Elementary students bring winter to Belize
PARKER – Snowmen in the tropical country of Belize sounds like an absurd concept, but with the help of Jean Kirshner and her first graders at Mammoth Heights Elementary, Belize youngsters were given the chance to experience something Coloradans often take for granted: Snow.
“They’re putting together kits so that the children in Belize can make snowmen,” Kirshner explained. “So that they can better understand our home and make connections with us.”
Wide-eyed and fully engaged, students in Kirshner's class simply couldn’t put their hands down when she asked them to brainstorm ideas for materials they thought should be included in the art kits. Students eagerly suggested “feathers for some hair”, and “little sticks for their arms”, and of course made sure not to forget to include step-by-step directions on what goes where.
“I want our kids in Belize to be as active and creative as you are,” Kirshner announced to her students. “I want them to be able to collaborate.”
Last week during Mammoth Heights’ fall break, Kirshner made her annual trip to Belize with art kits in tow, and was received with utter gratitude and happiness. Belize schools and Mammoth Heights may differ in resource availability, but Kirshner says the ambition and excitement to learn is equal in both countries.
“Everybody is really rich in their hunger to learn,” she said. “Not only the hunger but absolute joy when you learn something is universal.”
“They’re learning and connecting to somebody far away and the idea that they had 6 and 7 year olds make something for them was joyful,” she added.
Seven years ago, Kirshner journeyed to Belize originally on a medical mission. Coincidentally, Eden Primary School was nearby the hospital, so she ventured over and connected with the principal there immediately. Their relationship has since deepened and widened and this year, 25 DCSD teachers traveled to Belize to work with three schools on four different campuses.
However, it’s not just the DCSD teachers making the effort. Each April, educators from the Cayo District of Belize and Ministry of Education travel to Colorado and learn from DCSD teachers inside their own classrooms. It is that cohesive relationship that makes the program so successful.
“We go down there really not out of charity but of solidarity, that we are together lifting our students and it’s a joint effort,” Kirshner said. “It’s our world and the teachers in Belize are raising stewards of the planet just like we are, and together our kids are going to carry us forward.”