Janina Rey Echols Harrison
I am hoping to start working at local schools to do special programs to enhance the learning experience. I started doing this for my grandson’s class and expanded it to include presentations and activities where the whole school could participate. My other grandchildren will be starting school soon and hope to travel to their schools as well.
School programs keep getting cut and teachers can use additional help in the classrooms. I remember in school that those classes where we did hands on activities seemed to really stick for me. I started by offering to help at the school. They had me answering the phone and sitting in the office. One of the teachers was talking and said they would really like a certain project done but didn’t have time. I said I would do it and it sprouted from there. We made pioneer toys, butter, cheese, paper, stored vegetables and fruits for the winter, ate wild plants (cleared by local botanists) to introduce domestication of plants and animals, used plants for dyes (pounding the dyes out of the plants and onto fabric), made homegrown weather stations, brought in an Astrophotographer (Ken Crawford) to do an astronomy presentation (it was awsome!), art projects, cooking. It’s a long list.
The teacher tells me what they are studying and when they would like to schedule. I research, buy all the materials (I pay for everything, schools are strapped.) Put together some pre-activity documents so parents know what we will be doing and who I am, and some pre-activity websites and info to get them thinking about what is coming up. This also gives parents a chance to report any allergies, ask questions, join us in the activity. Do you have any idea how much I learn while preparing for these activities? It is incredible, and then I get to teach it.
I am providing this level of detail because this is the ultimate mentoring program. You have an opportunity to possibly change the lives of many. Bringing science, math (cooking is chemistry 101 & intro to fractions and measures), arts, literature and many others to the classroom in more tangible, hands on experience.
It isn’t just the children in the class you are teaching who benefit. One of my favorite things was overhearing the little sister of one student, looking at the sky, told her friend that we would have a storm because the ‘horse tail clouds’ in the sky. This was Native American lore I learned as a child (Navajo reservation in Arizona) and included historical weather predicting in our weather program. Her brother taught her how to use all the weather equipment we made and told her the stories.
I am hoping that will be my third act in a couple of years when I retire.