What We Do
Waveplace Foundation conducts educational pilots using low-cost laptops and Squeak Etoys, a learning environment that promotes deep understanding, creative problem solving, and digital media skills.
We work in the Caribbean, Latin America, and Africa, training local adult mentors to teach children between the ages of seven and eleven. Each pilot usually consists of three to five adult mentors that work with twenty children for 90 minutes each day for 30 days.
Waveplace provides educational courseware consisting of video tutorials, student handouts, lesson plans, and Etoys projects, all available in the student's native language. Our courseware ultimately will consist of 25 two-week units covering topics from a full elementary curriculum. Lessons are used to deepen a child's understanding of difficult topics, using guided experimentation to build critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Why It Matters
A child has the right to their own wonder, to their enthusiasm, to their innate curiosity as they explore the world around them. A child has the right to ask questions and be heard, to hear answers from adults without impatience. A child has the right to create beauty as their heart compels them, to be encouraged in their community without ridicule or apathy. A child has the right to learn freely.
Too often we adults get caught up in ourselves, in the demands of each day as we try to survive. The unique learning needs of children get replaced by expediency and routine. Nowhere is this more true than in the poorest areas of the world, where survival demands its due in every moment. Too many of our children have the eyes of adults, weary well beyond their years, their wonder stolen much too soon.
Overlooked education is the true cause of more immediate problems: poverty, hunger, crime, disease. Trapped within schools that use rote memorization and forced discipline, children learn to do what they're told, to wait for answers from someone else.
Ultimately, Waveplace's goal is to help create a new generation of children who can think for themselves, who can roll up their sleeves and solve their country's problems on their own. Children need to be taught to ask questions, to answer and act on such questions. "How can we best organize our communities? How can we keep our water clean? How can we build better roads?" Children need to learn confidence and mastery in their own creative problem solving. Only then can they later play their part in improving their neighborhood and nation.
How It Works
Waveplace works with local partner organizations, favoring those that have a long history getting things done in their specific region. All local decisions are made by our partners: what mentors, what children, when and where to hold class, whether the children bring laptops home, what units to teach, etc. Waveplace knows how little we know about each region, which is why we rely on our partners.
Once everything is ready, three certified Waveplace trainers travel to the region to start a six week pilot. Two will likely fly in. The third will come from nearby, if possible. The trainers prepare the laptops and meet with the new mentors to discuss the plan. Ideally, four local pilots (a "quad") will be held concurrently, each with five mentors so we may train twenty adults at a time.
For two weeks, Waveplace trainers conduct adult classes, usually in the morning, and children classes, usually in the afternoon. During the first week, Waveplace leads the lesson with the trainee mentors assisting. This allows the trainees to see our mentoring approach firsthand. In the next week, the trainees lead the lessons with Waveplace assisting. By the end of the workshop, most trainee mentors will be comfortable enough with the material and teaching approach to continue the pilot on their own for the remaining four weeks.
Mentors are required to write notes after each class. These notes are summarized once a week and sent to Waveplace for review. Waveplace stays in continual contact with all mentors, providing support and material long after each pilot finishes. Weekly visits from a Waveplace trainer allow further face-to-face support. Mentors are also encouraged to connect with the world-wide community of educators, particularly other mentors from their region.
The mentors and students will first learn Etoys, a free software tool developed by Dr. Alan Kay and his research team in the late 1990s. Etoys is like a magic whiteboard that children use to draw and manipulate programming objects, allowing them to visualize and explore powerful ideas. They learn to create their own Etoys projects, making them geniune computer programmers. While this approach may seem ambitious, children learn Etoys easily, even without prior exposure to computers.
Once a solid foundation has been built, mentors and students continue with the Waveplace Courseware during the pilot and beyond using lessons that teach topics from language arts, mathematics, science, and more. Using Etoys to explore such material allows a deeper, more engaging experience. Children discover their own answers, their own truths, much in the way they did when they were young. As they explore each lesson, they grow more confident. They learn how to learn.