Connecting the World - One Book at a Time
If you were asked to describe and teach others about your environment, what would you say?
This is the question students of the Lewa-sponsored Leparua School sought to answer last year through a new, unique and exciting project dubbed 'This is Ours'. The project saw the students take photographs, write text and draw illustrations describing their environment to the outside world.
This is Ours is designed as a platform for children to teach other children (and adults too!) about their environment and culture. It is a programme that culminates in the production of a printed book rather than a stand-alone project and aims for worldwide participation of the programme and distribution of the books.
It is also part of the bigger Mizizi Project pioneered in 2009 by American educators Elizabeth Eagle and Liz Titone, with invaluable assistance from Silas Kitonga of Bush Adventures. Liz and Elizabeth are also photographers and artists. They describe Mizizi as a distant learning project centred around environmental and global education, with This is Ours being one component.
Leparua School - pioneers up to the task?
Leparua is to the west of Lewa, a savannah landscape characterised by rocky terrain, thickets and shrubs. It is mostly inhabited by the nomadic Maasai. The Leparua School is one of the 19 neighbouring schools sponsored by Lewa.
"The community of Leparua lives in such a spectacular landscape. We wanted the children to describe how they view their area, by taking pictures, drawing illustrations and drafting their own text. At first, the kids were very shy and afraid, but as they moved along with the project, they became greatly enthusiastic. We were simply blown away with what they came up with, " Liz and Elizabeth explained.
The Leparua book was completed within a week, and the two educators are extremely proud of what the children were able to achieve within that short span of time. The book has since been stocked in many school libraries across the United States, receiving acclaim, mostly because of its unique appeal as 'a children's book written by children aimed at teaching other children about the environment.'
Already an Inspiration
Already, the book has had significant impact - it inspired eighth grade students from a New York City catholic School called St. Stephens of Hungary to produce their 'This is Ours' version.
Liz and Elizabeth came back this year and are now working with Ngare Ndare Secondary School, another Lewa-sponsored school, to produce the next This is Ours book.
"The Ngare Ndare students are very motivated, especially after seeing the book from Leparua. Significant differences in terrain, culture and environment between the areas where the two schools are located will be especially interesting to spot by the differences in the books."