Can't read or write yet? We've got the class for you.

With today's guest blog we will have finally made our way through all nine of MPI-Ecuador's 2010-2011 Program Directors! Take it away, Zoë!

Hello to all of our blog readers! Thanks for your continued interest. I’m Zoë McKinney, your guest blogger for this week. You can think of me as “Soy” if you’d like, or So-wee,” as that’s what most of the library kids and their parents call me. I call Palos Verdes Estates, CA (just outside of Los Angeles) home, but I went to college at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I just graduated this past May with a degree in Human and Organizational Development and Spanish. I’m thrilled to be part of the MPI-Ecuador team this year and also grateful for the opportunity to tell you about the work we’ve been doing down here in the Chillos Valley. I teach the Children’s English intermediate class, Children’s Art and work with the nutrition program. Today I’m going to talk about our Children’s Art class, which we teach for an hour every week.

Arte para niños. Children’s art is a unique program at our Centro because it is the only class that we offer for children who can’t read and write. For fifty cents per three-month course, children can inscribe for our Art Around the World art class. I teach the class with Luke and Sam. We will be focusing on four regions of the world. Each section of the course, we will do a series of lessons that will incorporate a small lesson about culture, technique, or a famous artist, followed by that day’s art project.

What I think is most important about our class is that it offers a creative outlet that most of our students don’t get elsewhere. The Ecuadorian school system does not stress the development of creative thinking. I have spent time helping children in the library with their homework. Many of the assignments I have seen have required simple copying of words and sentences and very little, if any, creative thinking. During art class, we do not leave out an example of the project and consistently encourage students to work without copying each other. After a few classes, I have already seen a real rise in confidence levels. Where certain students came in not knowing where to start when we would give them idea, they now seem to look forward to the outlet.

Children’s Art is a program I initially didn’t see myself teaching, but I am finding more and more value in it every week and look forward to developing it as a program alongside Luke and Sam. Thanks for reading!