Enough already with the incessant misty drizzle. I’ve been cooped up indoors for days now, unable to get into my garden because of the gloomy weather. Yes, it’s wet but it’s not rain. The other night I saw an ad on telly for HTH featuring beautiful, sparkling pools full of people having fun and I was plunged (!) into an abject longing not only to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin again but also to frolic about in a pool like we did when we were kids.
At the moment I’m reading The Book of JOY, based on a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu and recorded by Douglas Abrams. The book deals mainly with the question “How do we find joy in a world filled with suffering?” And the answer it seems is to not think too much about yourself.
I’ve only just started the book but already it’s got me thinking about the difference between joy and happiness and the value of simple pleasures. According to DL and DT happiness is dependent on external circumstances whereas joy is a state of mind and heart, a way of being. I think one has to not only be open to experiencing joy but also to be mindful of the possibility. It takes a conscious effort.
One of the things that makes me happy is spending time with children, and volunteering at the local farm school gives me the opportunity to connect with preschoolers and bring some play back into my life. I love it when those little hands reach out to grasp mine when we play a game or when a little body snuggles onto my lap when we’re looking at books. However there is a more serious side to this and that is that most, if not all, of the children come from poor homes. So I give up some of my time to help fundraise for the school in the hope that they may get a better education than their parents and eventually be able to break the cycle of poverty. When that fundraising pays off, I think I do experience joy, knowing that I’m doing what I should be doing even though I don’t enjoy doing it!
The secret of happiness is not doing what one likes to do, but in liking what one has to do.
Sir James M Barrie
Last month, I organised, and catered for, a teacher training workshop which fortunately turned out to be a resounding success. It was quite stressful and there were times when I questioned why I do this to myself when I could be relaxing at home instead. Cooking chicken curry and rice for 25 people was bad enough (thank goodness for the Hairy Bikers chicken curry for a crowd). However, once it was all done and dusted I knew that I would, without hesitation, do it all over again. Why? Because there’s joy when one connects with humanity.
This is a report I wrote on the workshop:
On a cold and misty Midlands morning in October, 20 teachers from 11 primary schools, as near as Lion’s River and as far as Loteni, gathered in the Curry’s Post Primary School science centre for a workshop on the intermediate phase (grade 4 to 7) 4th term maths and science curriculum. All of them had one question: “How do we make maths and science interesting and easy to learn?”
The workshop facilitators from CASME (the Centre for Advancement of Science & Mathematics Education) were very interactive and it wasn’t long before teachers started participating quite vociferously. The morning started with the maths curriculum and focused on the concept of probability. This generated much discussion about the fact that things we often deem impossible are in fact possible but not probable! Teachers then explored ways of demonstrating this, for example by tossing a coin or rolling a dice. One of the teachers shared the following teaser which left us all scratching our heads: There are 2 red, 2 blue and 2 green socks in a drawer. If you take two out in the dark, what is the probability of getting a matching pair? During the tea break one of the teachers commented that her head was buzzing, but in a good way!
After tea, the science session started off with a vigorous debate about why we need to understand the world around us and how science helps us to do this. Given the recent call by the student movement, The Shackville TRC, that “science must fall”, this is an extremely pertinent topic. Unfortunately there is a myth that science is western, due largely to educational bias that propagates this notion. However, it was agreed that science is a system of acquiring knowledge and making sense of the world (through observation, experimentation and drawing conclusions based on probability); and it was understood that both science and mathematics are universal languages.
This workshop was the first in a series organised by the Curry’s Post Educational Trust with funding from the New Settler’s Foundation. One of the Trust’s aims is to encourage hands-on maths and science learning at primary schools in the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands. To this end it hopes to develop portable maths and science kits, as well as provide teacher training in the use of the equipment. This initiative has the support of the Department of Education circuit inspector and natural science subject adviser and it was greatly appreciated that they both made time out of their busy schedules to attend the first workshop.
The Trust is most grateful to the staff of the Curry’s Post Primary School for allowing us the use of their wonderful facilities. The school’s science centre provided an excellent workshop venue. After an intense day of maths and science, participants relaxed in the newly refurbished school hall to a sit-down lunch and the opportunity to get to know each other and share experiences.
When asked by his principal whether the workshop had been okay, one of the participants replied, “It wasn’t okay, it was awesome”. If some of that enthusiasm rubs off on learners, then workshops like these are truly worthwhile. Inspiring rural learners at this early age to find “awesomeness” in science and mathematics will lay the foundation needed for them to take the first steps towards becoming the engineers, doctors and technologists of the future.
The next workshop will be held at the beginning of the first term next year.
If any of you, dear readers, feel moved to assist with this programme, please let me know. I’m always on the look out for donor contacts (especially for funding the portable maths and science kits, the lending scheme and our other outreach programmes) as well as anyone who would like to volunteer.