacher. As soon as all the children had been called, the game comes to an abrupt end and children continue with their work. Montessori created this game to encourage self-discipline and improve awareness and sensitivity. Repeating the game for theses children can contribute to an atmosphere of calm, which is needed sometimes in this place full of loudness and impulsive emotions.

Community interactions: This program involves building the relationship between our Educational House and the community of Praia do sol and Barra Grande (both neighbourhoods that belong to the same district in the island).
It has been proved by some studies (Cavaye Community development) that besides enhancing educational outcomes, strengthening Links between Schools and Communities builds the role of the schools (or in this case the Educational House) as contributors to the vitality of their local community.
It is true that the locals are friendly people, and you can feel welcome from the very beginning because you can see how all different ages interact. On the other side, there is a big waste problem in the island; beaches full of beer cans and plastic bags, the streets full of glass bottles and no cultural activities to assist. They say once upon a time there were street musicians playing at the bars and children used to clean up the beaches... but this doesn't happen any more, so that's why it is important to create a community commitment and introduce our children into the locals, as the new active generation.
They themselves will teach the community to respect and protect the environment, not only by picking up plastic bags, but also through artistic interventions such as giving flower seeds to the neighbours and plant them and grow them together, exhibitions of our children's creations during the workshops based on different topics every months, or a once-a-month community reading day in which local people, specially parents or adults en charge of the children in our House, have an active participation in their child's process and their own learning experience (most of them don't know how to read or write, but at least it's a chance to get more familiar with letters and images, always supervised by some volunteer at the Educational House). Another way of integrating locals in this project is by the same idea of "Guest Teaching"; for instances, the handicraftsman, guitarist or the housewife who has this particular way of knitting are invited to give a day workshop, and we all, little by little, get to know the community better.

Museum visits: The children from Itaparica hardly ever go to Salvador, the city right opposite the island, which is a shame since this just mentioned is the first colonial city of Brazil, full of history and cultural influences. Visiting the museums of Salvador is the opportunity to see and handle real objects and the opportunity to experience primary sources. It's also an opportunity for us, as monitors, to see their behaviour outside the island and their progression regarding their appreciation of details and quietness. Salvador has around fifty museums (Archaeology, Anthropology, Music, Religion, Afro-Brazilian history, Antiques, Gastronomy, etc.) all over the city, but mainly in the "Pelorinho", the city centre. This is how they can learn about their own culture in a more dynamic (visible and touchable) way.

A bit of Poetry: Poetry builds resilience in kids and adults; it fosters Social and Emotional Learning. A well-crafted phrase or two in a poem can help us see an experience in an entirely new way. We can gain insight that had evaded us many times, that gives us new understanding and strength. William Butler Yeats said this about poetry: "It is blood, imagination, intellect running together...It bids us to touch and taste and hear and see the world, and shrink from all that is of the brain only." Our schools are places of too much "brain only;" we must find ways to surface other ways of being, other modes of learning. And we must find ways to talk about the difficult and unexplainable things in life -- death and suffering and even profound joy and transformation, and this this exactly what I would like these children to feel/understand: ALL their emotions. Some of the kids in the island, as I previously said, lost their parents and perhaps they are still not able to understand what they've passed through.
Poetry is also a playful way to pay more attention to little things and to find the beauty in quotidian objects. Having little poet messages around the house and working with Odes creations will encourage them to perceive more what surrounds them.
Finally this text about poetry ended up convincing me It was worth it and even necessary to incorporate it in the Educational House, not as a "fancy alternative" method, but as a simple empathy with ourselves: "Don't analyse it, don't ask others to analyse it. Don't deconstruct it or try to make meaning of it. Find the poems that wake you up, that make you feel as if you've submerged yourself in a mineral hot spring or an ice bath; find the poems that make you feel (almost) irrational joy or sadness or delight. Find the poems that make you want to roll around in them or paint their colours all over your bedroom ceiling. Those are the poems you want to play with -- forget the ones that don't make sense. Find those poems that communicate with the deepest parts of your being and welcome them in.

Rudolf Steiner spoke on a number of occasions about the experiences that are essential for the healthy development of the young child. These include:
• love and warmth
• an environment that nourishes the senses
• creative and artistic experiences
• meaningful adult activity to be imitated
• free, imaginative play
• protection of the forces of childhood
• gratitude, reverence, and wonder
• joy, humour, and happiness
• adult caregivers pursuing a path of inner development

What is it stopping us from giving them their essentials?