Its that time of year again! The leaves have fallen, snow has dusted the ground and Christmas trees fill the neighbors windows. Oh wait, I am not in New York anymore. It's sweltering hot, motorbikes rule the road and Christmas decorations are thrown up at every major sopping center. But few locals actually celebrate it. In Vietnam, Christmas is more of a shoppers holiday and good reason to take selfies. Oddly enough the streets and malls are decorated from floor to ceiling with holiday cheer, but only 7% of Vietnam's population is catholic. Nonetheless, it is still a lot of fun. More and more kids at younger ages are being exposed to Christmas, not as a religious holiday, but as a fun day that is filled with presents and songs. So when I found out our music teacher wanted to play Christmas songs all week with his band I thought it was a perfect opportunity to show up and show some of my students what Christmas is all about... Santa!
In the blazing sun and smoke filled highways I left my house every morning decked out in a Santa suit. Bikes with children on them nearly cut me off just to wave. Not to mention it was hard to steer with my backpack as my belly. Others drove by like they've seen it all before. In fact, nothing really phases me on a motorbike anymore. #stuffonthebackofbikes.
Upon arrival, teachers all smiled and foreign staff took photos with me. It took a short while for some of the kids to come around. Once the photos started they didn't stop. A few kids snagged a video of me dressed as Santa playing basketball. Though it may not be big in their country, a lot of them will go to America or another Western country to study. If anything, the kids got a kick out of their teacher dressed as Santa. And Mr. Scott did an incredible job getting all the middle school kids to play along. Merry Christmas!!
A few weeks back I attended a professional development called learning 2 in Manila. Teachers gathered from international schools around the world to discuss the possibilities of change in the classroom. "Stop. Rethink. Change." was the mantra. It was there I first learned of a passion project or some may call it Genius hour.
I came back to HCMC, Vietnam and immediately invited my students to start a Passion Project once a week. I promised we'd spend 10-15 minutes a week working on something they love! I never really figured out exactly what the project would be, but the kids just loved the idea.
Whenever I ask my kids to do a big activity, I usually do the project too. For example, we each created a Food waste diary during our unit on the world's food supply. So this time around I was going to do the passion project also. It helps me model and establish good rapport with the kids.
I asked myself "what was my passion?" I loved making videos, I loved travelling and I loved being outdoors. I had to look real hard at my surroundings and history. I thought of my time doing construction with my brother, the massive vegetable garden I grew for 3 years at my mother's house and the landscaping I used to do for a private employer. I loved to get outside and get dirty. I thought, why not grow a garden? The benefits of a school garden are endless. Our rooftop was the perfect space that wasn't being used. Plenty of sunshine (maybe too much) and plenty of kids who would be willing to help.
When I asked these kids how many of them have planted a seed only 1/4 of them raised their hand. I was shocked. I guess this generation grew up with tech and some of them missed the planting a seed class in elementary school. At first it was a struggle to get the idea going, but word started to travel. Science got involved and GIN is planning on creating their own compost.
Students were encouraged to use recyclable bottles to start their seedlings. We planted everything from pumpkin and cucumber to Brussels sprouts and Ghost pepper. We still need to plant broccoli and spinach. Extra credit was given to kids who brought in their own potted plants (not vegetables). Once the seedlings started to grow I was receiving endless requests from the students to have class on the roof.
I just recently purchased a small amount of lumber at a ridiculous price compared to wood in the US (it was actually much more expensive here). I would have loved to find some recyclable stuff. The idea is to make an Urban Garden. This is how it begins.