Hammers, screws, nails, etc., have always, for the most part, been foreign objects to me…until now. After working on some projects with Bayou Grace Community Services and BTNEP (Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program), the carpenter within me has surfaced, if you will. Projects included the construction of a shade house that now provides shade and water to relatively salt-tolerant plants. We also helped build tables to support the plants under the shade house and plant pots that will serve as decoration items for the community. I will admit that at times the hammering and nailing work was a little frustrating when dealing with things such as splitting wood and stubborn nails. But in the end it was really neat to look at our final products and have the ability to say “hey, by using my own hands and some tools, I transformed those pieces of wood into a sturdy plant pot!”
Constructing tables under the shade house!
At this point in our DukeEngage experience, however, constructing things is “so last week.” What I mean is, this week we are starting something brand new! There is still a table in the picture, but a pencil has replaced the hammer. Raise your hand if you know what I am talking about. Yes, a classroom setting! From here on out we are going to be teaching environmental education, among other things (such as math and reading), to a summer camp in the Smithridge community in Chauvin.
The summer camp, led by our community leader Ms. Effie, is open to children of ages 5 to 14 and is running for a total of 4 weeks. Monday and Tuesday were the first two days of the camp. For those two days we decided that it was best to “go with the flow” and observe rather than to attempt any big lesson plans. After doing just that, we have a better idea of what our role in the camp will be and we can finally start planning for future activities, and boy do we have some fun activities in store! We are fully equipped with plenty of ideas, most of which have come from two teaching workshops that we participated in: “Project Wet” and “Project Food, Land, and People.” We also met with our program director, Duke professor Charlotte Clark, and the educational coordinators of BTNEP and LUMCON, who all gave us additional tips and ideas to work with. Our job is to now organize these ideas that are floating around in our minds, compile them into lesson plans, and experiment with our own creativity.
I think it’s safe to say that the kids will not be the only ones doing the learning. The camp will probably be a huge experiential learning process for us DukeEngagers as well. I can personally say that I have never been in charge of any large-scale lesson plans. It will be a new experience, and I am certain that there will be challenges. Still, I am looking forward to it all!