Teaching and Learning, 101

For the past year and a half, Winds of Peace has engaged in some creative thinking about education.  Not only education in Nicaragua, where we have funded a number of initiatives to both train teachers and help kids stay in school, but also in the U.S., where the education task takes on a much different form and function in creating awareness of Nicaraguan realities.  There have been a number of components that we have dreamed about over these months and the ideas are exciting to play with, because they each hold promise of an impact.  And the entire topic of education-particularly of young women- was a priority in the thinking of Louise Nielsen, one of the founders of Winds of Peace.  Thoughtfulness on the subject eventually has led us to the notion of a new Nicaragua facility to serve as a center for promoting and enhancing education.  But the education is not just for Nicaraguans.

The facility we have had in mind would likely belong to some educational entity from the U.S., a partner to own and operate the venture.  The Foundation would provide significant funds toward the building of a structure that would provide food, lodging and conference space to facilitate the synergy between the university-partner’s work and the historical and new work of the foundation, specifically: 1) experiential educational programming, aimed at the US educational community and public in general, under the auspices of the university but taking advantage of the contacts of the foundation; 2) WPF office and place for meetings; 3) place where professors with their students can come to do research, and where new educational products could be developed, that would bring the reality of Nicaragua into the classroom in the US. This would be a place where the work of the university and the work of the Foundation could interact for the betterment of both institutions and learners in both countries. It would also become a place of reference for any institution of higher learning interested in Nicaragua.  On top of it all, the facility would be intended to serve as lodging quarters for any travelers to Nicaragua seeking comfortable accommodations while in Managua.

You see, the problem of education in Nicaragua is not limited to the meager opportunities afforded to most  young people in that country.  Funding projects that raise the frequency of attendance and success in Nicaraguan education is an important role for WPF to play, to be certain.  But there is an equal if not greater amount of learning to be done in Nicaragua by those of us who reside elsewhere.  Teaching is about providing knowledge or insight to others who, by virtue of circumstance or limited experiences,  have not yet developed their inherent capacities for understanding the world around them.  Such a definition certainly applies to young Nicaraguan boys and girls who frequently are forced to drop out of the education process due to lack of funds or the need to work in supplementing family income.  But it also pertains to those of us from lives of relative affluence and insulation from harsher realities of substandard living.  The perspectives attained by people who have lived lives of neglect and few opportunities may be among the most important teachings that the rest of us will ever receive; they are perspectives that we simply cannot develop on our own.

The Nicaraguan facility project increasingly feels like a unique and innovative concept in the name of education of all sorts.  Already, it has acquired the feel of a “synchronicity center,” a place where the realities of Nicaraguan schools can be addressed, where lessons from within country as well as other education models can be introduced, and where basic funding for the most impactful initiatives might be found.  But the potential of its reach is even greater than these objectives.  The synchronicity center contains in its genetic makeup the capacity to engender a deep, cross-cultural understanding among people from very different experiences and views, not only among students but also among other unsuspecting adults.  The doors of education in this enterprise will swing both ways, and the lines between teacher and student will be intentionally blurred to enhance the insights gained one from the other….



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