In September 2016 we opened our 12th learning center in Mandalgovi, Mongolia. Narangarav Jambaltseren, Head of the Learning Center, has worked hard since then to get the center running. In this post she describes the progress she has made so far and what she is planning in the future.
We had our official opening for the Mandalgovi “Development Bridge” Learning Center on September 15, 2016. More than 200 people came. Before the opening, we contacted government organizations, schools, NGOs, parents and children. At the opening, we had a children’s concert, speeches by province leaders, Book Bridge associates including CAP 8 members, and local children’s organizations. We had a tour of the LC facilities, some people read books, and we had some food and drinks outdoors. That day we also began to register the students for classes. We registered more than 20, for classes which were scheduled to begin in mid-October. We also spent two weeks in cataloguing and classifying the books, making book lists, and assigning numbers to the book shelves.
On 10 October, Mrs. Narandelger came to start work as an assistant teacher of English and Russian. Classes began on 15 October. We had 4 students in the beginners’ class and 6 students signed up for library cards. Classes met 2 times a week, for 2 hours of class. There were 2 different levels of English skills among the beginners. Students came to the LC several days a week to read in the library. Already in July, we had started an abacus training with 10 students. The class continued until the end of November. A second course of abacus training started with 4 students.
We started to publicize the LC’s services after the 15 September opening ceremony. We made announcements on 2 TV stations, handed out leaflets to schools, and gave leaflets to visiting members of youth clubs and NGOs.
I met three Peace Corps Volunteers at the end of October. Tom started the Reading Club at the end of October. We invited all students of the abacus courses and English courses to come to the Reading Club. Michael and/ or Tom come to the LC to read books during Reading Club time once a week. We also began a monthly Cooking Club with Michael and Tom, where we taught students how to make pizza, tacos, etc.
The LC celebrated Halloween on 31 October with about 35 students. In early November, Mrs. Narandelger and I participated in trainings about child protection, which was organized for classroom teachers. In November, Mrs. Battuul and 5 students from the Dalanzadgad Learning Center visited us. In late November, PCVs Michael and Tom showed videos about the celebration of the American Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas. For the Thanksgiving holiday we had about 20 guests, including abacus course students, English course students, Scouts, and friends.
In November we also visited two school dormitories and organized games and other activities and told the children about the LC’s services. Also in November, we began adults’ classes with 4 students. At the same time, a former PCV visited from the USA with his mother. Both volunteered at the LC for 2 weeks, helping to run English classes and preparing learning materials.
Amar visited, organized a 2-day training for local CAP candidates, and then we had a Zoom call with the European members of the CAP 8 team. In November we had a total of 13 students, including adults. Jessica, a PCV from Dalanzadgad visited for one day, to help teach English classes, read to the students, and have conversation sessions. Scout Honor Day was held in November, with about 20 Scouts in attendance. We participated with the Scouts in the government-sponsored campaign to prevent domestic violence.
In December we undertook various measures to try to increase the number of students. As a result, the number of students went up to 28, in beginning, intermediate, advanced English classes, abacus classes, Russian classes, and exam preparation classes. We downloaded and printed out several textbooks for the English courses at different levels, such as “Excellent! 1-2-3”, “Headway”, “Side by Side 1”, and “Face2Face 1”. Tunga sent one copy of “Master Test” for examination preparation. We printed out cards for assessment of English language skill levels.
Also we bought English language class vocabulary card sets, for topics such as clothing, flags, customs, equipment and tools, etc., and 10 sets of Mongolian cards on various topics to aid in memory training. Many of the learning resource materials had to be laminated, to prevent them from wearing out too quickly.
In mid-December the students and Scouts helped to decorate the LC for Christmas and New Year. I went to Khovsgol for 4 days, in connection with the Ger-to-Ger Foundation’s nomad-centered eco-tourism NGO. A new Community Hero from Dornogovi came to see the LC and exchange experiences and ideas. We started a new adults’ beginning level class with 1 student. We received a visit from the new Khovd Community Hero.
The English language methodologist from the provincial education department visited to learn about our teaching methods and materials. She asked me to send her our curriculum when it has been designed. A new Book Bridge volunteer came in early January, to assist and advise in teaching, preparation of learning materials, and curriculum design. Community trainers in different sectors such as social work, continuing education, political education, child and family welfare, etc. attended a meeting to plan future training.
A new club, the weekly Speaking Club, began to meet in January. We spent several days taking inventory of teaching materials and resources, such as vocabulary card sets, maps, and grammar charts; organizing textbooks; rearranging the order of books on the shelves for greater efficiency. The local Mercy Corps donated 60 books dealing with economics.
- We discussed with the PCVs the possibilities of having weekly movie nights, showing English-language films with English subtitles.
- Tom is interested in giving talks, trainings, and demonstrations of nutritious diets and healthy cooking and eating, possibly twice a month.
- We learned how to play the crossword game Scrabble, and decided to make up one or two sets of Scrabble letters and game boards out of felt or cardboard, as a way of teaching students vocabulary and spelling skills. We might be able to organize Scrabble competitions.
- Some students are interested in starting a chess club. World Vision may be able to donate a few chess games.
- We are also thinking about organizing some weekly or monthly story-telling and reading-aloud sessions, and for Speaking Club, we might organize poetry readings and recitations.
- Now we’re getting ready for a graduation ceremony for students who have completed 3 months of English and abacus classes, which will involve granting certificates and a celebration to which family members will be invited.
- As part of the Reading Club activities, we plan to have students make their own bookmarks, bookplates, and book covers, as part of an LC campaign to teach children to respect books and treat them carefully. Possibly we will do this in connection with special book-related days, such as International Book / Reading Day / Week.
- We have several large-format charts of grammar rules and key vocabulary which we’re going to mount on the walls, to make it easier for students to review what they learn in class.
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