The Jamaica project has been in existence for over 20 years and during this time over 235 students have participated in the project. While the project began with the Early Childhood program it has continued to evolve and promote a deeper partnership internally. The Early Childhood Education students (ECE) have had the privilege to work with students from the School of Deaf and Deafblind Studies, Behavioural Science Technology and the School of Nursing.
This year however brings us back to just having ECE students from the full time, collaborative degree and continuing education programs.
While in Jamaica, the students are placed in one of three types of educational institutions and are practicing their skills in either Portmore or Kingston. We continue to work with Basic and Infant schools and this year we have the privilege of adding a new partner to our team. We welcome Early Childhood Centres of Excellence bloom Jamaica which is located on the University of West Indies Mona Campus. This facility is the first of its kind on the island with children from 3 months – 5 years and is facilitating a play-based learning curriculum for all age groups while incorporating the national curriculum as well.
We have also had the pleasure of a reciprocal partnership with Shortwood Teachers' College which began in 2005. During our time together, 63 ECE students/faculty have travelled to Toronto to experience play based learning within our Georg Brown College Child Care Lab schools and we are continuing to seek ways to promote this partnership with our Jamaican counterparts.
The picture above is the students first day at school with the bag of materials for the schools. With the ongoing support of family, friends and college employees the students fundraised to bring resources with them for the children, schools and their activities. Thank you for all your help in making the students experiences a positive and reflective one.
Stay tuned for the student talk backs as they will help to enlighten you on their time in Jamaica.
Letters from Students:
- Amanda Mowatt, January 20, 2020
- Sungok Lee, January 28, 2020
- Athena Bozioz, January 27, 2020
- Meagan Domingo, January 23, 2020
- Julia Almeida, January 22, 2020
- Marjana Sejdo, January 21, 2020
- Amanda Cao, January 20, 2020
- Assal Ghods, January 16, 2020
- Julie Castanos, January 15, 2020
- Seolah Kim, January 14, 2020
- Mary Louise Anhance Abrena, January 13, 2020
- Dina Tayari,January 10, 2020
- Yebin Choi, January 8, 2020
January 31, 2020
Today is a bittersweet day with it being our final day in Jamaica. A day of goodbyes and some tears but even though our time has ended in Jamaica the experience and memories are forever.
Throughout this month I've seen so much growth not only in myself but with those I was surrounded by. It can be tricky joining something and not knowing anyone. Due to that I was nervous coming to this placement because for me it can be hard to open myself up to people. Lucky for me, throughout this experience I was able to connected with 12 lovely people who I now consider family. Although we may have had some ups and downs we've overcome those bumps together.
Leading up to the last day, we have experienced so much and coming into home stay over the last two weeks we gained even more experience and knowledge. While being in home stay, my peers and I were able to experience more of the city from visiting historical monuments such as Emancipation Park, Hope Gardens, Port Royal as well as The National Art Gallery of Jamaica. These experiences made many memories because there was a team alongside of me.
It was nice seeing the fears we may have had in the beginning suddenly disappeared as soon as we stepped inside of the classroom and even the nervousness coming into homestay disappeared as we were able to connect more as a team as well as learn more about our host family.
The picture I have chosen was from an activity that children experienced mixing colours using eyedroppers. This activity was enjoyed as the children were learning how we mix two colours to create a different outcome and using the eyedroppers to collect paint was intriguing. As well the eyedroppers which were used were something new for the children which created different questions.
Our last day at Shortwood Infant Practicing School was very impactful as we were shown so much warmth and appreciation for all of our work in the last month. As many of my peers felt Jamaicans get their warm and loving personalities from the weather it also is seen in the children we were surrounded by.This placement has been meaningful and has been an extraordinary opportunity.
Now that this placement is over,I feel as though I was able to share our curriculum from Canada as well as learn about Jamaica's teaching. I am able to leave knowing I have done something meaningful for the children, families, staff and myself. The knowledge and strategies I have learned from Jamaica will only help me further my career path.
January 28, 2020
It has already been four weeks since I started my last placement in Jamaica. Now I am staying with my home stay mom, Ms. Boxe, after having spent time with other members in the residence in Shortwood Teachers' College for two weeks. It was an unforgettable memory when all of the members had respected and accepted our individual differences during our stay. Besides, every weekend, we went on excursions and were overjoyed while having precious time together, which made us refreshed, after being engrossed in working with the children at school.
I have been taking care of children in Hope Temple Basic School in Portmore, where teachers are deeply dedicated to teaching and looking after children. Even though the school is in an area of a lower socioeconomic status compared to others, the children are eager to learn something from their teachers who are full of affection and passion. I have been grateful with meeting the children and having an opportunity to provide them with intriguing materials that they have rarely obtained in Jamaica.
Teachers in this school are so open-minded and flexible that they are always ready to embrace our play-based curriculum with various activities that I have prepared. Particularly, when I implemented the Popsicle Sticks activity for my main activity with my ECE, the children were so curious about popsicles sticks with Velcro, and it goes without saying that they entered into making their own shapes in no time. It was rewarding that every time I brought out some unique materials for them, children looked at me out of curiosity and seemed like they were looking forward to whatever kind of activities they were going to do on that day.
In addition, our homestay mom has been working with children as a supervisor for such a long time and she is willing to share her experiences about the children in her school with us. Those stories stimulated me to deeply think that every child should be cherished sincerely and be treated equitably under any circumstances. Also, during the weekend, Ms. Boxe took us to the gigantic shopping mall in Kingston, such as Tropical Plaza, and Two Gates, where I bought some traditional items. Thanks to the placement in Jamaica, I can partake in diverse occasions, such as educating children with play-based curriculum, fostering relationships with 12 team mates and visiting local attractions which would be once-in-a lifetime-opportunity and one of a kind in my life.
January 27, 2020
It's officially been one week with our homestay families. This weekend we went to visit Port Royal but unfortunately it is under construction until February 21st. Me and my housemates spoke with the security lady at the gate and asked her very politely if we could go in to just look around and take pictures, she allowed it. How lucky were we?
As the day gets closer to leaving, I have to come to terms with not seeing the little people that I have gotten so close to from day one until now every morning. Three things I'm very happy about from this placement is that I have made some life long memories that nobody can ever take away from me, I have grown so much as an individual and am so very proud of myself and my 12 sisters (classmates) because I came down here to Jamaica knowing two girls and am going to be leaving with 12 sisters.
Here is a picture of myself and 6 of the children from my room cleaning baby dolls. The children showed a great deal of empathy throughout my placement and I noticed they did not have dolls in the classroom so I knew exactly what to do. I went into my suitcase and pulled out four different skin toned dolls to bring for an activity on taking care of "babies". Through this activity I learned that one child's parents just had a new baby girl so it helped the child to role play what is happening at home. To enrich this activity I planned a baby washing activity. As you can see the children were very engaged and really enjoyed their time doing something that was also new and yet familiar to them.
I'm not looking forward to leaving on Saturday asI'm going to miss all the children at my placement as well as the ECEs I have been working alongside for the past month. We have all exchanged contact information and have said we will be keeping in touch so I'm happy about that.
January 23, 2020
Applying to join the Jamaica team was the beginning of an extraordinary adventure and it was one of the best decisions I've made! This placement has given me an opportunity to try something new and get out of my comfort zone. It is exciting to be doing my final my placement in Jamaica because it has given me the opportunity to travel and have a different placement experience and not to mention learning about the Jamaican culture
The first two weeks were just amazing, as a group we have all bonded and have created so many great memories. We have all gotten to know each other more, especially during game nights which was always so much fun, I loved that we had this because it made everyday feel complete.
After two weeks in we separated as a group and in school teams we moved into homestays families. My emotions were quite the roller-coaster, but I knew it was the beginning of a new experience. Being with our homestay families and experiencing more new things with the Cumberland girl's is what I am looking forward to. Last Sunday was our move in day to my homestay mom's home with my fellow Cumberland girl's. It was a good day because from the first time I met my homestay mom at the reception I knew already that I was in good hands since I had the chance to get to know her. I felt her warm and welcoming personality and the moment I stepped foot in her home I already felt like I was at home. After settling in we all went for a drive around the community and then we had ice cream which I did not expect but made me so happy.
My placement experience has been incredible. I have gained a lot from It, more that I could even ask for. My placement is at Cumberland Basic School in Portmore and I have the privilege of working with Ms. Dixon who was my Cooperating Practitioner. I am happy to say that Ms. Dixon and I have built a positive partnership in the classroom as well as positive personal relationship. She has helped make my experience a great one by encouraging me throughout the day as well as guiding me and providing a lot of helpful advice that can help improve my activities and just advice to help me for my future career as an educator.
At this point I have done many activities that encourages the children to learn through play and I must say, as I can see the enjoyment on their faces, I could not help but to feel the enjoyment as well. I feel that I have built positive relationships with the children and it warms my heart when they come up to me to see what activities I have brought for the day and that they are looking forward to seeing me the next day. I am excited to see what awaits for the future adventures.
January 22, 2020
The days are passing so fast and we just have seven days left in our placement. It is good to see how much we have done already during our stay here in Jamaica. Besides the activities that we planned for the children, we organized the closet for the teachers and added more materials for the children to play with and we decorated the rooms.
The Jamaica project is about exchange! While at the same time we learn, we teach and we share. The teachers are sharing their knowledge of curriculum with us, as we are sharing our knowledge about play-based curriculum. I feel literally part of the team and this experience has been wonderful.
In the above picture, I was planting beans with the children. Each child had the chance to plant one bean in one piece of cotton and for the next few days we have been observing the process. And guess what? The sprouts are getting bigger and bigger every day! This for me, was my favorite and most interesting activity that I have done so far. We've talked about plants and seeds and what it needs to grow and one of the most important things: the wait.
I cannot forget to talk about my experience in homestay. For sure, spending two weeks with a Jamaican family makes the difference. I am closer to their culture, having opportunities to know more about their routine, to visit places that locals usually go and of course to eat a variety of delicious Jamaican food. I'm excited for the next weekend.
A Little Seed
"A little seed for me to sow,
A little soil to make it grow,
A little hole,
A little pat,
A little wish,
And that is that.
A little sun,
A little shower,
A little while and then a flower".
January 21, 2020
When we first arrived in Jamaica, I was pleasantly surprized by the nice and warm weather. Believe me; January in Jamaica has nothing to do with the January in Toronto.I took pictures from beautiful seaside shiny places and sent them back home and I received pictures of a snowy Toronto under the cold grip of the winter. As much as I love Toronto, it is nice to go away for a while in winter, especially to a place like Jamaica where the whether is as warm as its people is.
One of the first places we visited was Blue Mountain Coffee Estate. As a coffee lover, not only did I enjoy one of the best coffees in the world, but I also learned a lot about its production, and about the work and care that goes into that little
The first day at school was very remarkable. The principal introduced us, and we felt honored as everybody sincerely welcomed us to their community. During the first week we got to know the children and the teachers and built a close relationship with them. We also observed the children in order to best identify the activities most appropriate to their interests, learning needs and development. One of the activities that the children enjoyed the most was building with different shapes. I handed out to each child a small wood board with a drawing of an object, such as a flower, a ship, etc., and the children had to use different shaped pieces of wood to recreate the drawing. I enjoyed watching the children communicating and working
During the second weekend we had a great time visiting the Bob Marley Museum and the Dunn's River Falls. We spent the day hiking the sides of the river, enjoying the fresh air and the amazing views. During the first two weeks that we stayed at the Shortwood Teachers' College, we played games and had great conversations, which brought the team close together and helped us to know each other better.
After the day at the beach on the weekend, which needless to say was amazing, we went to live with the homestay families. The family which I am living with are very warm and welcoming people, and living with them enriched our experience in Jamaica providing us with a full picture of the children's life, the environmental and cultural
This week, we had a nice surprise was when our teacher, Gail Hunter came to visit us and we had a great meeting during which we shared our experiences until now in Jamaica. She also discussed our activities and gave us advice on how to improve them.
Finally, yet importantly, I would like to thank Miss Colette for her indispensable contribution to this project. She is always there for us, not only as a teacher, but also as a friend and as a mother while she helped us overcome any difficulties coming our way, and with her skills and leadership, ensured the success of the Jamaica project.
January 20, 2020
It's been nearly two and a half weeks since we've landed in Jamaica and it has been hectic from the start. It has been very different for me as this is my first time travelling abroad. I applied for this experience because I wanted to challenge myself, and to gain a deeper understanding of the world around me. Being in Jamaica has been wonderful, all the people here are so warm and kind, greeting you with friendly smiles wherever you go.
For the first two weeks we stayed at the Shortwood Teachers' College in Residence. Just this weekend we all moved into our home stays that we will be staying at for the remainder of our time here. Before heading off to our homestays we all said our temporary goodbyes to the team. It was bittersweet, not being able to see them everyday like we're used to, but we all know that we're going to create a lot of new memories surrounded with other people.
The centre that I've been placed at is the Early Childhood Centre of Excellence Bloom Jamaica, and I am with the children of 3-5 years of age. Everyday just implementing the activities it just amazes me how creative the children are and how they can take one activity and create many different ones I've never thought of. They especially enjoy any large group activities outdoors; in this photo we are playing Ring Around the Rosie. Everyday they are excited to see what new games and (play based)
As the days pass, I learn more about myself and the children and I am so eager to share everything from this life changing experience!
January 16, 2020
It's been almost two weeks that I've been in Jamaica and since I got off the plane and my adventures had started. It was interesting that I had my winter jacket, hat and my gloves and as soon as we got here, it felt like summer although it is the winter season in Jamaica. I believe Jamaican people have been affected by their weather and that is the reason they are so warm and greeted us with the warmth in their hearts and kindly. I would never think about such a journey in my life, but I am so happy and fortunate to be able to have this opportunity that might happen once in anyone's life.
I have lots of good memories during these two weeks that time won't let me to mention them all but one of the best memories that I have had is the reception that took place at Shortwood Teachers' College. Tonight, was the night that we met our homestays families and the teachers and principals from other schools. I was so excited to meet my home stay since I got here and as soon as I met her, I felt like she is my grandma. The reception was almost three hours and I had an hour to sit with my home stay mom and got to know her a little bit more. During the reception, children from Cumberland Basic School (which is the school I am located) did a performance and watching them melted my heart. They began to practice on Monday, and I was fortunate enough to watch their practice and routine.
Another unforgettable memory is from last Saturday when we went to Devon's House I-Scream (ice cream) shop, which is well known for the best ice cream in the world. I cannot explain my feelings after I tasted the Crunchie Munchie flavor. I enjoyed it a lot especially on a sunny day. Since day one, I could see the connection between the team and as days go by the relationship chain is getting stronger and stronger.
I will try my best to make the most of my time in Jamaica, especially at Cumberland Basic School and will continue to step up the achievement ladder to learn something new about child development in which I will be able to share with my colleagues. I have witnessed a variety of growth, education and cultural differences in many countries and am eager to continue to develop my knowledge in my career.
January 15, 2020
I chose to do my final placement in Jamaica because I wanted to learn and develop as an early childhood educator in ways I could not do at home. Ever since I've been here, it has been nothing short of amazing.
After stepping off the plane on the first day, I had no idea how much of an impact Jamaica would have on me in such a short amount of time. I have always been so passionate about working with children, and this trip has just been a confirmation that I am in the right field doing what I love. In the short amount of time we have been here, we have already seen so much of what beauty Jamaica has to offer. I loved seeing the crystal clear water, exploring the gorgeous mountains and greenery with my Team Jamaica 2020 family, and meeting each and every one of the warm people that compliment the warm weather of Jamaica. Don't get me started on the food! I cannot imagine a morning without fried plantain ever again.
These past few weeks, I have already learned more about myself than I have learned in all the years I have been alive! Back in Canada, I was such a perfectionist and feared making any sort of mistake. But here, I have learned to trust myself and trust the process. If I make a mistake, I learn from it. I self-reflect, and brainstorm about what would work better next time. I have definitely stepped out of my comfort zone, but I wouldn't change where I am today for anything in the world. If you're uncomfortable, you're growing, and I have not stopped growing since my first day in Ms. Anderson's classroom.
The children here have no idea how much they have changed my life forever. Everyday, I am greeted with a plethora of big hugs from little people, and every time I leave I am asked, "Auntie Julie, you coming back?" I am dreading the day where I no longer can answer, "Yes, see you tomorrow!" I never knew that my heart could grow the way that it has, and there is now 22 more spots being occupied by such exceptional, fantastically full of life children.
Out of all my placements, Jamaica has been the most meaningful to me, and this has already been the experience of a lifetime which I will cherish for the rest of my life.
January 14, 2020
I applied for the Jamaica project team to have my last placement in Jamaica because I wanted to meet children living in a different country. So, here I am in Jamaica and it has been already been a week and a half. When we had a meeting after the first day of the placement, everyone looked nervous and didn't know what and how to go through this new environment that is different to Toronto. But time has gone by and I am more familiar with the schools, children and teachers and I have more confidence and am really enjoying the time. Everyone at school is very warm and friendly and the more I go to my placement the more I learn many new things from everyone as well as share my knowledge.
Since the children are not used to play based activities, they are always curious about what activities they will be doing with me. When I see them engaged and enjoying my planned activities and laugh a lot, that makes my day. Children are working on the theme transportation so, one of my activities was flying an airplane as a pilot. I brought a pilot costume and children put it on to become the pilot. When they were pilots, they took passengers to a country where they want to go. Through this activity, children learned about being a pilot, the parts of a plane and chose where they wanted to fly the airplane. They really enjoyed role playing and representing their learning as pilots and passengers.
Even though we have been busy during the week, we have had time to explore Jamaica on the weekends. We have been to the Blue Mountain Coffee Estate where we learned about different types of coffee and then tasted the best coffee in the world, true Blue Mountain coffee. We also went to the Bob Marely museum to learn more about him and then to Dunn's River Waterfalls. We climbed up the top of the Falls helping each other and strengthened our team as we worked together to reach the top.
After this week, we will be separated as a group to go into homestay. We won't be able to spend time together once we are apart like we have been at Shortwood Teachers' College, so, we have been playing a game every night after our meetings. Through this project, I have been learning many things, not only about the culture in Jamaica but also how to work as a team, which is useful for my future job. I am pretty sure I will continue to have fun and make good memories for the next 2 weeks until I go back to Toronto. I can't wait!!
Mary Louise Anhance Abrena
January 13, 2020
This Saturday, we took a two and half hour ride up to Ocho Rios and was able to experience Dunn's Rivers and the Falls. As soon as we arrived, all I can hear was the breeze coming from the trees and the water splashing from the falls. I was so amazed to see such clear water and smell such as fresh air. That day was very memorable for me personally not only because Dunn's River was beautiful but also because I have conquered my fear of heights. At first, I was very reluctant to climb up such stepped falls without a clear trail. However, I remembered a quote that I've read before which helps me get through my fear and relates to my whole journey in Jamaica so far.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do". -H. Jackson Brown Jr.
I have met such amazing Aunties and families in Early Childhood Centre of Excellence Bloom Jamaica, and I will never regret being a part of such an amazing team full of loving and caring ladies.
The most remarkable activity that I've done so far with the children was my activity on Friday about "Singing farm animals rhymes" because of the excitement that I saw on the children's faces. Whenever I tried to hide the cut-out animal faces and eventually brought it out with such a big reaction, the infants giggled and clapped their hands. It was also exciting because I got to introduce my first language as well by quickly saying how to say the animals in Tagalog. For example, a horse is kabayo.
I've also introduced myself to the children with the use of my "All about me book" which talked about mostly where I came from and my loved ones in Canada and in the Philippines.
My interactions with the children have been more meaningful as they are now familiar with my presence and we've been slowly getting to know each other and building a stronger relationship.
January 10, 2020
Now that the first week is finished, I think all of us feel differently. We are less stressed, more confident and we have less questions so we can concentrate better.
We were talking on the bus today and it was hard to believe for all of us that one week has past.
At school when we were saying goodbye and wishing a good weekend for each other, I felt that I knew these teachers and children for a long time.
This warm and kind culture that exists in the people here, broke any ice for me and it has a great influence on my work with children and families.
I am enjoying seeing the children's happiness and curiosity from any 'play based' activities that we have done together during this first week; this joy is so rewarding and indescribable. I hope every educator who works with children, experiences the feelings that I feel every day here and how important his/her job can be. This gives me great motivation for being a better educator.
In this photo we had a dance party outside in which children were supporting their physical and auditory skills in a fun and interactive way.
We have been busy with different art activities and made an art board for the class room to show display the children's art. The title of the board is "Every child is an Artist" and every time that children looked at the board I hear them say to one another that "I am an artist."
As each day passes, I learn many new things about the culture and the lifestyle of people here and I am extremely happy for choosing this placement.
Today after school, we went to Bob Marley museum and hearing his life story was very interesting.
I am so excited to start my second week of working, learning and growing.
January 8, 2020
Even though I was on a plane to Jamaica, I couldn't figure out where I was going. To be honest, my shoulders were stiff with tension as I came from Asia knowing nothing about Jamaica. I felt the heat as soon as I got off the airport and felt first.
When we arrived at Shortwood Teachers' College (where we are staying for two weeks) the professors and the Director of ECE welcomed and blessed us. We settled in and chose a room that was well-organized, clean and provided us with a good night sleep.
Saturday morning, we visited the Blue Mountain Coffee Estate whereI was able to look at and see Kingston from the mountain. My mind was full of question marks but the answers I got ended with small exclamation marks of wonder.
Monday, our first day of school. As we got dropped of at our assigned schools we met the teachers and children which was exciting. What I've heard most from the teachers is that they're so ready to support us in every way, so they want us to ask
Sometimes the customs and cultures are difficult for us to understand, but eventually I will learn more. I appreciate Colette, who always leads us to learn the best out of anything. The placement has just begun, but with Colette's support and Jamaican people who are warmer than the weather, I can feel relaxed and enjoy the rest of this journey.