It happens sometimes in teaching–a moment where you marvel at lightbulbs going off in your student’s heads as they make the connections needed for learning to happen. Last week we were lucky to have a guest speaker, Cesar Badji come to our class and I think it would be safe to say that what happened went far beyond lightbulbs–he was able to set off FIREWORKS for my 2nd graders.
Our class has been reading the book One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul as part of our How People Affect the Environment Social Studies unit. It tells the true story of Isatou Ceesay, a woman from The Gambia who found a way to solve the problem of plastic litter by “up-cycling” the plastic to create crocheted purses for sale. Part of this learning led us to investigate The Gambia. We discovered that this is a very small country surrounded by another country: Senegal. It turns out that one of the students in my class has an uncle from Senegal! Of course, we invited him to come and tell us about his country.
It was such a terrific experience for my students. He was able to teach us the geography of Senegal and the Gambia, he was able to teach us some Wolof phrases, (“Wow” means yes!) Even better, he was able to tell us about his childhood growing up in the rainforest of Southern Senegal. The kids were enthralled to learn that he could not recall ever buying a toy. He and his friend made their own toys from things from nature of from things they found. His pets were animals from the forest–he even had a pet monkey! He brought jewelry that was made from up-cycled products and natural materials, he brought clothing for the kids to try on–and best of all he brought his drum and taught us a song!
His visit was such a great way to bring a global connection to our learning about the environment and how to take action to make a difference. My students learned that all plastic bags are banned in Senegal. They learned that for a variety of reasons, kids in Africa often create their own toys from up-cycled products. We have learned that in Africa most of what is thrown away is organic waste–a big difference from what we throw away here in the US. I am so grateful to Lou for taking the time to share his culture and experiences with us!
QUESTION FOR KIDS:
WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE THING THAT YOU LEARNED FROM MR. BADJI?