Four days, eight meals, sixteen experiments, eight teachers, and eighty children.
That’s how Hannah Fairbanks, M.Ed. remembers her summer teaching experience at the first ever Science Success program in Pomona, Belize. She raised $1,400 for this life-altering project.
The Lake Erie College adjunct instructor, a retired Painesville City Local Schools (PCLS) teacher, journeyed to South America, where she and three Ohio educators partnered with four Belizean science teachers and staff to lead students on an exciting adventure.
Over the course of four days, 80 St. Matthew’s School students between the ages of seven and twelve years engaged in age-appropriate, hands-on science projects covering physical, life, earth and space sciences. The children biked, walked, or rode the bus to camp each day.
Fairbanks said, “They often were getting off the bus as we arrived by van. We were about 45 minutes early! It was hot, hot, hot, and yet the children showed up ready to learn and participate!”
The program’s inception stretches back four years, when its co-director Dr. Matthew Teare, a retired ECE professor from Cleveland State University and 35-year veteran teacher at Cleveland Public Schools, was contacted by the Diocese of Ohio. From there, Dr. Teare coordinated with Allana Gillett, his Belizean co-director, to conduct the Teacher Pen Pal program. Fairbanks, a member of the St. James Episcopal Church in Painesville, joined the program two years ago.
Staff have dedicated their time and expertise to communicating with their counterparts in Belize, whom they have helped in writing small grants and designing developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) lessons. The grants they won bought science materials that support and enhance hands-on, classroom learning.
Children who attended the camp were thrilled to receive a “Science Box” filled with items used during the week, according to Fairbanks.
“Can’t you come back next week?” they asked staff members.
“I learned that each teacher in Belize is responsible for funding their classroom, from the paint on the wall to the supplies for the ‘hands-on’ lessons,” she said. “I personally left 14 pounds of teaching supplies for my pen pal, Akira, to enable her to share our lessons without additional cost to her.”
Each Belizean teacher in attendance will now host a workshop for the teachers from their home schools, where they can share the lessons, techniques, and hands-on approaches to learning.
A month after the program, the Ohio team of teachers has reassumed their Pen Pal and Small Grant Program to sponsor classrooms in Belize. They continue to discuss strategies that will sustain the development of culturally responsive, innovative teaching in Belize.
Last spring, Fairbanks directed a Scholastic Book Fair at Lake Erie College, where students in her Family and Community Relations course collected over 1,900 donated books for PCLS.
To learn more about the Teacher Pen Pal program and its projects, contact Hannah Fairbanks at email@example.com.