What We’ve Learned: Thoughts from Our Scholars

We caught up with 3 Starfish Scholars – Uberlinda, Leonardo, and Juleysi – to chat about their school year, and see what they’ve been learning at school and with Starfish. We asked them what the most important lesson this year was.

Uberlinda, a 14 year old student went first. “Plants are important!” she exclaimed right off the bat. With a few more seconds to think on the subject, she added, “I realize I have learned a lot this year. There are two places that I go to where I learn a lot every day. These places are my school and the Starfish Foundation. In my school, I have learned about basic subjects like social studies, mathematics, and natural sciences, with the latter being a subject that I really like and that I want to learn more about.

The other place where I have learned many interesting things is the (Starfish) Foundation that I have attended ever since the beginning of this school year. Here we learn a lot and I really liked last month because of how much we talked about nature. We even made a small orchard and we planted many kinds of plants. While this was happening, the educators explained to us the benefits that plants give to us and their great importance for the environment, medicine, and food. This was great to learn because plants help us, even when we’re at home.”

We couldn’t agree more! Plants are super important. To see some ways plants help us everyday – providing food, water, medicine, and even clothes – you can check out this educational video.

29288735681_1a98bb1312_zNext we caught up with Leonardo. He’s a 10th grade student specializing in accounting, so it’s no surprise what he thinks the most important lesson of the year is. “So far this year, I have learned a lot about accounting processes and accounting in general. At the beginning of this year, they asked for some materials, which without the help and finances from the foundation, I would not have been able to acquire. This really incentivized me to be a good student, which I am very pleased with.”

We’re so pleased to have been able to help Leonadro obtain the materials he needed, and couldn’t be prouder of his work in school. The last scholar we chatted with on this topic is 12 year old Juleysi.

When asked what she learned this year, she said, “I have learned about math and language. The most interesting thing during this period was how to use padlet, an interactive board online! I really liked this because you can put notes on there that we all can see and there’s so much more to it!”

29080076240_a05404ecb3_zFor those that don’t know, Padlet is an online bulletin board that can be shared between students, teachers, and other collaborators – it allows each person to add images, links, videos, and more.

Well, that’s all for now! Be sure to check back next week, so you can hear all about our annual Starfish Talent Show – we can’t wait to show off our skills!

It’s the Little Things: Thoughts on Volunteering

24008880464_01b6136db6_zGuest Blogger: Laura Seaberg has been volunteering for Starfish since December 2014. This summer, she spent time volunteering in Ecuador tutoring members of the Starfish Family in English.

 

It’s a silly thing to get stuck on, really, but it’s my first day, and my brain still feels bogged down with the soporific slime of plane travel, so I’m easily distracted.

“Los hice,” I say to the two Starfish staff near me. “I made those.”

I am pointing to an unassuming bunch of magnets on the office’s door. These dinky little adornments that say ¡Muchas gracias!gus in Starfish’s characteristic blue and yellow were one of my first projects I ever made for Starfish when I started in December 2014 as a Social Media Intern. I remember fiddling with Paint software, nervously adjusting text colors and wishing that design experience could be directly transmitted into my brain via radiation.

The benefits and drawbacks of a virtual volunteer experience are pretty obvious–the cliche about working in your pajamas is REALLY true, and also as expected, sometimes the tangible benefits of your work aren’t obvious. But I happily filled a variety of virtual roles in Starfish for two and a half years because I saw the evidence that the organization was working so hard to make a difference, and succeeding at that.

But all of a sudden, something I had done by clicking a mouse and sending some pixels off into the ether had become something physical to adorn the space. There are tangible effects of our intangible efforts, I realized, but when you are removed from the effects you are having, it can be hard to see the whole picture: especially the positive effects of others.

From the United States, I had never really given thought to the nitty-gritty of how Starfish helped. I knew the facts, like the amount of tutoring and resulting increase in grades, but those were facts instead of truths. Sitting among the tables in the classroom in Ecuador, I could hear the educadores on all sides of me giving homework advice or messing around with a malfunctioning laptop. For the first time, I fully understood by the phrase the Starfish family. It means that you are one of many, making changes that you may or may not be able to see, but you are never working alone.

I discovered so many things in Ecuador that added nuance and dimension to my appreciation of Starfish. Online, it had been impossible to conceptualize what a space like Starfish means for the community. As entire families crammed into the classroom to watch Moana, I witnessed how the foundation (literally and figuratively) brings the community together. Nor had I realized the breadth of extracurricular activities that the foundation offers. Community service groups, therapy groups, leadership school, and many clubs all enrich the lessons and tutoring sessions.

And it wasn’t just the Starfish Scholars and tutoring students who could benefit from the foundation’s resources. Parent meetings taught about the university process, and little siblings often graced the foundation with their wide-eyed, shy presences. Even pastimes were many and varied: I tutored students in English, yes, but I also played chess, Twister, red light green light, and soccer (although ‘playing soccer’ might be a bit of an exaggeration–the kids ran circles around me).

There is so much MORE than just the little section of the world we live most of our lives in. A favorite author of mine asserts that one of the most important things we can do is to imagine others complexly, and I strive to do that all the time. But a trip to Starfish helped me appreciate the complexity that already exists, formed by the hard work and time of Starfish’s staff and students. Their tangible impact is more than apparent in everything from the brightly painted foundation walls to the increases in grades that Starfish Scholars experience.

So yes, on this trip I found my own tangible impact, but I also became aware of an entire network of hardworking, kind people who do not usually speak to the Starfish base in the US. Going forward, I know that they are why Starfish works. I will never lose the awareness I have of the work of others and the changes they are making for good.

The School Year So Far

starfish1

The school year is now well underway, and our scholars, teachers, and volunteers are keeping busy. Here’s a sample of what they’ve been up to over the last 2 months:

  • Thanks to 2 new volunteers, Mia and Laura, Starfish now has two new clubs! Mia runs a science club where they do experiments, and Laura directs some theater and improvisation groups. Students are very excited about the experiments they are doing at the science club and with the acting club.
  • On June 25th, the teachers, along with the students, celebrated a tribute to the person who is most important in their lives. This was a very special day because the students could enjoy a lovely day with their parents where they played different games – games like inquisitive questions, blind baby food challenge, guess who’s your father, and indoor soccer. “It was a day filled with hugs, emotions and interactions between the students and their parents”, says one participant.
  • The Community Service group held a contest to see who could collect the most bottles to recycle. Not only did this have a huge positive impact on the environment, but also acted as a fundraiser for the group.
  • The therapy group held a “Day of Cinema” as a fundraiser. The proceeds will be used to buy shirts for the group.
  • Throughout the month of June the students were assigned a theme: “How to carry out an academic investigation.” The students worked in pairs to do research about the provinces and capitals, tourist sites, and myths and legends of Ecuador. The last week in June the students presented their research through expositions that each pair created.
  • In Arts and Crafts Club, they made a wallet and change purse out of foamy papers. “The students are continually learning different techniques that they can used and elaborate on with every project”, explains one volunteer.
  • The Leadership School covered the qualities of a good leader and various types of leadership. Through different activities, students identified their leadership style; everyone who participated had a lot of fun
  • Soccer Club continues to be a favorite. It has grown so that there are now 3 separate groups, each of which train twice a week.

Starfish Spotlight: Josué and Dennis

There’s no better way to learn about Starfish than to sit down with a few of our scholars and ask them about their lives. This week, we caught up with Josué and Dennis.

We asked them about their goals, plans for the future, and role models. For both, going to college is high on the list of priorities. The question of whether or not they plan to continue their education is met with “of COURSE I’m going to go to university!”

To obtain this goal, both students realize the importance of hard work now, “One of my first goals is to finish high school while being an excellent student and getting good grades. This would help me to have a good foundation for when I take the university acceptance exam,” explains Josué. He hopes to get a career in technology – something like systems or computer engineering or programming. “It’s something I’m passionate about”, he says. Then adds, “and it is a career that you can get a lot of work in many countries.”

Dennis hopes to one day provide support for his parents, and although he doesn’t mention his exact plans for the future, he echoes Josué’s enjoyment of computer programming .

As for role models, both reference their parents. “They have helped me so much,” explains Josué simply. “My parents are my inspiration,” says Dennis,
“I admire my mom and my dad greatly because they sacrifice a lot so that I can have many things, such as food, an education, and a place to live.” He thanks both his parents for the help they give him with school and homework, as well as working very hard “so that the whole family can be happy.”

Although the future is never predictable, one thing is clear: both these young men have bright futures ahead of them, and we know they’ll make their families very proud.

Monthly Recap: clubs, service, mother’s day, and lessons in leadership

From camps to goal setting and from community service to soccer club, the Starfish scholars in Ecuador have been keeping busy. What exactly have they been doing?

  • A week long camp hosted by Peace Corp volunteer Bonnie where kids learned about HIV through hands-on games and soccer
  • Those scheduled to do community service this year met to share ideas about how they’d like to get involved and give back
  • The soccer club, a crowd favorite, started meeting again again
  • They held the first ever meeting of the new craft club
  • For Mother’s Day, students went to the homes of some of the mother’s to sing for them. It was a beautiful moment. The moms were completely surprised and very touched. “They could feel the affection that we all have for them”, reflected one participant.
  • The Leadership School is back! Students are back to partaking in a variety of learning opportunities that gives them the fundamentals they need to practice in their own lives and to prepare them for future professional careers.

It is an exciting time at Starfish, and we have even more activities planned for the future. Soon, we will formalize a computer club and dance club, and in August we’ll host our annual talent show.

If you are interested in donating items in-kind specifically for extracurricular success, you can support our teams and clubs, by purchasing an item off our Amazon Wish List.

Guest blogger Maria Belen is a student at our Flor de Bastión location. She is in 9no (8th grade equivalent) and has participated in Starfish for 2 years.

 

Hello, my name is María Belén and I think that I have changed a lot during my time at school in many different ways, like my way of thinking, how I get along with my friends. I’ve also changed because there are already so many things that I now know that I didn’t know before I started high school. But my change has not been alone as a lot of things around me have changed because I have started to go to the foundation since last year.

The foundation is very near to my house. Here I have met many new friends that before I had seen in school but never conversed with, perhaps because of shame. In the foundation we can mingle, create very good friendships and besides that also there we learn a lot with the workshops they give. All of this helps me to change and every day I learn more, which makes me very happy.

This year I was chosen as a conditional fellow, that is if I want to win the scholarship I will have to work hard and have excellent grades. I will also need to keep my notebooks up to date and well decorated.

These are the things in which I have changed.

Wherever you are…best regards!

//

Hola, soy María Belén y pienso que he cambiado mucho durante mi etapa en el colegio en muchas cosas como la forma de pensar y de cómo me llevo con mis amigos y también porque ya se muchas cosas que antes yo no sabía. Pero mi cambio no ha sido solo, también ha cambiado mucho las cosas a mí alrededor ya que desde el año pasado voy a la fundación.

La fundación queda muy cerca de mi casa, allí he conocido muchos nuevos amigos que antes los veía en el colegio pero no conversaba con ellos quizá por la vergüenza. En la fundación nos podemos relacionar, crear amistades muy buenas y aparte que también allí nosotros aprendemos mucho con los talleres que dan, eso también me ayudo a cambiar y cada día yo aprendo más, eso me alegra mucho.

Este año que entre me eligieron como becada condicional, es decir que si quiero ganarme la beca tendré que esforzarme mucho y tener calificaciones excelentes también tener mis cuadernos al día y bien decorados.

Estas cosas son en las que yo he cambiado.

Donde estés… Saludos!

Leadership School

leadership school 2Last year at the Starfish Foundation we implemented a new project related to the Leadership program, called The Leader’s School, where students learned concepts of how to be a good leader through a set of practice activities.

In the first class participants were able to draw on leadership concepts and see how different types of leadership can be applied in the different facets of life. The conclusion? There is no ideal type of leader. Everyone has different leadership skills and abilities, and the type of leadership required, varies depending on the situation. By the end of the session, almost everyone was eager to share their opinions.

“The Leadership School was excellent, because each one of us participated and we could also share in the group our opinions about how to be a good leader.” – Lucy

In the second class, participants were shown that in order to be a leader they need to know their own interests, weaknesses, and strengths. There was also a discussion about how moral values play a part in determining leadership style and success. To demonstrate this, we held an “Auction of Values”, where students were forced to rank the values ​​in order of importance.

“In my opinion the Leadership School has helped me a lot, because everything I have learned can be used in my daily life, for example, how to be a good leader at school, how to distinguish different types of Leaders and how to lead a group.” – Joselyn del Valle

Cecelia, one of our Starfish educators added, “The Leadership School has been a very enriching experience for the students because they have learned the qualities of a leader and have put them into practice, in addition to learning how certain types of leaders develop. This has allowed them to be more participatory and entrepreneurial in the projects they have carried out.” leadership school 1

As the leadership school continues to meet, we continue to improve the structure of the project – always looking for the best way for students to learn, to have fun, and, above all, to help improve their performance, both now as a student and in the future as professionals.

To help us continue to offer influential programs like the leadership school, support the Starfish Foundation today.

Spring Cleaning, Summer Reading

April was a busy month in Ecuador!

 

While students were on summer break, they embraced a new summer reading initiative! Throughout March and April, Starfish students read daily, completed a reading log, and attended weekly sessions to talk about what they’re reading with our educators! How fun is that?

During summer break, recent Starfish grad, Julio, joined our staff as a work-study volunteer! He’s a quick learner and has been a great addition to the team – we’re so lucky to have him!

April also included some fun for our staff! At the beginning of April they went on their annual staff field trip to nearby pool and outdoor complex to spend a Sunday of relaxation with their work friends. Later in the month, we began a new monthly tradition of staff incentives – or what many of us might have heard called “mandatory fun” at college. This month staff first enjoyed a breakfast prepared by ICD Jenn, and then participated in a lip sync contest, inspired by Jimmy Fallon’s lip sync contests on his late night show. Everyone had a blast and looks forward to future staff bonding opportunities.

The new school year started on April 24th. Two days prior, on April 22nd, we held a meeting and invited all the scholars to come and receive their backpacks, uniforms, shoes, and school supplies. Scholars then participated in the School for Leadership. This month’s theme was humanitarian action, as we took a look back on the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador in April 2016, and the world’s humanitarian response to that tragedy.

The next day (April 23rd), we held our first Bingo of the year!Games of BINGO are a popular way to raise money in Ecuador. This year we raised about $275 at the event.

The first week of school was spent getting to know each other. New and returning scholars worked together to set expectations and goals for the new year and to review material from the previous semester. The last few weeks have been a lot of fun – we’re keeping everyone busy with clubs, projects, and many small workshops. Tune in next week for more details!

“Summer” Vacation

29719927493_f784eb306d_bOn March 12th, We held our year end ceremonies in Guasmo; on April 24th, the new school year started. For the 43 days in-between Starfish staff and volunteers kept busy. Here’s some of what they were up to:

Staff in Ecuador started off the month of April purchasing all of the supplies for the new school year, as well as uniforms, shoes, backpacks, etc for our Starfish Scholars! We were also able to buy some fun new things for our classroom, like a giant whiteboard!

Once all the supplies were accounted for, they took to setting up and re-organizing our classrooms. Students and staff came together to put a new coat of paint on the walls to brighten the rooms up. The goal was a a better classroom environment and increased organization.

During school break, staff also participated in 3 professional development days. Topics included Teaching Strategies, Observational Skills & Growth Mindset.

Supplies bought? Check!
Classrooms organized? Check!
Walls painted? Check!
Professional development? Check!

So what’s next?

Staff also used April to get ahead on plans for this school year. Apart from our main programs – scholarship, tutoring & leadership development – we are also continuing with the therapeutic group run by our psychologist twice a month, our monthly school for parents, a soccer club, a new & improved community service club, as well as some new ideas for weekend clubs such as computer skills, chess, crafts, dance and more! Whew! We’re going to have a great school year!

We have 50 new students joining us in tutoring this year, with 140 students overall. We spent the first week getting to know each other, establishing classroom expectations for the year, reviewing material from last year, and setting goals for this year. We look forward to sharing updates for the new school year!

Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram for day to day updates, stories, and photos from our students, staff, and volunteers in Ecuador and around the world.

Throw Back Thursday: Lessons from Ecuador

This week, we’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane to see what various scholars, educators, and volunteers have learned through their experiences with Starfish:

“There is a universal language spoken through hugs, smiles, and laughter.” – Martin, volunteer

527e6-dscn2461“It’s important to give kids more ways to shine than just the classroom or the soccer field” – Danny, volunteer

“My wonderful opportunity to serve as an intern at the Starfish Foundation provides me with a greater insight of issues and circumstances worldwide, and has truly made me more grateful for the everyday things I have access to instantaneously. I have been handed so much in my life and I am thankful for the opportunity Starfish has given me to give back.” – Katrina, volunteer

“I have become more responsible, my skills have grown which makes me proud because I feel that I am a very capable person.” – Joselyn, scholar

“Without the people of the Starfish Foundation, I wouldn’t have learned more Spanish and how to work with their students. Additionally, without the students of Flor, I wouldn’t have learned how to work with English language learners and develop more skills as an educator.” – Katie, volunteerIntegration Day...in the eyes of a volunteer.

“I’ve learned to express myself and am comfortable speaking in front of the other people on various subjects.” – Julio, scholar

“Community can’t be taught, it must be built with time, trust, and consistency.” – Martin, volunteer

“Through reading, I learn more about myself and the world around me, and it has helped me to become who I am today.” – Sara W., scholar