We began our Europe project two weeks ago, and the students are now in the process of drawing huge colorful geographic maps of the continent. With a lot of hints and materials to work from, they are drawing, painting, chalking in and labeling Europe’s major mountains, plains, forest regions, volcanoes, rivers, lakes, islands and peninsulas. . . Nine groups of kids are scattered throughout 7 rooms on two floors, with my colleague, Mark, and I going from group to group –helping, guiding, suggesting, (sometimes admonishing), generally keeping them on track.
Today was Week 2 of this project, but it began differently because we all knew that a group of Czech educators were coming to visit and observe us, along with two local school inspectors. In the morning, I met with the older group to give them the heads up. Meanwhile, Mark got the younger group organized and going. Once things were humming along, we both supervised all the groups.
To be honest, I was too busy when the visitors and inspectors arrived to even notice, but after a half hour or so, our paths met in the middle of the P2 room. I greeted them all as we stood there, surrounded by kids grouped at tables and on the floor, intently drawing things on their huge maps or searching in atlases. Small talk was made impossible because at that moment, little Moritz started yelling my name. “C. come here! I can’t find the Alps in this atlas!”
“Look out the window, Moritz. What do you see?”
Right after that, another group broke out in loud hysterics. I went over to them and they pointed out the most recent addition to their map: the Po River. (“Po” means “butt” in German.) After the visiting crowd left the room and wandered upstairs, I headed for the kitchen to see how our youngest group was doing. I was accosted en route by 9-year-old Emma who was all flustered.
“They came to us first and asked a bunch of questions. Like ‘What are you doing?‘ and ‘Do you know where the Czech Republic is?’ Thank goodness I found it fast! Whew!”
Later in the break, I complained a bit to Mark about the visitors testing our kids – especially because they were working on geographical and not political maps (with country borders and names). I laughed about little Emma being able to answer the visitors’ questions at all.
That’s when Mark confessed that he had prepped the younger students a bit in the morning, before the visitors arrived. First he asked them if anyone could tell him where the Czech Republic was.
“Asia!” – “No – Africa!” – “South America?”
“No,” said Mark, “It’s much closer. See, here is Austria. And right above it is the Czech Republic. Can anyone tell me what the capital is? . . . (pause) . . . It is a beautiful city – near Vienna.”
“I’ll give you a hint. It starts with ‘P’.”
“P – R . . . (pause) . . . P – R – A . . . “
“Oh, I know!” shouted Leo. “Prazil!”