Worldview In The Classroom

Program Brings Peace Corps Volunteers, Students Together

April 29, 1992|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff writer

As Peace Corps volunteer Judith Denny showed slides from her two-year stay in the Central African Republic to students at George Fox Middle School yesterday, hands shot up in the air.

"How do they iron their clothes?" one student asked.

"Don't they get hot in all those clothes?" asked another.

"What's a latrine?" wondered a third.

Denny answered each question -- and there were many -- the students had about life in the Central African country.

A native of Newark, Del., Denny visited teacher Karen Muir's class as part of the World Wise School program. Developed bythe Peace Corps and the National Governor's Association, World Wise allows students and their teachers to correspond with Peace Corps volunteers.

Muir said she chose the Central African Republic because Americans know little about the country, which is north of Zaire and the Congo and was a French territory until 1960.

"I wanted students to see the many similarities we have with people from other countries, and to see that differences often come about because of the environment in which a person lives," Muir said.

Her students primarilyhave been focusing on health issues in the Central African Republic.Many residents suffer from a myriad of diseases and parasites, including worms.

Students were able to learn about the country not onlyin Muir's social studies class, but across their school curriculum.

In science they studied the origins, symptoms and treatments of diseases found in the Central African Republic. In language arts, students wrote reports and essays on life in the African country. And in math class, students plotted information about diseases on graphs.

But the teacher said students receive a greater knowledge of the country by having Denny visit.

"In textbooks, the people are just nameless faces," Muir said. "But (by having) Judith name them, call them her friends, they are able to see the people on a personal level."

Denny said her time in Africa gave her a new understanding of family. In the Central African Republic, family does not include just a mother, father and siblings, but extends to neighbors and friends.

ByDenny's second year in Africa, she said, the people made her feel less of a minority and more like part of their family.

"The hospitality there is unmatched."

She showed items she brought back from her two-year stint, including clothing worn by women in the M'Baiki village, toys made by the village children and grass skirts made by the pygmies.

Seventh-grader Jonice Abbott said she learned a lot aboutthe African country.

"I'd like to visit there," 12-year-old Jonice said. "I'd like to see just how different things are over there."

Twelve-year-old Lisa Casselberry said she would like to follow in Denny's foot-steps someday and join the Peace Corps.

"I think it would be a fun thing to do," she said. "You get to meet all sorts of people."

Adam Raines, 12, said he isn't sure if he would like to spend two years in the Central African Republic. But he wouldn't mind going for a short visit.

"It was interesting how they make tools, and how they use their hands for everything," Adam said.

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