(drawing by David A.)
At Usa River Academy we divided the class into groups and asked each group to pick one photo from a pile of four or five pictures. Then we asked groups to imagine a story about what might have been happening before during and after the picture was taken. Finally we asked them to draw another picture that corresponded with the story and the original photograph.
My group chose a photo of a police officer driving a car. David, in class four, with confidence, took the pencil and paper and began to draw the elaborate details of a thief who robbed a bank and used a scooter to get away before being shot and arrested by the police. David’s drawing was incredible, realistic, and perfectly matched with the group’s growing story. With David’s artistic ability, the group was able to add new exciting details and tell David what was missing from the drawing. The final drawing paired with the original photo told a complete story that sparked your imagination to feel like you were actually seeing, hearing, and doing what those inside the pictures felt. The group was able to come up with a list of possible titles for their picture story and present their project to the group so that fellow students had no trouble following the intense experience of the police officer.
(photo by Joan Liftin. ‘Haitian Roving Patrol volunteer Wilner Athouriste on Duty. Delray Beach, Florida, 1999. http://www.indivisible.org)
While working with David and his group on their story and drawing, I observed a unique proponent of the LTP process. LTP allows learning in the classroom to explore beyond the curriculum and use the different strengths and skills of each individual to facilitate the class’s learning experience. In many classrooms in Tanzania, students simply spend class time copying notes from the chalkboard and are rarely asked to participate. As LTP explored and demanded different skills of the students, David’s artistic talent was discovered and soon transformed into a learning aid for himself and his fellow students. David’s drawing helped push students imagination, explore specific details, and enhanced the thinking of each individual.
LTP reaches beyond the subjects the students are working on, and builds skills in various areas. Over the past month, much like with David, I have observed numerous students excel in different areas including:
• Acting: performing emotions and expressions of people and animals
• Writing: creating unique stories with well-constructed details and imagination
• Teamwork/Leadership: organizing and instructing the group
• Public Speaking: speaking loud and clear with confidence in front of a group
All the students who demonstrated these different skills raised the level of knowledge in the classroom by setting examples and encouraging further critical thinking. Without giving students the opportunity to bring their strengths to the classroom environment and without teacher’s exploring individual’s unique skill levels, students lose one of the most impactful influences in education: Learning Through Peers.