Showing posts with label LVLC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LVLC. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Request for LVLC Teachers!!

The view of Lake Victoria just behind the school - an amazing place for kids to explore and learn!
If you, or someone you know, might be interested in working with some of the best kiddos (and some of the most amazingly supportive parents) in the world, check out THIS LINK. Then check out all the fun stories on my blog that will convince them/you that this really is the best.job.ever. It's challenging and rewarding and humbling, and a simply incredible, life-changing opportunity to live, work with, and serve families who are helping to make Bible Translation and the Jesus Film a reality for people in Northern Tanzania. 

Chai (tea/break) time
Their need for a teacher is urgent. One of the most common reasons highly-trained missionaries have to leave the field to go back to their countries of origin is due to a lack of high-quality educational opportunities for their kids. Quite literally, one of the best ways to help ensure the continued translation process of the Bible is to get great teachers to the places that need it most.

Learning how guitars are made...
They are looking for someone that can be in-country by January 2016, or at the latest July 2017, with a commitment of 18 months to give the two teachers there a much-needed chance to reconnect with people back in the States.
A temporary class pet, found on the playground
Is it worth it? YES. I've never been so well-supported by parents in prayer and practical help. Yes, I taught three grade levels - but there were 5 kids and I nearly always had a parent helping in the classroom. Imagine the possibilities!

My K-2 kiddos, from America, Australia, and New Zealand
These students are without a doubt some of the brightest, most caring, creative students I've ever worked with, and the mission team community is a fabulous chance to learn and grow with other believers committed to seeing God's kingdom come to those all around the world.

Would you join us in praying that God would both call and provide for the right person for this position?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nocturnal Animals at LVLC

Lately, we (myself and the amazing kiddos I have under my tutelage this year) have been studying nocturnal animals. Thanks to a book from Sonlight, a Teachers Pay Teachers packet, and a bit of “make my own” work to cover the nocturnal animals found around this part of the world, we’ve gone on a fun discovery! I even found a drawing tutorial for kids on YouTube to help include a bit of art.
We’ve had a fun time learning about hedgehogs and bushbabies, and I forced myself to teach about bats despite my great dislike for the creatures. I suppose I could have brought an example in from my house, or taken the kids on a field trip up to the attic of the school where these guys squeak away above our heads all day… but I opted for a video representation instead!

Thanks to local eucalyptus tree hedges, we even got
to smell a bit of Australia as we learned about koalas!
We took a brief turn from mammals to insects and I pulled out the crickets activity page. Apparently no one wants to draw crickets (no fun kid-sized tutorial available on YouTube) nor do they want to talk about them (no thanks to Nat Geo here!). But luckily on my way over to the school, I happened to notice said creature (something similar-looking) caught under a door, a bit immobilized, and easy to pick up and have my kids hold.

We drew him while listening to cricket sounds on YouTube, and tried to figure out if he was truly a cricket or one of his diurnal relatives. We learned later from my super-cool middle-school science teacher that it was actually a dying (hence the blah color) grasshopper... but at least we got to learn about the differences and similarities, and hold and draw something from real life with magnifying glasses!)

I decided at the last minute to include raccoons, since they're one animal my hailing-from-Michigan kiddos are bound to come across over furlough (or sometime in their lives). And, being kindergarteners, we can't leave our experience to paper and pen and YouTube videos of raccoons eating food off picnic tables at night! Rather, it's better to embrace the experience itself. (Which, btw, we limited to an inside activity after discussing the role-play thoroughly - no mask wearing outside since masks here have a whole different meaning...)

Because who DOESN'T want to wear a striped tail and a mask over their face... and pretend to wash and eat the math manipulatives FOOD left for you on the classroom floor, in the dark?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Always Changing

Things at the learning center—and on the mission field—are constantly changing. It’s a hard reality of life here—the friendships we gain grow quickly and deeply, but the frequent hellos and goodbyes tear at your heart just that much more.

Last term two families on our team returned to their home countries of America and New Zealand. Others in our community went to Australia and America on furloughs with plans to return. Recently, with the announcement of another family returning to the States soon, one of our students cried,

"Why does everyone we love have to leave?"

I feel it too! Couldn't resist taking a picture
with this shirt I found at the local market...
it describes our lives to a T!

Even my classroom changes a lot from month to month—and from day to day! Depending on parent volunteers at the learning center, I might have an American 3-year-old joining in, or a second-language 5-year-old Dutch student whose Swahili far surpasses mine (hmm... make that third language!?). My students here in Musoma come from New Zealand, America, Australia, and the Netherlands. We learn more about each country and culture all the time. We’ve been known to count in English, Swahili, Dutch, Spanish, German, and French for morning routines, and have to translate between American/British/Australian/New Zealand English (and vowel sounds!) on a regular basis.

I explain terms like “porch,” "gym," and “Easter Bunny” while my students familiarly use terms like amoeba and bilharzia, monitor lizard and dengue flour, know the potential issues with drinking (or touching) unclean water, and can quickly write the steps to how to get to Australia from Tanzania for their second grade sequential writing assignment. We read ABC books not just about super-heroes, but about countries where our parents come from. We celebrate not only Christmas but Australia Day, ANZAC Day, American Thanksgiving, the Queen’s Birthday, the other Queen’s Birthday, and have both Christian and Muslim holidays off from school according to the Tanzanian holiday schedule.

Lately I’ve been musing (a bit miserably, I'll admit); “Nobody ever told me I’d have to leave family twice!” (I knew I was leaving family, friends, etc when I came... I just didn't realize how hard it would be to leave here when heading back!) I do know how transition works, so the statement might not be exactly true! But on the flip side, as I am now the one preparing to go, I realize just how much God has provided “family” for me here in Tanzania – dear friends that I can go laugh or cry with at a moment’s notice, call early in the morning about a break-in, or commiserate over the abundance of malaria cases or lack of electricity as of late. Just as I’ve turned to Mark 10:29 for comfort so many times while missing family events in America, I now turn again to this Scripture for comfort as I leave the amazing family I’ve gained here, trusting God has great plans for me in whatever - and wherever - is next!

"I tell you the Truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age... and in the age to come, eternal life."
- Mark 10:29-31

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Tis the Season... wait, which season?

Weather and seasons are usually a big part of Kindergarten learning. Teachers don’t talk about the ins and outs of how and why, of course, but acknowledging the (usually) ever-changing conditions outside the window and dressing a little bear in appropriate clothes for the weather during calendar time are essential.

The typical Kindergartener will sit on their carpet square listening to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and talk about how, while we don’t have food falling from the sky, we do have lots of kinds of weather.

The End.
This routine works really well when kids are living in one country and staying there. But this term, with 2 American students and 1 Australian/American planning to return to Australia, all living near the Equator, it gets a bit more tricky. I never bothered doing a dress-the-weather-bear bulletin board - he'd wear the same thing every day! The big question of the day during calendar time is whether it's sunny, cloudy, or partly cloudy - and we've had to add on to our weather chart this term thanks to the abundance of sunny days! (We opted to use the "snowy" category, with "warm" colors, to catch all the extra days...)

But then, last week, we came to the calendar/seasons unit in our math books. I could have had each kid do one set of seasons, but after a unit on the Solar System and talking about hemispheres anyway, I wanted to bring in the various dimensions of the world’s weather. These kids know more about time zones (we talk to grandma as she goes to bed and we wake up) than many middle schoolers in the States, so I figured we may as well keep going with our world-view-perspective!

I pulled out the A3 Paper (big pieces, for those of you Americans who don’t know what it is) and taped two together. We got to practice capitalizing names of months and using rulers (quite a feat for 6 year olds!) as we set up the posters...

...and then, we read some books.

The Year at Maple Hill Farm isn’t my favourite for describing seasons in America, but it does give some great descriptive words for what the weather is like on a farm. Thankfully, my colleague Lyndy has collected some books from other hemispheres along the way, so I also had All Through the Year available, which looks at the seasons in Australia. And as we live in Northern Tanzania much of the time, I thought we might just be able to pull off an equatorial perspective as well.

As we read, I had the kids draw pictures of the weather in that hemisphere country for each month. The first two were easier, but Tanzania was tougher. For one, the seasons in Musoma aren't clearly defined - a long and short rainy season, with dry in-between, and sometimes it's warmer and sometimes it's cooler. But no one ever really seems to know if rainy season has arrived, or if it's just a random afternoon shower!

I'm pretty sure no one has written a book about equatorial seasons, as it would be almost the same picture on most pages. A bit of rain here, a bit of dry season here, maybe 10 degrees warmer or cooler - if you're lucky, you might get to wear a jacket once or thrice! But if anyone out there knows such a book, I'd love to add it to the library!
Our Masterpieces: Northern Hemisphere on top,
Equatorial in the middle, and Southern Hemisphere on the bottom!
So as it warms up in America, cools down in Australia, and stays about the same here in Tanzania, we'd like to wish you all a...


Photo Credits to... myself, Amazon, and

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Scary Sink - with an addendum...

There is a sink in the room where I teach here in Musomaland. It’s actually quite helpful, as any kindergarten teacher will you tell you, because much of what we do at this age creates/brings about/fundamentally requires messes to be made. A cut and paste activity, for instance – ever important for developing fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination – will leave a sticky residue not only all over little fingers (and shirts, and faces… did I mention hair?) but also desks. What could be better than having a sink IN THE CLASSROOM that you can send students to at any time to wash up at, while still being able to keep them in your line of sight in case they start to dilly-dally, sing a song, or wander off along the way?

So on the one hand, I’m very thankful for this device that pipes water into our classroom – indoor plumbing in Musoma is definitely not a given! On the other hand, the sink in our classroom has some digestive issues. Not only does the water often come out looking brown or yellow (we just say “eww,” wait for it to hopefully clear up, and don’t ask!), but oftentimes the very presence of water is missing when the tap is turned on. This creates not only potentially big issues, like flooded houses when people are out-of-country and sink faucets are left in the “on” position… but also smaller issues, like air in the pipes that cause sporadic squirting of brown-colored liquid water. And for little ones whose faces are just the same height as the faucet, water squirting out as air is pushed through pipes is a pretty scary thing indeed. (The sound and suddenness is enough to make anyone jump, let alone the fact I’d rather not have said water going into their eyes or mouth!)

My students and I have adjusted, as life here often requires and we always manage to do. The students much prefer to use my container of hand sanitizer, but since such luxuries (like wet wipes) can’t be purchased in Musoma and are quite expensive in Nairobi, I’d actually much prefer they go through the old soap-and-water method of washing! I often try to “check” the sink ahead of time to make sure that the water is flowing properly. However, lately, with even more frequent digestive water issues, that hasn’t helped much either. Inevitably I’ll declare the sink a safe place for hand sanitation and then a little person will turn on the faucet only to have disgusting bits of water shooting at them while making loud squirting noises. The small face inevitably turns to me in a scene of heart-touching anxiety/panic/fear/tears, and I tell them I’ll get them hand sanitizer for them in just a minute.

Lately, I’ve started putting a bottle of water with a squirt top by the sink for hand washing. We've always used this for washing desks and when the water is out, but it also seems to work well for hand-washing-safety. I can fill it up myself and then students can wash their hands without fear… except they're still at the age where they need someone to hold the water for them, which I often can’t do in the middle of teaching.

So the quest for a viable solution continues. In the meantime, though, I loved what one of my students mentioned today as I stood in front of a noisily squirting sink of gross water and filled up the water bottle for future washing use.

“Miss Crystal, how can you be so brave!?”

She was totally serious, completely sincere in her admiration. For her, this sink represented something that at any moment could cause tears, frustration, anxiety, unpleasant feelings as she goes about her daily routine. And here I was, standing in front of the obviously still-problematic structure, acting like nothing was wrong (though, I must admit, I was inwardly bracing myself against jumping when it made loud noises!). As an adult, someone who is bigger and has dealt with my own experiences of jumping at air in faucet lines and overcome them… I see things from a different angle (literally - It helps to be taller than the sink!) and perspective. I can see the problem and deal with it and be able to make it through for the greater good of what my students need.

Oftentimes lately, I've felt like turning to God and saying much the same thing. "God, do you really expect me to be this brave or strong?" Because the truth is, I'm not brave. I see mounting obstacles ahead and shrink back in fear. I’d much rather avoid an issue or area that seems scary, or will worry about it and look around tearfully for someone to help but wonder if they’re too busy to ask. Thankfully, unlike most busy teachers in the classroom, God is apparently NEVER too busy to lend a listening ear and hand and come over and hold the non-scary water bottle spout for me while I wash my hands.

I've got the verses above on my desktop and phone, not because of the pretty designs, but because apparently I need constant reminders that God is way bigger - and braver - than I am... and that He doesn't tell me I have to manage on my own.  And while sometimes it seems silly to go to God with things I know really shouldn't be a big deal, I'm still ever-thankful for a pretty amazing God who's apparently willing to stand in front of scary sinks that might squirt grossness at me and help me to get around the obstacles ahead, or at least go through them mostly unscathed.

(*The second verse above is a free printable from HERE... check it out! The first is my own creation after a friend sent me the much-needed verse!)

This amazing teacher has followed me in my classrooms from the States to HOPAC in Dar, to LVLC in Musoma. (We're kind of hoping she stays in Musoma as they really need her there!) She's super-creative and knows just how to solve issues like Scary Sinks with little ones. Add a super-cute, very pink monster and a speech bubble, and of course the kids will immediately bond and accept any weird noises protruding from it's belly! (Added bonus is that all the kids will now know how to spell "burp", which I'm fairly certain is an important element of literacy learning in the early years...)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How to be a Kindergartener

  1. Follow the rules. Every single one. Tell on people who don’t.
  2. Forget to wash your hands every.single.time you go to the toilet.
  3. When cutting pictures or letters out of a magazine, ALWAYS start cutting at the other end of the page.
  4. Give hugs. Lots of hugs.
  5. Tell your parents everything interesting you learned that day, including how all mammals are mommies because they feed their babies milk.
    “Mommy, I want to be a mammal some day! But my brother can never be :(…”
  6. Bring flowers... candy... half-used bottles of lotion... or anything else you find on the playground to your teacher as a token of your love.
  7. Get tired of writing after one sentence. A five-word limit is preferred.
  8. Drink as much water as you can JUST AFTER recess/break/bathroom time.
  9. Tell your teacher when her hair looks especially nice. Or especially bad. Or Chinese.
  10. Ask your teacher the color name of every crayon you don't already know. Announce it excitedly to your class, then wait for classmates to find similar colors and ask teacher for color-name confirmation as well. Try crayons (which you've used a hundred times before) to test the validity of the colors. Ooh and ahh in excitement over colors as only 5-year-olds can do!
  11. When sitting next to your teacher for one-on-one reading, elbow her in the side or leg as many times as possible while settling into a comfortable position.
  12. Always tell the teacher when she misses something or does something out-of-routine.
  13. When completing a sticker (prize) chart, form a look of shocked amazement. Jump up and down, and force the words out of your mouth, "This... means... I get... to bring home... my sticker chart... AND a prize... on the same day...!!!"
    (apparently Squinkies are all the rage these days!?)
  14. Sing in the bathroom.
  15. Pretend you don’t know that your teacher lets you win math games. Till she plays with someone else… then remind her from across the room that she’s supposed to let the student win sometimes.
  16. Announce your snack/lunch as you take it out of your backpack with complete and utter excitement. Every day.
  17. Proclaim every day to be the school.EVER. Except for the days you cry. 
  18. Make sure everything. is fair. for everyone. at all times. but more fair for you!
  19. When your teacher is sad, give her a hug. When your neighbor stubs his toe, give a pat on the shoulder and an "I'm sorry." Offer your Comfy or satin piece of fabric or stuffed mouse toy or whatever you personally know makes you feel better to them as a token of comfort. Whether they fully appreciate it or not, at least you did your best. This is love.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I promise I won't bore you with too many school-focused posts in a row, and apologize for all the non-teacher, non-family-of-my-students out there reading this! Feel free to cut out now if you want - no hard feelings, I promise. But since there are several grandparents living a million miles away who seem to appreciate pictures, and since I have full permission to post pictures of the adorable, (mostly) sweet kids I teach everyday... and since selfishly it's fun for me to share a bit of what I do here on a daily basis, here's one more for anyone whose interested!

Recently in Science we've been working through a book called "See How It's Made" by DK. It's a fun book - who wouldn't want to know that the original color of green paint was made from arsenic, or that the first ice cream cone was developed when a ice cream vendor at the fair ran out of bowls, and his next-door-booth waffle-maker got creative?

We've learned about how honey, CDs, and (ahem) sausages are made. I knew the lesson on pointe shoes would be a hit with the girls, and threw in not only a video clip of the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing in The Nutcracker, but also the Nutcracker vs. Mean Life-Sized Rats fight scene with swords for my lone boy (which they all went outside to reenact over and over again during chai break!). But as far as I can tell, yesterday's lesson takes the cake. After all, who doesn't like playing with LEGOS?

After watching some cool clips on how legos are actually made, I borrowed some Legos from a fabulous family here, had the kids design their own dream set on paper, and let them get to work creating it for real. M had princesses on the brain, and went with the castle motif, while E went Egyptian (I think?) and L was his usual detail-oriented self, creating wonders out of blocks. (Then again, I shouldn't expect anything different from the kid who regularly draws realistic Lego men on paper of his own accord!)

Here are a few snapshots of Science class - from drawn plans to finished products! (And I just realized the plans and finished products are reversed due to my taking pictures from the wrong side...)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gooney Bird Greene

If you know anything about me, have been in my classroom, or have ever helped me move apartments, you might have realized that I enjoy reading. More specifically, I'm passionate about great children's literature. Some might say I went into teaching to give purpose to my collection of kids' books... but I assure you, that's mostly not true. Some people have to watch how much they spend on shoes? I have to be careful when I'm in the kids' section of Barnes and Nobles. (ahh, bookstores... dreaming once again...)

But seriously. A great kid's book - chapter or picture, it doesn't matter - has an ability to capture a topic, portray emotion, pull a kid into something in, and allows them to easily understand and take part in something bigger and deeper than themselves. It can change how a student thinks or help them get perspective on something that's happening to or around them. It does in a few words and pictures, simply, what many authors for adults try to do in hundreds of wordy pages. And the end result touches adults just as much as it touches kids.

It's a difficult art, and I admire it greatly.

So when I come across a great book, especially one for kids that doesn't portray bratty kids as the heroes, I tend to want to share it.

On our read-aloud list for Sonlight, the curriculum I'm using with the 5 year old missionary kids this year, was the title Gooney Bird Greene. I was a bit worried - we had tried reading a couple of other recommendations earlier in the year and they had gone right over the kids' heads. So I did what every elementary teacher does. I grabbed the book and brought it home to read as my nighttime reading before bed.

And, unexpectedly, I kept reading more. And more. Good thing it's a short book or it might've been a late night. If you've ever been in a classroom, you'll connect with this book. If you have kids, or have ever been around a group of them, you'll get it. And especially if you've ever taught lower-elementary? You'll feel right at home in this classroom the minute you open the book. Here's a glimpse at Mrs. Pidgeon's second grade class:

“Our class has been learning about what makes good stories, haven’t we?” Mrs. Pidgeon said. Everyone nodded. All but Malcolm, who was under his desk cutting something with scissors.
“There are many stories that don’t need a book,” Mrs. Pidgeon said pleasantly, “aren’t there, class? If your grandma tells you a story about when she was a little girl, she doesn’t have that story in a book, does she?” 
The class stared at her. All but Malcolm, who was still under his desk, and Felicia Ann, who always looked at the floor, never raised her hand, and never spoke. 
Beanie said, “My grandma lives in Boston!” 
Keiko said, “My grandma lives in Honolulu!” 
Ben said loudly, “My grandma lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania!” 
Tricia shouted, “My grandma is very rich!” 
“Class!” said Mrs. Pidgeon. “Shhh!” Then, in a quieter voice, she explained, “Another time, we will talk about our families. But right now – ”  She stopped talking and looked at Barry Tuckerman. Barry was up on his knees in his seat, and his hand was waving in the air as hard as he could make it wave. 
“Barry?” Mrs. Pidgeon said. “Do you have something that you simply have to say? Something that cannot possibly wait?” 
Barry nodded yes. His hand waved. 
“And what is so important?” 
Barry stood up beside his desk. Barry Tuckerman liked to make very important speeches, and they always required that he stand. 
“My grandma,” Barry Tuckerman said, “went to jail once. She was twenty years old and she went to jail for civil disobedience.” Then Barry sat down. 
“Thank you, Barry. Now look at what I’m writing on the board. Who can read this word?” 
Everyone, all but Malcolm and Felicia Ann, watched as she wrote the long word…"
p. 4-5 Gooney Bird Greene, by Lois Lowry

I love that the two-time Newberry Award winner Lois Lowry decided to write a book about a girl who loves to tell "absolutely true" stories. It's brilliant. My kids are cracking up the whole way through, and yet are still learning basic elements of creating a story. But more than that, they're connecting with the characters themselves. Just like Gooney Bird's classmates, they're anxious to discover what crazy outfit Gooney Bird has on, love it when the days of school in the book coincide with the day of school in real life, and are excited to guess which story she's going to tell next.

Perhaps even better? It's a book that teachers (and parents!) will enjoy themselves. :) Even after reading it aloud a few years in a row.

Side note: Just found out there's a series! Now if only there was a Barnes and Noble in Musomaland... ;)

Saturday, April 13, 2013


One of the basic parts of life here by Lake Victoria is the presence of lake flies.  These flies are not present at all times, but there are days and times when they very much make their presence known.  Every so often we look out across the lake and see a funnel cloud – or smoke cloud? – hovering above the water.  No, it’s not God.*  At least, I don’t think so.  It’s lake flies.

Usually the house where I’m staying doesn’t get affected by the flies.  We’re further from the lake and not in the direct line of flight, I suppose.  But the other morning we awoke to discover them… everywhere. 

At school, which is beach-front property (can you say that when you can’t touch the water due to illnesses present?), everything was COVERED.  Desks.  Walls.  Chairs.  Floors.  We postponed class for a bit till we could get things swept out, but it’s hard to get rid of the ones still flying around your head!

The kids, being extra-ordinary missionary kids who live into every opportunity presented them, moved from not wanting to touch the insects in the morning... to running through the swarms with mouths open during break time, competing to see how many they could catch in their mouths at one swoop.  Seriously!?  (I heard they taste like ants… and like candy.  Those two reports seem a bit different conflicting to me…)

I wanted to seize the opportunity for learning and study the little creatures, but due to power cuts I couldn’t print, show a video, or do anything else to help aid the process.  So we went on with our regularly scheduled programming planned lesson topics. 

The next day, though, when they were still prevalent, I realized I had my chance.  We collected the little buggers in containers and covered them with plastic wrap to observe.  Then we used magnifying glasses to draw them in detail.

Later we even learned about the life cycle.  The kids were amazed to learn so much about the crazy little things… and so was I, to be honest!  (How CAN an insect this small really lay up to 3000 eggs in a sac at one time during their one-day adult life?  Craziness!)

Turns out parents learned a lot too! 

Life is getting back to normal again – with a few more black dots littering the ceilings and walls of our rooms.  But I’m glad for working power (at just the right moments for printing), internet (for making little-known information available to kiddos), and for a God that knows what He’s doing.  Even if I don’t quite understand why we need these little creatures flying around our heads and into our mouths at every moment. 

More questions for heaven?

(*Genesis 1:2)