Tag Archives: Math Education

Karen Keefer in Nigeria

Country of Service: Nigeria
Place of Service: Offa, Nigeria
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1966-1968
Keywords: Education

Accession Date: August 25, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 1.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Governmental Publications
  • Language Training Materials
  • Peace Corps Training Materials
  • Teacher Training Materials
  • Textbooks
  • Tourist Publications

Albert Briggs and Anne Briggs in Malaysia

Albert Briggs
Anne Briggs

Country of Service: Malaysia
Place of Service: Penang
Service Type: Education
Dates in Service: 1964-1966
Keywords: Library, Mathematics, Penang

Accession Date: January 7, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.25 linear feet

Document Types

  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Programs
  • Publications

Debby Prigal in Ghana

Debby Prigal

Country of Service: Ghana
Place of Service: Ho
Service Type: Math Education
Dates in Service: 1981-1983
Keywords: Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Ho, Volta Region

Accession Date: October 12, 2015, March 31, 2016, April 15, 2016
Access: No restrictions
Collection Size: 0.5 linear feet

Document Types

  • Application Materials
  • Training materials
  • Passport, WHO card, Peace Corps ID
  • Completion of Service materials
  • Photographs (slides and prints)
  • Letters
  • Talking Drum PCV Newsletters
  • Articles Written About Ghana
  • Sample exams
  • Tape of student chorus
  • Log of photos sent to family with film
  • Resume

 

Adjusting to New Worlds

When browsing the collections of the Peace Corps Community Archive it is difficult to miss material that demonstrates excitement, fatigue, curiosity, or frustration surrounding issues of adjustment to life in a foreign country.

Often, volunteers expressed these sentiments through letters, diary entries, and artwork. In some cases, notation of adjustment can even be found in the official Peace Corps paperwork.

In this post, we’ll explore the materials of three new collections to illustrate how volunteers adapted: Gage Skinner (Chile, 1964 – 1966), Susan Shepler (Sierra Leone, 1987 – 1989), and Bobbe Seibert (Honduras, 2000).

Gage Skinner, an anthropologist by training, joined the Peace Corps in 1964. As one of the first groups of Peace Corps volunteers, Skinner used his time in Chile to teach Mapuche Indians the practice of beekeeping. But he was unaccustomed to the long hours spent traveling by foot around rural Chile, so Skinner inquired about horses for sale in nearby towns.

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Sunday, February 14, 1964, Skinner wrote about walking four hours “back into the hills” to see a horse “offered for sale.” PCCA.

Skinner purchased a horse in late April 1964. To document the event, he glued this picture drawn by his little brother Greg into his journal.

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This drawing by Greg of Skinner’s horse appears in Skinner’s personal journal. PCCA.

In an earlier entry, dated January 13th, 1964, Skinner journals about how difficult it could be for volunteers to acclimate to their housing. As seen on the page below, he bemoans the uncomfortable living conditions in his first home in Chile:

“There are chickens and cats in the kitchen. They are flea-ridden. They defecate on the floors. There are flies in the kitchen.”

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Wednesday, January 13th, 1964, Skinner described his housing situation in rural Chile.  PCCA.

Susan Shepler, who taught mathematics in Sierra Leone in the late 1980s, offers little in her notes about discomfort. In fact, a survey she filled out in the April 1989 issue of Di News De, a local newsletter produced by the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, reveals Shepler’s openness to the new cuisine and customs.

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This is the second page of a “Volunteer Survey” filled in by Susan Shepler from the April 1989 issue of Di News De. PCCA.

In this same issue of Di News De, however, researchers will encounter comics, short stories, and other creative expressions that indicate some of the challenges many volunteers faced. Two examples include a bus ride gone awry and a recipe to recreate familiar food.

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April 1989 issue of Di News De. Susan Shepler collection. PCCA.

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April 1989 issue of Di News De. Susan Shepler collection. PCCA.

Unlike Shepler, Bobbe Seibert described distaste for some local foods and created her own recipes abroad. Seibert, who joined the Peace Corps later in her adult life, detailed her cooking practices in a letter to her father and stepmother, Jean.

On October 17, 2000, Seibert wrote to her parents to explain how she used corn to make a “wonderfully hot, smooth, and comforting” cream soup because she was “not particularly fond of” the homemade tortillas.

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Letter from Seibert to her father and stepmother on October 17, 2000. PCCA.

In the same letter, Seibert  enclosed a photograph of her house. On the back of the image she cautions her parents about visiting, noting “Honduras is not a comfortable country.”

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Photograph from a letter to Seibert’s father and stepmother dated October 17, 2000. PCCA.

Seibert served on an agricultural team in Honduras in 2000 until a family emergency brought her back home to Alaska. Yet, her time as a volunteer is well chronicled in her journals, artwork, and correspondence.

In a letter to her husband John, for example, Seibert expresses excitement regarding her new host family and housing:

“My family is perfect.”

“Dona Marlen is a housekeer – not a maid, and they have two wonderful kids, Marleny – she’s eight years old and we go everywhere together and Edward who is two years old and mostly just smiles all the time.”

“The roof is corrugated but of very good quality it sounds wonderful when it rains as it did last night – quite hard.”

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This letter from Seibert to John on February 6, 2000, offers a positive reaction to a new housing arrangement. PCCA.

Celebrating or overcoming adjustments is part of the Peace Corps volunteer experience. By carefully studying the collections in the Peace Corps Community Archive, researchers can build an enriched understanding of a volunteer’s daily life, including the joys and struggles associated with adjusting to a new world.

For more information, please visit the Peace Corps Community Archive website. To use the collections or make a donation, please contact the AU Archives at archives [at] american.edu

 

Science and Math Education in the Peace Corps

“The teaching of mathematics and science is one of the most needed contributions Peace Corps Volunteers can make to the developing nations. The future of these nations hinges directly on their ability to speed technological and industrial development.”

– “Math and Science Teachers in the Peace Corps” pamphlet, circa 1967

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“Science and Mathematics Teachers For Nigerian Secondary Schools” Training Manual, Duane Hudson, American University Peace Corps Community Archive.

Since the mid-1960s, the Peace Corps has sent volunteers across the globe to assist in developing educational initiatives in other countries. Two collections in our archive highlight the work done in the field of science education. Stephen Bossi served in India from 1966-1968 and Duane Hudson served in Nigeria from 1963 to 1965.

In preparation for their teaching experiences abroad, Peace Corps Trainees go through a rigorous training process. Peace Corps volunteer Duane Hudson’s training materials contain a daily schedule that has future Peace Corps volunteers take classes all day interrupted only by small breaks for meals and coffee. When teaching math during their service, Peace Corps volunteers must take into consideration cultural and societal differences in how different countries teach and conceptualize math. In 1960s Nigeria, for example, students used a “raised dot,” instead of a decimal point in the center between the two digits. Also, instead of the a “billion,” Nigerians referred to the number as a “thousand million.”

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“Mathematics Teaching in Nigeria Secondary Schools and Teacher Training Colleges: Terms and Symbols,” Duane Hudson, American University Peace Corps Community Archive. Compare example of raised dot vs. decimal point in middle of list.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although there are differences between cultures, there are also many universal aspects of how math and science are taught. Steve Bossi served in India and his handbook recommends teachers facilitate science fairs, staple among many American classrooms. Peace Corps volunteers were instructed how to make rudimentary microscopes for their students to use, an item many American school children are familiar with today. Such cross-cultural education through Peace Corps service is especially useful today in an increasingly global community.

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“Science Teachers’ Handbook: Improvised Apparatus,” Stephen Bossi, American University Peace Corps Community Archive.

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“Science Teachers’ Handbook: Compound Microscope,” Stephen Bossi, Peace Corps Community Archive.