Monday, September 29, 2014

Experiential Academics

Hello all~

Napping Monkey in South Luangwa

As TTS24 travels through Zambia, they continue to take in their surroundings and jump into new adventures. Parents received some personal updates from students last week during phone calls and we look forward to another round of communication soon. In the meantime, it sounds like teachers and students are living out their academics. Malaria Day culminated with a four part TV show featuring malaria players, including a mosquito, a ghost and the Gates Foundation. Stay tuned for more details on how it all played out.

Girls Leadership Club 2012
Students met with a Girls Leadership Club while in South Luangwa to share stories of being teenagers and learn through different perspectives. During the afternoon our students were shocked to learn about a few poignant cultural differences, including how a woman's menstrual cycle affects her life in a community often keeping her out of school for days at a time. Differences such as this led to introspective TTS debriefs post exchange and help our students understand global issues on a more personal level.

The group spent the weekend on Bovu Island on the Zambezi River. Hannah L spent time in the same community about two years ago and was so greatly impacted by her service project, she returned home a raised money. This trip was a fantastic opportunity for Hannah to rekindle past friendships and for TTS to use your connections to bolster cultural exchanges around southern Africa.

Big Blue
As you know, these ladies are busy! Below are updates from the teachers working to share classes with you so you can catch a glimpse of the academics.  


Precalculus students are wrapping up the chapter on simplifying expressions and solving algebraic equations. We have multiplied many polynomials and explored the reciprocal relationship between dividing out the greatest common factor and factoring. This has set the stage for graphing equations and exploring functions in the near future. Students recently teamed up to teach each other different factoring methods, and they regularly collaborate on problem solving during class, homework time, and while revising their quizzes. They are gearing up for their first test this week.


Algebra 2 students recently conquered their first chapter test on properties and operations. After uncovering the differences between rational and irrational numbers, we moved on to simplify algebraic expressions. Students have encouraged each other to understand the properties of exponents and square roots, working together to divide and multiple expressions including positive and negative exponents and radicals.We have applied our learning to solve word problems about our own trip, for example, determining an equation to describe how much 16 girls spend when buying different types of soft drinks! We are now moving onto solving linear equations and proportions.

History & Government

After a huge unit on colonialism, exploring the question, 'What is the legacy of colonialism in Africa?', history students are moving on to a new question, 'Why is it that resource-rich nations remain so poor?' Zambia is filled with copper, and students are beginning to explore the social, political, economic, and environmental effects of mining. Just today we visited the University of Zambia, and met students who had grown up in the Copperbelt. TTS students are knee-deep in articles debating whether natural resources are a blessing or a curse. How, you may ask, does this relate to history or government? It is the student's task to find the connections! They are reading about the formation of trade unions for miners, and how the unions were connected to independence movements from Britain. Coming up next is a case study on the Mopane copper mine.


Sitting in a circle on the floor of our cabin in the woods of Mount Mulanje, we addressed the flow of group dynamics. Teachers introduced a model of how groups form and grow over time, and we reconsidered our hopes for each other as an assemblage of human beings. Even though the idea of “storming,” or working through difficulties, with each other created discomfort, we also thought about its long-term value.

To introduce goal-setting, the teachers took on the personas of overly enthusiastic life coaches at a fictional seminar. After introducing the rationale behind creating intentions in our lives, we were able to be a bit more serious. We considered the academic, personal, emotional, social, and physical realms, and discussed the importance of goal-setting. Students worked in mentor groups to create both short term and semester-long goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

As our semester progresses and students' possessions find themselves out of their bags more often, we turned to the subject of organization. After a workshop on calendars and assignment notebook use to track academics, students reconsidered how they organize themselves in their duffles and tents. This reorientation of personal objects is a crucial step in the maintenance of personal space and sanity as the semester continues!

In the next few weeks, we are looking forward to digging into methods of conflict resolution, revisiting our original goals, and the process of gracefully giving and receiving effective feedback.

Elephants headed to TTS24 South Luangwa Camp

Since our adventurous and wet hike to Mount Mulanje, students continued their outdoor and physical education at Lake Malawi. We had the most fortunate opportunity to kayak four kilometers to Domwe Island. We paddled in double kayaks with two professional local guides who described the natural history of the lake and the surrounding area. The following morning we continued to develop our kayaking skills as we paddled back to Cape MaClear in the brilliant sunshine. 

We have also enjoyed early morning jogs and circuit workouts. After Domwe Island, TTS students participated in a morning run along the beach while fisherman prepared their nets. Furthermore, TTS teachers Mary Reid, Beth and Quinn have introduced yoga in to our routine by incorporating sun salutations, breathing exercises, and post workout stretches. Since arriving at South Luangwa National Park, PE class has been limited to our campsite because of the extraordinary number of surrounding animals (hippos, elephants, monitor lizards and more). For example, Katie, held a stretching warm-up under a straw pavilion overlooking a watering hole that elephants frequently visit. To stay true to our TTS philosophy, we make the most out of our unique locations and resources. Hence, PE has primarily focused on individualized circuits that consist of lunges, push-ups, ab exercises, burpees, squats, balancing poses, and a variety of other strengthening exercises.


Science, as much as any course, consistently reminds me of how fortunate as we are to be immersed in our classroom! On the shores of Lake Malawi, students engaged in text-based discussions about the challenges unique to the area. Issues include the rapid drop in the water levels, diminishing fish stocks, over fishing, and the search for oil under the third largest and second deepest lake in Africa. Why are water levels dropping? What problems does a governmental program to restock the lake create? How can education efforts be extended to a population that is minimally connected to mass media? What is a “resource curse,” and how can this thought be amplified and applied in other contexts? Our scientific search for meaningful questions continues!

In preparation for our first big animal experiences, we moved on to population ecology and the value of resources in determining population size and distribution. Upon our arrival at South Luangwa National Park, elephants and hippos greeted us. Families of monkeys and baboons provided ample opportunities for tent-side wildlife observations. At last, we jumped into the Land Rovers for our first game drives! In two four-hour drives (one early morning and one evening-night), we caught sightings of elephants, squirrels, mongoose, zebras, giraffes, hippos, hyenas, porcupines, various types of antelopes, civet cats, warthogs, leopards and LIONS! We were lucky to encounter four out of Africa's Big Five! Now, we're only missing the rhino...

In homage to the missing member of our Big Five sighting, we turned our focus to the poaching of rhinos. After a park guide explained the local context of poaching, we researched the issues and held a debate about the effective management of this keystone species. Who wants to buy rhino horn and why? In what ways is sustainable horn harvesting a realistic option? What consequences should fall upon poachers when caught? Who poaches and for what reasons? How does the black market for horn work? How do we feel about trophy hunting permits sold for conservation purposes? 

Literature & Composition

We recently finished the novel, 'Zenzele', by Zimbabwean author and neurosurgeon J. Nozipo Maraire. Everyone loved it. They completed an essay exam and every teacher is excited to read through the exams because students poured their hearts into their work. Lit students also are finishing their first major writing assignment, the epistolary narrative, a series of letters inspired by the style of Maraire. Yesterday was a fabulous coalescing of all of the classes in our famous cross-curricular days. The first in our series was 'Malaria Day', where all of TTS24 worked together to study multiple angles and perspectives surrounding the issue of malaria. Lit students contributed to the day by creating a community found poem, a collaborative piece of work. Each student mined 50 words from a key article on malaria. Then they wrote an 8 line poem using only their mined words. Next they chose their strongest line. Finally, they collectively arranged their lines into one large class poem, which they spontaneously performed during dinner later in the evening. It was a cool moment, sitting in the dark as students turned on their headlamps one by one, and powerfully spoke their lines, voices in the circle from all directions.

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