“We have to top last year,” Al Feather of the Farmington Rotary Support Team said. He called it The WOW Project.
Working with the Guatemala City Rotary Club, Al and his team of 11 wanted to teach Safe Passage students about Chinese culture. They didn’t want to do a simple activity, though. They were planning something much bigger.
Since I had just started as Support Teams Coordinator in January, I was a little nervous about Al’s BIG idea. I wasn’t sure if we would be able to accomplish all that he had in mind, which included two “live” dragons!
The morning of the WOW Project started off like any other. The bell rang at 8 AM and 250 energetic kids poured into the cafeteria for breakfast. Some were already starting to guess at what kind of activities they would be doing that afternoon. They knew it was about China, and that it was a big activity, but they didn’t know what to expect.
The Farmington team arrived shortly after and was excited about the activities that they had been planning and preparing for weeks. Al even stayed up late the night before to paint the head of the dragon costume we would be using.
Later in the morning, some of our older high school students helped the team members set up the activities and decorate the cafeteria. Over half of the Farmington team was made up of high school students, so it was really neat to watch them interacting with SP high schoolers.
The buzz around the project was building at lunch time, especially among the sixth graders and the fourth graders. They were the grades that were chosen to participate in the WOW Project, and they were busy anticipating what activities they would do after lunch ended.
The Guatemala City Rotary Club arrived after lunch. They had offered to help the Farmington group organize and do the projects with the students. We finished setting up and everyone was ready for the 75 students to arrive. I was still a little nervous…I didn’t want anything to go wrong with so many people excited about the event.
The students poured into the cafeteria and we divided them into groups of 10. They rotated every few minutes between seven different stations: Panda face painting, learning how to use chop sticks, making origami leaping frogs, designing bookmarks with Chinese symbols, making Chinese lanterns, solving a puzzle game, and doing a parade in two homemade dragon costumes. The dancing dragons were the biggest hit with the kids.
Despite protests from the students, we had to cut the activities short so we could go outside and plant a bamboo tree in the garden. The Farmington team explained that it was the “tree of hope” and told us we all had to close our eyes and make a wish once the tree was planted. I wished that everyone had enjoyed themselves and felt proud that they had done such a huge project with the kids.
The team didn’t realize this but the sixth grade girls had prepared a special dance routine to thank the group and wish Al a happy birthday (which he was celebrating that same week). Everyone was very surprised by this performance and were very touched that the students had been practicing in secret all week.
As the day drew to a close and we finished clean up, everyone was happy but tired. The WOW Project had exceeded everyone’s expectations, including mine. Seeing the students playing and learning at the same time about a totally different culture was really impacting for me. I realized that we should have called it The WOW!!!! Project. But there’s always next year…
-Victor Garrido – Support Teams Coordinator