Recap: Micronesia Teachers Education Conference 2016

Lelu Elementary School in Kosrae, hosted the 16th Annual Micronesia Teachers Education Conference, last week. Educators from with in the Federated Sates of Micronesia and surrounding Polynesia islands attended the three-day event. The theme for the conference was “Navigating Together Towards a Common Destiny.” Yes, the language of the theme doesn’t make sense but don’t worry it was clear by the talks and presentations that these educators came together to find a way to provide quality education in the Pacific Islands.

A fifth grade boy wearing a traditional grass skirt opened the first day of the conference. He held a large conch shell and standing next to him was the elementary school principle who held a microphone for him. The boy put the conch shell to his lips and made a long drawn blow, which was followed by a yell into the microphone. I was startled by the amplified voice. This was my first time seeing a “cultural” opening for an event in Kosrae. From my previous observations, Protestant prayers and songs open events. It was difficult to tell if the boy and his conch were a true (pre-missionaries) Kosraean tradition or a show for the other islands. (I later asked my host family about the conch shell tradition and they did not know the origin or meaning of it).

The opening ceremony was then followed by a variety of workshops hosted by educators and research professionals. In one of the workshops that I attended I was interested to learn that data management is a huge problem for schools in the Federated States of Micronesia. For example consistent student records are almost nonexistent, because many students write their names differently from one year to the next, allowing multiple records to be created, if any records at all. Some of the questions that were asked in this workshop include; How do we know what data is important and who should keep the data? Another workshop taught teachers how to use manipulatives in the classroom. The attendees where grouped off and told to come up with a lesson about the “Three Little Pigs” using the presented manipulative ideas. My group was quick to create a drama, which we then performed to the class and it was hilarious.

After three full days of workshops, the event closed with a farewell dinner. This dinner was by far the best part of the entire event. Long tables lined to about 30 feet were filled with local foods like pig, lobsters and fahfah ( similar to poi, pounded soft taro topped with a sweet coconut sauce) and so much more. Once everyone sat down to enjoy dinner, the Vice Principal of Kosrae High School began to MC. She announced gifts to the keynote speakers and gave thanks to government officials. Dancers from the high school then performed and sang. One of the high school songs was quite catchy the lyrics were “give it up for Micronesia, give it up, give it up,” It also included some rap solos performed by the students.

It as a beautiful opportunity to see teachers from all four FSM states come together. Each state has its own native language, however to communicate at the conference English was spoken. It was interesting to see how important English is for the FSM to communicate with each other and become a successful nation. I’m thankful to have had the chance to participate in this event as a foreigner and witness the islands, each with a unique culture, embracing the need for a stronger education system in their country.

 

 

 

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The Clam Farm

Today, the Kosrae Peace Corps. team took a field trip to the one and only Clam Farm in Kosrae.

Two full-time clam farmers Tulin and Arnold greeted the three of us at the farm located in Lelu. Both men have worked at Clam farm for more the 10 years. They are experienced in scuba diving to locate the claims, breeding and caring for the creatures. They encouraged the three of us to take a self-guided tour of the farm. Throughout the farm are rows of shallow, rectangular open cement tanks scattered with multiple varieties of clams. Water from the ocean continuously pumps through the tanks to keep the claims in comfortable habitat.

 

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Photo By Jasmin Taylor, Peace Corps M81

The colors of the claims varied in each tank. Some had florescent blue and purple flesh while others were brown and tan. These clams looked way too beautiful to eat but Tulin did admit that he enjoys these creatures as a tasty snack. I personally don’t think I would be able to stomach such a magnificent animal, which takes five years to grow four inches in diameter, a decent eatable size.

After looking at the different tanks of clams, we asked Tulin about the breading process of the clams. He described his trips scuba diving in Pohnpei to find mating candidates, and told us about the spawning processes of two clams.

I enjoyed how enthusiastic the men where to answer our questions about clam spawning. He also mentioned that just this week the team shipped of a batch of healthy clams to Europe to be sold in aquariums. I asked how much these clams were sold  for but the men didn’t know. But, I would image that the plane ticket for a 50 or more clams from the tiny island of Kosrae to Europe make these beauties worth a pretty penny.

I would recommend the site to visitors, entrance is free and walk-ins are welcome. I look forward to visiting the clam farm again.

 

Camp G.L.O.W June 29 – 30, 2016

 

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Camp G.L.O.W Kosrae 2016, 8th Grade Class of 2016

 

Last week the Kosrae Peace Corps team held a successful two-day Camp G.L.O.W (Girls Leading Our World).

Twenty-three 8th grade graduate girls attend the camp. Throughout the two days the girls participated in leadership games, education panels and hands on trainings.

Kosrean girls don’t have opportunities to feel empowered in their patriarchal  society. The purpose of our camp was to provide the recent 8th grade grads with the opportunity to build a  support system with their fellow female classmates while also learning that they can be leaders in the communities.

Throughout the camp the girls heard success stories from working women in their communities, learned about reproductive health and CPR. They also participated in fitness activities and learned how to be leaders and also work in teams.

The most difficult part I found in organizing the camp was funding. Our Let Girls Learn grant application had fallen through at the last minute, so our team scrambled to find 100 percent community contributions. We were able to gain financial support from the Kosrae Utility Authority and the Kosrae State Youth Council. This support was more than enough to provide food and materials for our camp. We also had generous help from the Bank of Guam, which paid for our venue and shelter for the campers. The Department of Education was also very generous in providing tables and chairs. We were so thankful to have all of this last minute support from the community.

With everything in place, at the end of the camp the girls gave us positive feedback on the camp. Marisa (M81) and I look forward to making the next Camp G.L.O.W bigger and better with in incoming M82s.

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Girls learn to work together in the game ‘Coke and Pepsi’.