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The Perfect Storm

For the last six weeks as a TYO intern, I have been implementing an English and psychosocial curriculum for my class of 4th and 5th grade students who come from Nablus’ refugee camps and Old City. TYO aims to provide a safe and fun learning environment for its beneficiaries; our curriculum emphasizes creative thinking and non-formal approaches to education through experiential learning. The students, many of whom have been previously enrolled in TYO’s Core program, are at a critical age for social and emotional development. At the beginning of the session, I saw in theory how TYO’s psychosocial curricula would Continue reading…

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Playing to Learn at TYO

Five of my students stand upon the stage. One is holding a guitar, another is dressed up in a fake mustache, and two of them are having a tug-of-war match over a paper television remote. It’s all fiction of course. My after-school psychosocial class through TYO’s International Internship program is performing skits that they wrote about resolving family issues and by the end of the play, the two “siblings” involved in the argument come to an agreement, devising a way to share the remote.  The kids think that they’re just playing: I know, however, that these activities are encouraging them to Continue reading…

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Play to Grow: TYO’s Experiential Learning Model

The act of play is an instinctual and fundamental part of childhood. When the fourth and fifth grade students in my afternoon intern classes rush into TYO, full of enthusiasm, it is clear that these students not only want to play, but they also need play as an outlet for this uncontainable energy. Throughout my first few weeks teaching in Nablus, I quickly learned that play is the most productive and beneficial means for this age group to learn, develop, and explore. In addition to the immediate pleasure children get from playing, there are also long-term emotional, cognitive, and physical Continue reading…

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Play to Learn

In today’s society, the importance of learning a second language, such as English, is unparalleled. However, many children, even the 4-6 year-olds that we teach in the Core AM program, begin the program with a resistance to learning English because they believe that something foreign is inherently difficult. However, the goal of our English classes in the Core AM program (sponsored by the Abdel Hamid Shoman Foundation) is to foster a love of learning, more specifically a passion for learning the English language. We cultivate this interest and enthusiasm by engaging the students in learning through play. According to a Continue reading…

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Progress in Core AM: Participation, Perseverance, Practice, Play and Personal Development

It was 8 weeks ago that 27 four and five year-olds walked into the classroom and  nervously eyeballed me, the foreigner, in their classroom. Our first learning intention was simple, they needed to learn how to correctly say ‘Hello’ and ‘Goodbye’, it seemed like an easy task, but I was no kindergarten teacher, I was used to teaching teenagers literature and history.  But through some miracle, and the use of excessive amounts of my energy running in and out of a door saying hello and goodbye, I had most of them laughing and learning. Thankfully, most students waved, and warmly said Continue reading…

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Rethinking Soccer

It’s no secret that sport has the ability to unite people- especially soccer. Around the world families, neighbors, and friends crowd small TV sets just to catch a match with their favorite team. Like children and adults alike across the world, our kids at TYO love playing soccer. Play has long been understood to provide children with the experiences they need in order to learn social skills and values. But unlike many other health and fitness programs, the purpose when we play soccer at TYO isn’t scoring a goal- it’s developing ourselves to become better teammates, neighbors, and people. The Continue reading…

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Play is NOT a Luxury

“Play is NOT a luxury; it is a tool for education and health.” -Right to Play Working with kids and playing with kids goes hand-in-hand, so even while we try to foster self-confidence and other skills in the children of Nablus, we also want them to have a safe space where they can play games and let their creativity run wild. At our most recent library day, we interns were inspired by the story of Caine’s Arcade, an arcade made mostly from cardboard by a nine-year-old in California. Caine’s exceptional creativity inspired an international movement to promote play and creativity Continue reading…

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Whatcha know about me?

This week, Hannah, Mary Jo, and Mitch reflect on the top three misconceptions Palestinians have about Americans, as well as the top three misconceptions Americans have about Palestinians and Arab World more broadly, as they have discovered through their work at TYO. It is important to address this topic because lack of communication simply fuels a lack of understanding on both sides. Palestinian Misconceptions of Americans 1) American Women Dress Immodestly From the words of one of Hannah’s students, Selwa, “Women in America only wear short skirts and tight shirts, just like the women on MTV no matter how cold it Continue reading…

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A Recipe for Cultural Exchange

In addition to teaching, one of the most important parts of any intern’s work at TYO is in the field of cultural diplomacy. The US State Department, which partially funds TYO international internships, calls cultural diplomacy “the linchpin of public diplomacy” and argues that it “can enhance our national security in subtle, wide-ranging, and sustainable ways.” Sometimes, cultural exchange is part of our formal work. During our classes at An-Najah University, we spend plenty of time talking about our country and our culture in the context of teaching students how to apply to jobs and schools in the U.S. Similarly, Continue reading…

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Changing the Arab Approach to Education

Hannah Wherever I go around the TYO building, I see volunteers—mostly university-aged students from Najah or Al-Quds Open University—working in the classrooms with the core teachers or with my fellow interns. For many Americans, this scene would not seem out-of-place; volunteering and contributing to our communities is seen as a civic duty, or even more simply, as the right thing to do. However, across the Middle East and the Arab world, this concept of volunteering one’s time for free is not widespread. In my Professional Competency class at Najah, I have had many conversations with my students about internships and Continue reading…