Loyola University Field Trip Yields Composting Inspiration for Students

At the end of May, College des Savior students and staff visited Loyola University of Congo to learn more about composting, which is a central component of the sustainability curriculum and the Students’ Learning Garden. The group started off with a presentation from Giving Back to Africa (GBA) Project Manager Dr. Jerry Kindomba about the model of student-centered leadership and service learning used at College des Savior. The attendees were impressed with the students’ strong performance with their curricula, which they then saw in action at a hands-on composting demonstration.

Observing the composting presentation

Observing the composting presentation

At the composting site visit, the workshop facilitators, two teachers and an engineer, asked the students about agriculture and general knowledge topics and were amazed by how much the students already knew. The students felt right at home with the subject matter and tone of the lessons. Dr. Jerry remarked that: “The students were not disoriented by the language of these two professors. The richness of the vocabulary lessons taught in the various modules helped them to be comfortable communicating with the professors. They asked their own questions as well and the teachers appreciated this .”

Students taking notes, garnering the nickname "little scientists," for the day

Students taking notes, garnering the nickname "little scientists," for the day

However, they also added to their rich knowledge base by learning more about the scientific process behind composting, like how larvae and worms assist in the composting process, and what plants make up a good batch of compost. The facilitators led a hands-on composting demonstration for the students.They enjoyed seeing students take notes and referred to them as “little scientists.” Professor Pululu, of Loyola, remarked that: “The students have impressed me positively because they have carried out an extraordinary scientific approach by first asking questions and seeing how they can bring about solutions by making a composter.” This reflects the asset-based, community-driven learning model that the students guide at College des Savior.

Planting the cacao tree together

Planting the cacao tree together

Student Ntumba Nadege watering the cacao tree

Student Ntumba Nadege watering the cacao tree

The group ended their visit by planting and tending to a cacao tree together. Both the Loyola staff and the College des Savior staff and students acknowledged that only through community support had this trip been made possible and that it was a great opportunity for future resources as the students progress with their sustainability projects. One of the Loyola facilitators even encouraged the students to try out their own composting experiments back home in small groups and offered to help set up a composter at the school after students do initial research about what makes good compost in their area.

The students were eager to get home and apply their new skills. Beya Beya said: “I enjoyed their composter, their way of working as a team. They are really well organized. When I come to study here in Technique after Secondary School, I will see again this tree that we planted.” Teachers and parents agreed, praising Loyola’s hospitality and the progress in making community connections. Teacher Mr. Chancard also noted his appreciation of “...the humility of the teachers and the love of the professors who have abundantly occupied themselves to give their precious time to the students…”

Upon their return to school, students led a presentation for fellow students who had been unable to attend the field trip and began to master their newly-learned information by teaching it to others. Teachers and staff also met with a Loyola representative the following week, beginning plans for a bright partnership between the two institutions committed to community and student-focused education.

College des Savior and Kapini Schools Partner Up to Combat Erosion

For many months now, College des Savior has been working with the nearby Kapini school to bring teachers into the GBA curriculum and expand the base of community knowledge and expertise. This has involved one-on-one mentoring and observation, group reflections, and staff trainings.  Now, as erosion threatens the Kapini school’s neighborhood, the two schools are using the skills they have been practicing to tackle a whole new type of challenge.

College des Savior and Kapini staff met with community members, students, and parents in early March to discuss the erosion issue and brainstorm solutions. GBA PM, Dr. Jerry Kindomba, introduced the meeting with a community-building game and called for the group to think of their actions like that of a tree with many branches, able to spread good work throughout the community. The group listened to an expert speak on potential solutions to the erosion issue. Together, they forged a three-step plan of action to 1) promote local and government awareness of the issue, 2) redirect the road in the erosion area, and 3) use sandbags and plant bamboo trees to help control the erosion.

Participants join in the conversation at the first outreach meeting

Participants join in the conversation at the first outreach meeting

Just a week later, College des Savior and Kapini participated in another community meeting to educate additional community members about the campaign. College des Savior and a group of Kapini parents donated erosion prevention sandbags to the Kapini school to kick-off the donation effort. Another community member has also pledged to donate 2500 bags, and the initiative has the backing of several local government officials. A handful of pastors from area churches also agreed to take the messages to their congregations. This meeting also included a walk-through of the affected areas to talk to people in-person about the issue and the efforts to resolve it. A third community meeting took place on April 2nd.

Sandbags, like the one pictured above, will be used to fight the erosion

Sandbags, like the one pictured above, will be used to fight the erosion

Meeting participants toured the affected areas and met with neighbors

Meeting participants toured the affected areas and met with neighbors

College des Savior and Kapini are proving that their relationship and practiced skills extend beyond the classroom and into real life. Giving Back to Africa’s curriculum encourages the solving of real-world problems through collaboration that leverages community resources, emphasizing that all parties have knowledge and tools to bring to the table. This is exemplified through the use of knowledge of the local area and ecosystem, sandbags, bamboo trees, and personal connections to fight the erosion. Willing to work together on this pressing, local issue, the two schools are applying their lessons learned not only about science and nature, but also about engaging the community, employing assets, and unity.

When​ ​Shovels​ ​and​ ​Love​ ​Become​ ​Assets:​ ​The​ ​Deep-Reaching​ ​Roots​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Students’​ ​Learning Garden 

Colorful crops, interactive school lessons, and a community gathering space-- the Students’ Learning Garden is becoming a reality. Students and teachers, with input from staff and community members, have been hard at work for many months planning, researching, and now executing the project. From visits to homesteading operations to performing skits about waste management, students have combined life lessons with academic skills in preparation for the culmination of their three-year Sustainability Curriculum. At the end of February, they sprung into the next step in the process by purchasing gardening tools.

Students and teachers look for the right tools at the market

Students and teachers look for the right tools at the market

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But these items are more than just shovels and spades-- they're “assets to organize our garden,” remarked student Noella. Selecting the tools at the market was an exciting experience for all, and students noted that organizing the garden will take wisdom, courage, love, intelligence, leadership, and humility. These intangible qualities serve as assets as well that bind the students together to achieve their common goal. When asked who benefits from the garden, the students’ answer was simple: “Everyone.” And who owns it? “Students, teachers, and the community.”

Another asset the students have been leveraging? Homemade dictionaries. The unique study guides are full of sustainability-related terms to apply to the garden. Below, the students write and practice their definitions. Combining the power of words and actions, the College des Savior students are putting all of their assets towards the end goal of a thriving Learning Garden.

Students work on building their dictionaries

Students work on building their dictionaries

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Students Becoming Teachers: Presentations Showcase the Circle of Learning at College des Saviors

The new year brings a time for both reflection and looking forward. Teachers at College des Saviors have been sharing how the school curriculum has influenced their personal lives. Many are applying knowledge to community or personal gardens, composting and managing waste. They are also brainstorming about how to keep students comfortable and engaged in the learning process moving forward. Some suggested verbal encouragement, others motivational activities, and also the teachers have suggested to “promote teamwork between students because very often they apply themselves more by working together.” 

Four students, who have all studied a combination of the GBA educational modules over the past five years, joined the teachers in reflection. The students range from 6th to 11th grade. In a presentation to the teachers and guests, the students reviewed key points from the clean water, waste management, nutrition, and agriculture/sustainability curriculums and demonstrated the application of those lessons into their lives. Ebimba, the 11th grader, elaborated on the water cycle and drew the connection between unclean water and water-borne diseases. Sixth grader Pombo spoke on the difference between biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste, and all students presented on highlights from the curriculums they had participated in, as well as the school garden. 

The students took questions from the group and shared anecdotes from their personal lives. Kongolo, from the 8th grade, helped convince his neighbors to start a garden, and in doing so, provide healthier food options for the family. After the presentation, staff made a visit to Kongolo’s home to see his own garden and animal husbandry work and talk with his family. They also saw the neighbors’ garden that Kongolo influenced-- which used to be just empty land! Ebimba shared about his system at home to separate and biodegradable and nonbiodegradable waste. Ntumba Nadege, in 7th grade, discussed nutrition with her family, asking her mother to incorporate a larger variety of foods, and locally available ones, into their diet.

Attendees were impressed by the students’ presentational skills and their demonstrated mastery of the curriculum material. Even though the students had little time to prepare for the presentation, their energy was high and their efforts were well-received by all. The students led the group with the skill and composure of teachers themselves, having come full circle in learning, applying, and now sharing their knowledge with others. Next up for the students and teachers in an Integrated Review of material, covering many topics and using peer groups and innovative strategies for the review. 

 

Solar Workshop Lights Up College des Saviors

In today's world, we often hear about sustainability and the idea of becoming stewards of our natural resources. Conservation, creativity, and community involvement with natural resources have all been key components of GBA’s curriculum at College des Saviors from the beginning. We are constantly looking for ways to become more accountable to our environment, for the benefit of the Earth and each other.

From clean water to waste management, students and staff at College des Saviors school have learned about environmental topics, gone on field trips, and applied their knowledge to community issues. In October, they tried out a new idea: a sustainability workshop.

 College des Saviors school staff, aided by community Pastor Dan and his group, hosted a solar energy workshop last month. The school recently installed a solar panel on its roof. Over 250 students and 25 adults participated in the two-day workshop. Students came from both primary and secondary school levels and got hands-on experience.

Pastor Dan does a demonstration for the students

Pastor Dan does a demonstration for the students

Students eagerly watch and wait for their turn to try

Students eagerly watch and wait for their turn to try

 The workshop’s method of teaching embodied the “learning by teaching” technique, as the initial facilitators prepared lessons to teach to a second group of facilitators who went on to teach the students. The facilitators were mostly adults, but students Beya Beya and Mbwebwe were chosen to teach their peers alongside the adults as well (see the slideshow below). They were thrilled to have the opportunity and thrived in the experience. 

A solar-powered light shines bright in the demonstration!

A solar-powered light shines bright in the demonstration!

 The student participants at the workshop learned the basics of solar power and practiced using solar-powered devices and solar installation. Students were amazed by the solar-powered radios and fans! They also received solar lights to take home in hopes that they can continue the cycle of teaching and learning with others (pictured below in the final slideshow).

Students got hands on practice with solar devices and installation

Students got hands on practice with solar devices and installation

Students loved using solar-powered fans and radios!

Students loved using solar-powered fans and radios!

The workshop was a huge success!

The workshop was a huge success!

 

 

 

Back to School and Into Fall: Transitions Bring Growth

The transition into fall each year is marked by the “back-to-school” feeling in the air. College des Savior students went back to school in mid-September-- and welcomed many new students into the school.  After much community outreach from teachers and staff, including personal door-to-door visits, 115 new students came to College des Savior for this new school year. Thirty-six new students came to school on the first day of classes. The teachers were eager to meet the new students and ignite learning from Day 1.        

Students and staff enjoy the start to the new school year

Students and staff enjoy the start to the new school year


Dr. Jerry visited classrooms to kick off the new year. He observed the attentiveness of the teachers and the growing classrooms. “In the past, for the beginning of the year, to have 100 students, we had to wait 1 or 2 months, but this year, one week later, we counted 177 Students.” Even after school had already begun, parents continued to enroll students.        

                                
 Dr. Jerry also toured the raised garden beds that students cared for over the summer holiday. With teacher and parent help, including advice from the partner Lukunga teachers, the students’ raised garden beds flourished. The students planted vegetables in compost in August, and by mid-September, they harvested. They even tried their own experiments with the beds! Student Beya Beya’s mother assisted with the harvesting process (pictured below), and the vegetables will go towards nutritious meals for the students that live at the school.

What's in store next? Continuing to care for the garden and incorporate new lessons into the curriculum. Dr. Jerry is encouraging classes to go visit the garden beds and evaluate the project together. 
                                   

                                   

 

Teachers Learning Circle Expands, Student and Teacher Progress Grows

Over the course of the past year, College des Savior (CS) teachers have been working with teachers from another school, Lukunga, in order to share student-centered teaching practices and new ideas, as well as build community relationships. This initiative is known as a Teachers Learning Circle. The Circle complements the students’ efforts to develop a Students’ Learning Garden, based in part on knowledge gained through community sharing. Dr. Jerry expressed the purpose of this Teachers Learning Circles initiative as one based on overall growth:

“This is an approach to help Students to flourish, to participate in the learning process in developing some skills to build up their personalities and develop a good relationship with themselves and their communities. Teachers of these two schools are coming together to test and refine this approach before spreading it.”

In June, the teachers met and shared the changes they had observed in each other since they had begun meeting. Teachers noted the introduction of new teaching techniques, like using games and brainstorming, and they also spoke of changes in their ability to relate to the students and their school. 

The teachers gather to reflect on their past and present engagement with the Teacher Learning Circle

The teachers gather to reflect on their past and present engagement with the Teacher Learning Circle

The teachers participate in an ice breaker activity 

The teachers participate in an ice breaker activity 

Teachers from both CS and Lukunga shared their testimonies for new teachers to learn about how the program has impacted them.

Mr. Kibulu, of CS, said that:

“The new approach to teaching has helped students to know the importance of learning. The techniques used improve the students’ comfort and bring students to work on their own (as demonstrated in their ability to speak on their own at the Fete de Presentation).”

Mr. Chancard, also of CS, added: “This approach is a great asset to teaching that we did not have before. It improves our ability to get students more involved and active.”

Mr. Kasongo, a Lukunga teacher, spoke of the integration of many topics under this approach to teaching, such as hygiene, health, and agriculture. Another Lukunga teacher, Mr. Corneille, said that: “The methodology used helps to get students more active and encourages them to be more productive, rather than to wait for the teacher to do everything. Now, when I teach, it’s like we are playing while the students are also learning.”

Several students also shared their testimonies. Kashila noted that: “The teachers are asking us every time after they teach something, “Do you understand?” They are not tired and help us to understand.” Others commented on how they are becoming leaders in their community and have learned conflict resolution skills.

Many people in attendance commented on how they’re seeing the seeds of schoolwork bear fruits in the community. This was also evident at the Fete de Presentation, where CS students courageously performed lessons from their schoolwork for a public audience of over 300. The Lukunga teachers attended the Fete and will soon meet with the CS teachers and ten teachers from the Kapini school to evaluate the event and further engage in teacher learning.

 

Summer Fete de Presentation Showcases Students' Public Speaking Skills

          On July 3rd, over 350 participants and observers gathered for the latest Fete de Presentation at College des Savior (CS). The Fete de Presentation is a tradition at CS, where students prepare skits, poems, songs, and other creative efforts to educate the community about what they’re learning and to celebrate the students’ academic and service-based progress. Present at this Fete were CS teachers and staff, teachers from other community schools, including a group from Lukunga, who GBA has been partnering with in its Teacher Learning Circles, community representatives, such as a representative from the IRC and a local head of education, and non-student children from the area. In addition, there were about 60 parents and 130 students at the fete as well.

Dr. Jerry addresses the audience

Dr. Jerry addresses the audience

The audience eagerly watches the presentation

The audience eagerly watches the presentation

 

          The Fete included student presentations, a speech from Dr. Jerry, and a community fundraising effort. Students showed the audience examples of the square foot box gardening method they will be using for their Student Learning Gardens and demonstrated what waste materials to use for composting and how to use compost in the most productive types of gardening techniques.

Students share their hard work during the Fete

Students share their hard work during the Fete

Students teach about their gardening boxes

Students teach about their gardening boxes

        Reactions from the Fete were enthusiastic, focusing on the students’ valuable and unique ability to speak in front of large crowds and to convey to the public the important lessons they’re learning. The Director of Lukunga was surprised by the students’ performance.

“I’m very flattered by the running of the ceremony and especially the skills students demonstrated. Frankly we didn’t expect most students to have such great skills like these students do. We thought that in this kind of area, we couldn’t find students able to speak in public, but they showed the opposite, and really, their behaviors surprised us, and this is very encouraging.”

         The Director of the Kapini Primary School, Mr. Bena, described the students as active, well-adapted, and not scared.

         One father, who had engaged in a student-run interview in the community previously, said he was: “… very happy and very surprised by these students. I did not think they could do such great things; I wish for this to continue.”

Parents enjoy watching the students

Parents enjoy watching the students

A parent congratulates a student

A parent congratulates a student

            Many attendees thanked CS for the opportunity to attend and noted that they wish to directly support the school and the students in the future. Daniel, a Lukunga teacher, said that:

“What really impressed me a lot is the compost set-up. Really, we must support those students so that all this does not stop. Personally, I will start to come visit them.”

Mr. Gaston, President national de CISDC (Comité intersectoriel de développement du Congo) said he will ask for support for the school.

“I am determined to assist the CS and GBA because they are there for sustainable development for our country, for our community, our society, our children.”

Attendees come forward to fundraise

Attendees come forward to fundraise

A community member gives her testimony about the students

A community member gives her testimony about the students

The community-centered work of the students shines through in the community’s reciprocity in their eagerness to support the school. The students will now be on summer vacation, but they will continue caring for garden square foot boxes over the break and are moving closer and closer towards realizing their dream of developing a Students’ Learning Garden.

Spring Has Sprung!: Updates from Giving Back to Africa on Two Ongoing Projects

Students’ Learning Garden

The students are hard at work preparing to break ground on the Students’ Learning Garden. They will compile research on soil, insects, and other essential topics from reading and will be guided by the help of community members. One such group of community members is the staff from the local monastery, which the students visited a few months ago on a field trip. Teachers will also gather information online to share with the students.

On the U.S. side,  we are raising money for supplies needed to start the garden. To find out more about the learning garden and to make a donation , click here.

Teachers Learning Circles: Working with the Lukunga Teachers

At the beginning of April, the College des Savior teachers and Dr. Jerry met with the Lukunga teachers, the group of teachers that they have been working with over the past several months. The teachers shared what they had worked on since the last meeting and what they wanted to practice during the students’ upcoming school vacation. The Lukunga teachers talked about techniques from College des Savior that they want to implement. Virginia said, “I want to act like Mr. Pombo in getting students outside to observe.” Célestin added: “I want to use stories like Mr. Chancard.” Dr. Jerry encouraged the teachers to interact openly. Caro commented that, “CS students are very brave. I will help our students to become like them by sharing this with them.” Photos from the meeting are below.

At the end of April, Dr. Jerry, Mr. Pombo, and Mr. Emmanuel went to visit the Lukunga teachers in their classrooms. They noted the overall safe learning environment among the Lukunga teachers. Ms. Sarah, a 9th grade teacher, was smiling and teaching with patience and encouragement, and the students were active and engaged. In Célestin’s 6th grade class, students enjoyed a game of 20 questions, and in another 6th grade class, Corneille used a technique that the College des Savior teachers employ—outdoor observation. The visit was part of the ongoing relationship between the two groups and the evaluation of their knowledge-sharing. In May, the teachers from both schools will meet at Lukunga for another Teacher Learning Circle.

Students participating in the 20 questions game.

Students participating in the 20 questions game.

A sixth grade class practices their outdoor observation skills.

A sixth grade class practices their outdoor observation skills.

GBA Launches CrowdRise Campaign to Develop Students’ Learning Garden

This year is a huge one for Giving Back to Africa! After three years of learning about topics ranging from to waste management to clean water, as well as applying these topics to work with the community, the students will mark the end of the Sustainability Curriculum with the creation of a students’ learning garden. This garden will not only help students to further integrate the lessons they’ve learned into a tangible, community-based project, but it will also facilitate the further exploration of passions related to agriculture and the environment. The students recently had the opportunity to visit a monastery and observe the various aspects of homesteading there. Participating in the planning and construction of the garden will continue to nurture the seeds of knowledge that the students have planted.

Additionally, the garden will serve as a community catalyst, bringing together community members to learn from demonstration gardens and to continue to build ties with the school and personal connections with the students. The development and maintenance of the garden will foster leadership and management skills, health education, and food security through the encouragement of home growing practices. This garden will have impacts that reach root-deep.

We need your help to make this garden a reality. Please join our CrowdRise campaign and make a donation towards supplies for the garden.  You can access the campaign by clicking here

We are currently looking to purchase the following:

·         Seedlings: $2,000

·         Hand trowels (48 at $5 each): $240

·         Shovels (10 at $20 each): $200

·         Wheelbarrows (5 at $80 each): $400

·         Compost (20 bags at $8 each): $160

·         Fence: $5,000

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·         Total: $8,000

Just think, donating $20 could provide a shovel to help break ground on this exciting project! Please visit our CrowdRise page for more information and share the campaign link with friends and family. Thank you for your continued support!

Students observing and participating on a recent field trip to a local monestary

Students observing and participating on a recent field trip to a local monestary