Naranjo Jumpstart

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Thursday science lessons with teacher Milady Ruiz were a highlight of Jumpstart Naranjo.
Week 1, we had fun blowing bubbles, and learned about the chemicals in common soaps like shampoo and detergent. 

Week 2, we studied animals, and drew our own crazy animals, like the rare frogsnake and turtlemonkey. 

Next we got the opportunity to design our own experiments, thinking about what will make a pendulum go faster or slower. 

In the last week, we translated complex instructions, and worked in teams to build block towers. 

Milady’s passion for science was infectious. She gave us lots of time to conduct our own experiments, and then helped us understand the scientific concepts behind what we were experiencing. In just four lessons, we studied chemistry, biology, ecology, physics, geometry and mathematics, all mixed with English!

Community Role Models
We worked hard at Jumpstart Finca Naranjo, but sometimes the work could be challenging. We needed to seek out people who believed in us, and wanted to help us reach our goals.
For this, two role models from the community joined us at camp one Friday morning.
Our first guest was Xiani, who works as a tour guide around the country, including at Marino Ballena (Marine Whale) National Park, near Uvita. She is the mother of Alex, one of our Jumpstart student teachers, and a great role model himself.
Xiani came in uniform: hiking pants, a light shirt, hiking boots and sunglasses. She also brought a black backpack filled with the tools of her trade: field guides, snorkels, binoculars, a phone with a GPS, a map, water and a first aid kit.

Xiani presented in Spanglish (a mix of English and Spanish.) Our students already knew words like frog, dolphin and whale, because we learned animal vocabulary the day before in our special STEM (science, technology engineering and math) session!
Xiani said she often spoke in English, guiding both American tourists, and tourists from countries such as Germany. Sometimes she said she didn’t know the word for something, so she showed a picture of the animal. The tourist then taught her the word, and every day she learned more and more.
Her advice for us: “Be positive, and believe in yourself.”
Our second guest was Sindy, a licensed physical therapist who manages a rehabilitation clinic, a gym and stationary store in Naranjo. She told us she started studying physical therapy because she was looking for a way to help her grandfather, who suffered from muscle pains as he lay sick in bed.
“You have to do things because you feel motivated to do them,” she said.
Sindy passed around her diploma and graduation photos, getting our Jumpstart students thinking about their own graduations from high school, and college.

With the help of our guests, Jumpstart students, student teachers, and teachers brainstormed and shared their plans for the future. In our Jumpstart group, we learned, are future doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, secretaries and tour guides.
What an inspiring group of people!

Peer Role Models, and Teacher Mentors
For our third high school ready session, we invited a seventh grader, Tati, and English teacher, Heiner, to Jumpstart.
In small groups, our students took turns chatting with Tati, Heiner, and the Jumpstart English teacher, Linsey. The students asked the guests questions written out on notecards. Some were silly, like, “would you rather have the super power of being able to fly, or be invisible?” Others were more serious, and drawn from our first high school ready session. In that session, students had anonymously submitted questions about high school, like “will I pass my classes?” and “do older students pick on the seventh graders?”
Even though Tati is tiny and only in seventh grade (about to start eighth), she often speaks in front of the whole school at actocivicos. She talked with her groups about being careful about how they choose their friends. She said classmates will ask them if they want to go to the palms to take drugs. Tati also told us about her sister, who started harming herself after she got into a bad relationship. She told us to make sure not to change for anybody.
After getting time to chat,  groups wrote down their promises for the coming year, and made a class poster:


Talking in front of big groups isn’t easy. It’s especially not easy when you’re speaking in a language that’s new to you.
Because of this, it was incredibly inspiring to see our Jumpstart students get up in front of a group of about 70 to speak in English.
All of our students wrote and memorized dialogues that pulled together everything we’ve learned over the past four weeks. We practiced in front of each other, and little by little refined our presentation skills. We worked on projecting our voices, and using gestures to capture the interest of audience members who don’t know any English. Jendry, our special student speaker, decided to give her talk in English and Spanish.

Fer showed off her monkeywhale, which she made during one of our special science classes:

After getting diplomas, all the students pitched in to hand out food and drinks. German’s mother cooked us arroz con pollo and caracoles. Coopeagropal, the local palm company, donated juice, pastries and cake.
After four weeks of hard week, and fun, the students waved goodbye, and said “see you Monday.” Starting high school can be scary, but they are ready for it!