BigToe Classroom: In the Dock

The 5000mileproject’s BigToe LIVE Classroom took to the road on Monday, three weeks ahead of the actual start line of the running challenge, to be tried in front of Montevideo St George’s School . . . and if we were in the dock, and the judge was the effervescing psuedo-Uruguayan teacher Patty, then the thirty strong class comprised of some of South America’s brightest young minds was to be the Jury. They were attentive, incisive and looking for any weakness – I know, I was a pupil once too!!! The session was scheduled for an hour, then the verdict would be delivered . . . .

In the last few weeks our preparations have been focussed as much on getting the BigToe Classroom materials together as it has been getting our bodies in shape and getting the logistics of it all sorted. On a few ocassions late in the night, tempers have frayed as we sit opposite oneanother churning out worksheets and building up a programme that we can engage kids with. I am harrassed by the 36 spokes lying scattered and discarded on the ground, a few sprinkled on the wheel hub and rim they are supposed to be bonding together, and I think, “but without a trailer there is no run, so why am I trying to create a worksheet to exmplain how GPS works to kids?!??”.  My focus breaks and I want to do the easy thing and pick up something I know how to do…. Or not!

Then I remember – the BigToe Classroom Education is as an important spoke in the wheel as any other (the run, the science, the outreach . . . .the trailer!), and without all of them there will be a deformed, weak and wonky wheel which will crumple! The project is all about sharing the incredible sights and sounds we will be lucky enough to encounter with the guys that will be making decisions on how our world will be managed in the not too distant future, when we are long crippled and even running for a bus is a far fetched dream! So if we can’t at least prioritise that, then how can we succeed? Its going to be tough going, trying to engage teachers burried under piles of reports/syllabuses/metrics and end of year admin, and keeping the excitement going from afar when the kids have a finite (extremely in some cases!) attention span, but we need to get on it!!!

And so, filled with caffeine provided by Patty (our fizing teacher, with the looks of a spaniard, heart of a Uruguayan, flaybouyance of an italian and, we can testify having accepted a lift after the class, the driving persona of a Brazilian!) we threw open the school gates and started to try to bring to life our deck of slides on ecosystem services and the importance of the environment. We needn’t have worried – the first slide was interrupted by 3 eager Jury members, keen to understand more what an ecologist was, and the following session turned into the most vibrant session we have  ever done to date (and we do have 2 years experience from the Caribbean project from classes of 5 – 150!!)!!!

Thank you to the British Embassy in Uruguay for your  help in putting the session together, and all the teachers, staff  and pupils at the St George’s School, Montevideo for acquiting us!!

And a big thankyou to Patty, because if my school teachers had been as energetic and inspirational I definitely would have gone to more of the lessons (!). I sign out with her appraisal:

“Excellent presentation; I think it allowed the children to see different things that may be done in life regarding intrests, living styles and also scientific issues. On the whole, I think this kind of talks broaden the children´s horizons, opening their minds, fostering the importance of dialogue and understanding of different perspectives, as well as allowing them to learn and share with people from different cultures and with different living styles but that want and need just the same thing as they do.”

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