Friday, April 15, 2011

Living Libraries: An Oral History Project

Last Thursday and Friday, my sitemate Sam and I organized a project called Living Libraries at our respective schools. We invited a handful of other Peace Corps Volunteers to come visit our town and help us out with the project. More information about the Living Libraries project can be found at this website, provided by a returned PCV from the Zaporizhzhya Oblast. The project is called Living Libraries because the PCV's are supposed to serve as books and provide a bit of oral history on their backgrounds. The students "check out" the books and talk to each PCV for a set number of minutes, then the PCVs rotate around the room (like speed dating style). In the past, other PCVs have done this project at the university/college level and this was the first time that this project has been done at the secondary school level.

Sasha, Rich, Chris and Sam with their biographies posted on the first floor of my school.

At my school, we organized two different sessions in the activity hall/auditorium - one for the two 11th form classes, and one for the three 8th form classes. We divided the students up into 6 groups of about 8-12 students each and had them sit in different corners of the room. Our classes at school are 45 minutes long, so the students were able to talk to each PCV for only about 7 or 8 minutes. We encouraged each of the PCVs to bring a "prop" to help encourage conversation - most of them brought a few photos from home, and Sam brought his American football.

Sam talking to some 11th form guys about how to play American football.

Sasha showing some of her postcards from home.

Chris answering some of the 8th formers' questions.

Rich talking to a bunch of the 8th form girls.

After school, we hung out in the school gym and tried to teach the students how to play football. We had about 25 students show up, ranging from 5th to 10th form. We started out by teaching them how to place their hands on the laces and throw the ball. A few of them figured out how to get the ball to fly in a spiral, but most of them threw it like a dodgeball. The rules of football were too intimidating to explain all in Russian, so we ended up just splitting into 3 teams and basically just playing Ultimate Frisbee with a football.

One of the 8th form boys throws the ball.
The students loved running around the gym and passing the ball to each other to try to score "touchdowns".

Playing football was great because many students could play and interact with the PCVs, along with learning a new game. They thought it was really interesting how the football didn't bounce up and down like a normal ball. After we were all exhausted from running around the gym for an hour, we ended the games and took a few team pictures.

Team Salo with students from the 8th-10th forms, me and my PCV friends Alison and Rich.

Team Apple with Sasha, Chris, and students from the 6-8th forms.

I forgot this team's name but they have 8th and 9th formers with Vadim and Sam.

Me and my peer advisor Sasha with the football :)
At Sam's school, we organized two sessions in their lunchroom and used their tables to group the students together. This worked well since the students were oriented more in a circle than how they were seated by rows in my school's auditorium. One of the goals of this project was to have the students practice communicating in English with native speakers, but many of the students ended up asking their questions in Russian or Ukrainian. So at Sam's school, we worked with 9th-11th form students which was a little bit more manageable since the older students had a higher level of English.

Rich talking to some students about his hometown, New York City.
Me using a map to show the students the 5 different states that I have lived in.

Alison showing photos of Florida and making a bunch of new best friends with some of the younger girls.

Kyle's table was intrigued with his story, including Sam's counterpart Olena.

Tiago was hi-tech and showed photos to students from his iPod touch.
Sam's counterpart Olena with Sam, Chris, Kyle, me, Rich, Alison, Sasha and Tiago.

After we finished the project at Sam's school, we headed to the town's Culture House to play basketball in their sports gym with the students. However, we didn't plan for over 30 students to show up for basketball and the Culture House wasn't able to accommodate all of the students there without a Ukrainian teacher from one of our schools. So we went outside and played football on the muddy grass at the stadium instead... I unfortunately did not take any photos there since my camera battery died but I will try to find some pictures from my students!


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