Traveling to the USA with 5-9 year olds.

Primaria in Cajamarca
It all started a few weeks ago when my host aunt told me she was interested in starting a community bank with the teachers at the elementary school where she works. Of course I was ecstatic and told her I would stop by to talk to the director the next day.

I walked into the director’s office, pamphlet in hand, and began describing what a community bank is and how it functions. We got to talking and I mentioned how some volunteers do a savings club program with younger kids too. That is something I am really interested in doing!

(A savings club is essentially just a community bank minus the taking out loans. Kids save a little each week and we talk about how to set long term and short term savings goals. Then at the end of a few months we liquidate the bank and the kids see how much they have saved.)

The director was very excited about me offering to teach and said, “ok you can start tomorrow, and come back from 11-12 Monday- Wednesday.” The kids are on summer vacation right now, so the classes he offered are summer school classes for the next two weeks. I told him that I needed more than two weeks for the program and it would be better to start with one class in March when the regular school year starts again. He responded and said that would be fine, but that I should then find something else to teach during summer school for the next two and a half weeks.

I was scared out of my mind when he continued to explain that Mondays would be a class of twenty to thirty 5-6 year olds, Tuesdays 7-8 year olds, and Wednesdays 9-10 year olds. I was thinking a small class of 10 year olds to do a savings club with and here he is insisting that I spend the next two weeks teaching anything I want to huge classes of little kids!

Seeing no way out of it I agreed, on the condition that it is only for two weeks and come March I am only going to teach one class. Now came the hard part of deciding what the heck to teach! Finally I decided on world cultures… I am obviously from the USA and I loved visiting Italy, France, and Morocco, so I decided that is what we would learn about for the next two weeks.

I had the meeting with the director on a Tuesday, so the first class was a Wednesday with the 9-10 year olds. It went very well! We talked about what makes up a culture and then divided into groups and came up with examples things that make up the Peruvian culture. Afterwards I had a presentation about the US that included country music and a short line-dancing lesson. It went really well! (Kids at that age are pretty well behaved and the class was very interested in learning.)

The class I was really nervous about was the 5 year olds… at that age they are cute in small numbers, but in large groups it is so hard to keep everyone’s attention. The class started out great! We played a get to know you game where we threw a ball of yarn around the circle and when you caught the ball you had to say your name, age, favorite food, and color.
Peace Corps Peru volunteer work Get to know you game

Then we went inside and I showed pictures and talked about my family and Houston. I always do this when starting with a new group and the kids are always amazed at how tall everyone in my family is… it’s pretty funny! Primaria in Cajamarca, Peru

Family photo

After that I told the kids to go the back of the room and pretend to be airplanes. I pulled out my American flag scarf after a few minutes of them running around the room acting like airplanes and then everyone landed in the USA.
Airplane game in Peru Peace Corps Peru volunteer American culture class

Of course we had to take a commemorative photo… it wouldn’t be vacation without one!
Traveling to America from Peru

We proceeded to talk about different parts of US culture and they were especially surprised to hear that in the US we keep guinea pigs as pets. In Santa Cruz pretty much every house has guinea pigs that they raise to kill and eat. They were also amazed by the fact that some people let their dogs sleep in bed with them! Here the majority of dogs live outside and are kept more for protection and as a garbage disposal than pets.

The day ended with learning “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” to sing and learn some English. Lucky for me the bell for recreo rang just as we finished trying to sing it for the 5th time.

I survived a classroom of 5-6 year olds by myself in Spanish!! I have a newfound appreciation for all you elementary school teachers out there. The loving hugs some of them gave me afterwards were definitely cute, but I am looking forward to starting my classes with the college age students again.

Plot twist… I thought I was scared of 5-6 year olds? Think again. I just finished my class with the 7-8 year olds and they were soooooo much crazier!

Boarding the airplane to the USA with my 7-8 class!
Boarding the airplane to the USA with my 7-8 class!
Herding children to try and take a photo. The 5-6 year olds definitely did this better.
Herding children to try and take a photo. The 5-6 year olds definitely did this better.
It finally worked! The final product of our class photo.
It finally worked! The final product of our class photo.