REBUILD globally was first introduced to KIDmob in November of 2013, when they arrived in Port au Prince to introduce their technology project, iLab//Haiti, based out of Haiti Communitere. KIDmob is an educational non-profit from San Francisco which holds design workshops to encourage the development of the critical thinking and creative process so often missing from education systems, in the States and worldwide.
The workshops are not only incredibly fun, they allow students the freedom to take responsibility for finding their own solutions to the challenges they face. November began a brainstorming session amongst KIDmob, Indian Valley Charter School in California and REBUILD of how to create a space where students from different backgrounds, experiences and cultures could all participate in KIDmob’s critical and creative thinking workshops.
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of KIDmob’s Tyler Pew, Kate Ganim and Patima Pataramekin, and IVA’s Susan Weber, April 11th – 15th marked the first ever cross-cultural KIDmob Youth Design Summit. KIDmob and IVA coordinated with teacher Natalie Gilbert of the Union School in Port au Prince, Haiti, and the RG team’s apprenticeship program manager to incorporate all three groups of students.
Held on neutral ground at Haiti Communitere’s resource center in Port au Prince, the YDS2014 was a four-day workshop to discover creative solutions to what each group of students decided was a solvable challenge within their respective schools. The workshop was not so much focused on the solution as to the process of discovering the real root of the problem and sharing ideas that lead towards a remedy.
The students at each school (IVA, Union, and the RG students) recognized a challenge they face daily in their education, be it organization, class schedules, or a basic lack of materials and safe transportation. Day One consisted of interactive activities and exercises which were welcoming, fun, and great ice-breakers; these lessons, disguised as games, taught the students a valuable life lesson – although we all come from different backgrounds, we all have had both positive and negative experiences and share personality traits. These commonalities can help us cross what we might initially think are linguistic, cultural or social boundaries and eliminate preconceived notions.
Each group presented their challenge. IVA’s students presented on their supply and room disorganization; the underlying problem they discovered was a lack of accountability and initiative to take responsibility. Union School’s classes are longer than the material provides, which takes away from the inspiration essential to a healthy learning environment – the students struggled with self-motivation and positive response. RG’s students presented a fundamental challenge of lacking proper materials, teacher participation and transportation – students in public schools here in Haiti are expected to purchase their own materials and find their own way, and teachers are often absent to attend more lucrative jobs. Each presentation proved that although the contributing factors might be different, every group was facing a difficulty in their daily learning.
Throughout the rest of the workshop, the students worked on creating and discovering solutions. Ideas were shared in presentation format or round-table discussion; they involved “clients,” those who are directly involved in what could be the execution of the solutions; projects involving creative design and critical thinking helped the students understand each other and themselves, and influence both their expression and thought-processes. With the amazing facilitators and KIDmob leaders, students responded creatively, exploring designs, visuals, group discussion and even music.
When the workshop finished, a few students from each school presented their solutions to the challenges, and the results were incredible – Union School needed their schedule fixed, and that group came up with an entirely new schedule and a plan to address the administration. IVA, dealing with disorganization and lack of upkeep, created a system of student governance and accountability. REBUILD needs materials and resources, and their solution turned out to be a detailed business plan involving collaborative effort from students at all three schools.
So many great things were experienced that weekend. Students who needed a shift in worldly perspective got one; students who were afraid to share ideas became public speakers overnight; cross-cultural collaboration and an understanding of one another’s backgrounds grew exponentially; admission of misunderstanding met with a verbalized motivation to learn from each other. While they all lead very different lives, the students learned that they all experience so much of the same: happy and sad memories, difficulties and triumphs, the ability to focus and be serious but also to relax and be a goof. Tyler and Susan led a game – everyone found a partner, someone they’d never met, and created secret handshakes, secret songs and secret dances. The students had a blast, and were unknowingly beginning to break down cultural and linguistic barriers. This just doesn’t happen in a normal school day. The connection they all now share from their experience in the workshop has widened perspectives and changed attitudes.
RG’s Apprenticeship Students would not have been able to be part of this experience without Tyler, Kate, Patima, and Susan. They created a safe space of learning, sharing ideas, and creativity that brought three groups from different backgrounds together to work towards the same goals. We at RG would like give a HUGE “Thank you!” to Tyler, Kate, Patima and Susan – natural educators, you have changed the way these students think about addressing challenges, and from what we see, that has changed their lives. You are all teachers who thrive on the learning process, not the test score. We are so grateful that you’ve brought that element to our students. We also want to thank Natalie for bringing her students from Union – here in Haiti, with the huge gap between upper and lower classes, it is hard for teens to meet others outside of their immediate neighborhoods. When our students met, it created a dialogue for change within the economic gap that we hope will continue. Another “Mesi anpil!” goes out to our fantastic interpreters, Leonard, Toutou and RG’s very own Brunel – without them, the language barrier would not have been crossed so efficiently! The group facilitators, who work with with iLab//Haiti – Willio, Johnson and Frankie – you brought an element of fun along with your extensive experience, knowledge and capacity to engage. KIDmob, we can’t wait for the next workshop!