Ready, Set, Math!
How the "Education Stimulation" department at the NPH school is getting kids engaged in their education.
September 5, 2017 - Honduras
It is a refrain heard around the world, and quite possibly the most important hurdle to guide a child on the path to education - "But school is just so boring.” The hardest part of responding to any child muttering the common complaint? - They are often times right. Thanks to the "Education Stimulation" (Educación Estimulativa) department at NPH Honduras' school, though, class-time boredom is being fought away one competition at a time.
The Honduran school year runs February to November, so during a meeting at the end of January to prepare for the upcoming year, school staffed jumped at the idea of a school-wide math competition to kick off the summer months.
"The idea of a competition first came up in a meeting in January," remembers Noah Forrest, a tutor on the schools Education Stimulation team. "So I proposed a math competition, and showed the professors a format with a jeopardy board as the main game. Different boards for each grade level, with questions getting harder as the value of the questions increased."
The idea was received with enthusiasm and excitement, and late May was chosen for the competition itself.
"I wanted to do the competition," says Noah "to get kids really, truly excited about math. It tends to be the class in our school where students have difficulties, so I thought it was the best subject to run a competition on."
The importance of excitement and enthusiasm in a student is a time-tested notion that each teacher or tutor experiences on a daily basis. "The biggest thing I have learned working at this school is that the kids need to be engaged, " Noah explains. "It seems obvious, but not every student is excited about the work. So you need to encourage them, engage their enthusiasm, before they will begin learning on their own. Doing that school-wide is important, and provides the base for deeper learning to occur in the future."
So, after months of hard work and preparation, the big day finally arrived. Grade-levels paired off and competed against each other - 2nd vs. 3rd, 4th vs. 5th, etc - with the competition running across two different days. While only a handful of students were selected by their math professors to represent their class, the entire grade came to the multi-purpose room to cheer on their team and guess the answers themselves.
In the end, it seems to have been a success. Head-to-head competitions came down to the very last questions to find the winners, and teachers were even asked by their own students to give extra math classes in the days following the event.
On top of the Math Competition, the past year of school saw a science fair, and several presentations, all done by students, on themes ranging from foreign countries to indigenous groups in Honduras. The school's presentation hall has seen its fair share of costumes, cultural foods, plays, songs, and experiments, all in the name of getting students excited to learn.
And in few countries is this more important than in Honduras. Poverty alone presents a large barrier to finishing an education, while lack of economic ability, health, and a variety of other factors contributing to Honduras’ 20% incompletion rate in primary-school students.* But thanks to the Education Stimulation department, all of NPH Honduras’ kids not only finish primary school, but even enjoy it – laying a strong foundation for them to continue on and finish a technical course or pursue a university degree.
And that is the true value of an NPH education. While students are strongly encouraged to continue their studies as far as they can take them – few other tools exist to as effectively break out of the cycle of poverty that many NPH children were initially born into – the school staff understands that this will be easier and more effective if the kids themselves want to learn. “I think a vision of Educación Estimulativa,” concludes Noah,” is to have more activities in the school like this. Do more creative things to stimulate everyone and make them excited about receiving their education.”
In the end, it can still be heard for a teacher, a parent, a caregiver, to come up with an answer to why school can be so boring for a child. But thanks to the education stimulation program at the NPH school, it is a problem that our pequeños caregivers are dealing with less and less.
*Statistics from UNESCO