SESIM, the science and mathematics teacher organization I work with here in the capital, is engaged in projects to augment science and mathematics curriculum as well as give teachers training in these subjects, all based around hands-on, experiential activities that link the students’ experience to the content of the curriculum. We get small grants to work toward these goals with various groups of teachers.
One of the more interesting things we’ve been able to do with these small grants is support the formation of local teachers’ associations. Two reasonably strong ones existed already in the districts of Baucau and Manufahi, each having a small thread of support from abroad. In other districts, handfuls of motivated teachers meet informally. We’ve now given seminars to three different groups of teachers, including the group in Manufahi, and started monthly gatherings with interested teachers here in Dili. In two weeks we plan to give another seminar to a group of teachers in Oecussi, the district of Timor-Leste isolated in West Timor due to colonial history.
At these seminars and gatherings, we’re able to step a bit away from the national curriculum (although the curriculum is so broad that nearly everything we do is linked in some way) and just choose activities that will turn the teachers on to the joys of tinkering around with science and mathematics. This composed the majority of my work in the U.S., so it is great to be doing it here.
We encourage the participating teachers to meet regularly for fun and exploration, as well as to learn together and improve their teaching. We don’t yet have the capacity to support them with materials or money, but we can answer some of their questions and, perhaps most important, if they come up with some good activity, we’re in a position to develop it and include it in future trainings. This is the “science and mathematics education clearing house,” or “idea central” role that I take part in when working at the Exploratorium Teacher Institute. Yes, we come up with lots of good ideas ourselves, but the reality is that we skim the best ideas off of all the teachers we meet, and then distribute them far and wide! No guild secrets in the world of teaching; only wide, open-source sharing!