Franklin & Marshall’s weekly online newsletter
Educating—and Learning—in Ghana
They are phrases most middle school teachers have never heard from their students, at least in most countries:
“But class isn’t over yet!”
The words came from students in the seventh and eighth grades at the Heritage Academy in Ghana, a school founded by Kwesi Koomson ’97 and featured at the Oct. 18 Common Hour. The teachers in the classrooms were Franklin & Marshall students who traveled to Ghana for a community-based learning trip from Dec. 28 to Jan. 15 organized by the Ware Institute for Civic Engagement. The trip connected F&M students to global education issues and left them astounded by the Ghanaian students’ passion for learning.
Franklin & Marshall students who traveled to Ghana for a community-based learning trip display a "Unity Knot" presented to them as a token of thanks by the students at the Heritage Academy.
Lilah Thompson ’11, the Ware Institute’s postgraduate fellow for human rights and social justice, accompanied the 12 F&M students to Ghana.
“This trip is different than other alternative break trips offered by the Ware Institute because the focus is entirely on educational outreach in a classroom setting,” Thompson said. “The Heritage Academy is unlike other schools in Ghana because it inspires students to ask questions and be creative. F&M students were not just leading, they were teaching. That’s what the Heritage Academy stands for.”
The F&M students designed and taught courses both individually and in pairs. Kelly Marchisio ’12, who taught a French course with Grace Thompson ’12, said the students’ drive to learn was refreshing.
“I know that in seventh and eighth grade in the United States, most kids will do anything to avoid doing homework,” said Marchisio, a joint studies major. Marchisio is one of seven students who funded their trip with a Marshall Fellowship, an F&M award given to students who have demonstrated unusual motivation, spirit of achievement and independence of thought. “At the Heritage Academy, however, the kids are there to learn…We gave them an assignment to write five sentences in French, and as soon as we assigned it, nearly every hand was up asking us to check their sentences for errors. They wanted their papers to be perfect.”
Andrew Berg ’12, a government and history double major, decided to participate in the Ghana trip to “give back after receiving such an incredible education from F&M.” He also hoped the teaching experience would help him decide whether he wanted to do Teach For America (TFA), the national corps of outstanding recent college graduates who teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. His plan worked; he is now an official member of the 2012 Baltimore TFA Corps.
“I taught public speaking at the Heritage Academy,” said Berg, a Marshall Scholar. “I learned that while the Ghanaian students were used to the traditional, lecture style of teaching, it was not a far stretch for them to learn a new pedagogical model. Rather than lecture, I focused on student participation. The students would write stories and recite them to class, remembering my reminders to speak loudly, clearly, and with the requisite emphasis and eye contact.”
The trip not only allowed F&M students to gain teaching experience, but to immerse themselves in another culture. Kacy Warning ’14 says her goals for the trip were to empower Ghanaian students through education and to gain a broader understanding of other cultures and her perspective on life.
“I believe that we cannot truly understand ourselves until we encounter ‘the other’ – that culture, person, and way of life that is foreign and removed from our own,” said Warning, who is also a Marshall Scholar. “My experiences in Ghana taught me how to step back, observe and question the boundaries around which I drew my comfort zone, taking what I learned about Ghanaian culture and combining it with what I know about my own.”
For Marchisio, the journey to Ghana produced one memory that stands apart from the rest. She bonded with a boy named Isaac, providing private reading lessons to him after realizing that he could not speak or read English.
“After every reading session, he would leave absolutely beaming, shake my hand, and give me a thumbs up,” Marchisio said. “I’ll never forget Isaac and how appreciative he was that I’d personally invested myself in his education, be it only for two weeks.”
The students who traveled to Ghana will host a public presentation at a time and location to be determined in March to share their pictures and experiences with the F&M community. Read more about the students' experiences in Ghana by visiting a blog from their trip.
- Chris Karlesky