Oral History and Student Competition at Instituto Episcopal San Cristóbal

Following a VFOA Oral History Workshop in February, teachers from the Instituton Episcopal San Cristobal's English Department collaborated with VFOA in the creation of a student competition for Black History Month, where students interviewed members of the West Indian-Panamanian community and prepared group presentations on their interpretations of the interviews. After the April 9-18 interview sessions, twenty-nine 12th grade students submitted their presentations to a panel of judges, who determined the contest winners. VFOA awarded special prizes to the top three winning teams, and formally acknowledged all of the student participants and teachers, as well as the director and sub-director, at the school's annual Black History Month celebration on May 30th. Participating students said the competition gave them an opportunity to learn about West Indian history through real people instead of books, and that the VFOA project inspired them to want to learn more and they hope to one day be interviewed themselves about how life was when they were younger. 

1st Place (tie): Yizeika Charris, Ana Gabriela Chavez, Betzaida Montero, Daphne Macias, Jose Vergara 

2nd Place (tie): None

3rd Place: Efrain Cheung, Milka Arosemena, Philippe Hines 


Essay Contest, University of Panama English Department

VFOA joined forces with the University of Panama's English department on three initiatives, all linked to the celebration of Black History Month. On May 26th, a group of students and teachers were welcomed by Director Ifeoma Nwankwo and the VFOA team for an Oral History Workshop. Participants were presented with informative handouts about the effective integration of oral history in the classroom and creative activities focused on Black history worldwide. With these materials at hand, they were prompted to paraphrase a VFOA interview and subsequently give a group presentation on an activity using the interview information. On May 28th, an essay contest was carried out in the same department, with the participation of students, professors, and judges. Participants were asked to write an essay about "Someone who has influenced them positively in their English learning process." The top three essays from each class were recognized, and information was collected about the West Indian "someones" referenced in the essays. Further VFOA-U of Panama collaboration occurred in the form of a curriculum development workshop. Held on May 29th, this workshop welcomed over 50 teachers and students and yielded sample lesson plans focused on the integration of VFOA interview materials into the English curriculum. 

1st Year Students: Patsy Espinoza, Dona White, Suhairah Sadiq

2nd Year Students: José A. Rodriguez, Kevin Fragueiro, José López

3rd Year Students: Mitzy Gómez, Maricarmen Lanuza, Shiara Ocaña

Bocas del Toro English Workshop

The VFOA team travelled to Almirante, Bocas del Toro (Panama) to do an English workshop with children from the community. Ethel Record, VFOA council member in Almirante, had expressed a need for programs to help children there learn or improve their English to meet the demands of current times, and to have a link with their West Indian ancestry. 

The workshop took place at Colegio Parroquial San Jose´s library with participation of the school´s 5th grade class. We also had students from the Escuela Metodista, Escuela Almirante and Escuela Berta Lopez. Children, all between ages 9 through 12, were divided into 4 groups of 15 kids each in order to maximize participation. Students were able to practice and learn new vocabulary and language structures using the Rosetta Stone software (which was also donated to the community) through educational activities with recreational components.

All participants had fun while learning and improving the language in a way they had not experienced before. Local teachers, who accompanied their classes to the workshop, learned new ways to engage with their students in the classroom including ways to add simple games to everyday language lessons.