May 25, 2003 - Fun Spot: Project Catherine - Project developed by Paula Daley-Morris, Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture Administered by Cathy Lee Gierke, Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Jamaica: Peace Corps Jamaica : The Peace Corps in Jamaica: May 25, 2003 - Fun Spot: Project Catherine - Project developed by Paula Daley-Morris, Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture Administered by Cathy Lee Gierke, Peace Corps Volunteer

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Project Catherine - Project developed by Paula Daley-Morris, Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture Administered by Cathy Lee Gierke, Peace Corps Volunteer

Project Catherine - Project developed by Paula Daley-Morris, Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture Administered by Cathy Lee Gierke, Peace Corps Volunteer

Creation of a Computer Learning Centre at Spanish Town Primary

The creation of a computer learning centre had been in our minds since a presentation at Gregory Park All Age, attended by several principals of the South West Principal Association. The presentation demonstrated the new Gregory Park lab, and the software to be used there for enhancing literacy and numeracy. Our own path towards a computer lab began with a proposal from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, to share lab facilities with neighboring high school, Jonathan Grant. The proposal, written by Paula Daley-Morris, Information Technology Officer, Core Curriculum, MOEYC, was introduced to us in February 1996 by Cathy Lee Gierke, a Peace Corps Volunteer working with Daley-Morris in the MOEYC. After a brief discussion, Mrs. Manning, Principal, requested Ms. Gierke to arrange a meeting with all persons concerned so there could be proper understanding of the whole matter. It was difficult to get all parties together at the same time, so the first meeting of all concerned did not take place until June 11, 1996. At that time, Daley-Morris distributed copies of a comprehensive document entitled "Project Catherine Ď96." The attendees reviewed the document and discussed it briefly. Particulars of Spanish Town Primary enrollment, shifts, staffing, number of classes in each grade, number of children per class, etc. were reviewed. Class times, and availability of the computer lab at Jonathan Grant was detailed, as well. A one week workshop was planned for September 9 - 13, 1996 at the Jonathan Grant High School computer lab. All sixth grade teachers and the principal from Spanish Town Primary, and selected Jonathan Grant teachers would attend. This provided hands-on experience, examples of strategies for teaching with the computer, educational shareware, and some word processing. Daley-Morris and Gierke conducted the workshop.

As the workshop progressed, plans were made to have the grade 6 students and teachers from Spanish Town Primary sharing the Jonathan Grant High School computer lab when available. However, factors such as eight (8) sixth grade classes with a total of about 280 students, and two shifts, as well as time wasted in walking between schools, and limited hours of lab availability caused the principal to feel the ideal situation would be to have a lab at the primary school. She felt this would allow more students to access the centre and later on extend the programme to other grades. This idea was put to Daley-Morris and Gierke and the Spanish Town Primary staff, and was positively received.

Immediately following the training workshop several letters seeking sponsorship were distributed to businesses and organizations in and around the school community. At the same time, Gierkeís secondary Peace Corps project to get used computers for Jamaican schools had received a donation of 13 computers. Seven of these computers were made available to Spanish Town Primary, at a cost of $155 USD, that covered transportation and repair expenses.

Up to this point, we had no idea how funds would be allocated for the project. With these on stream, work began on a section of the library, to be converted to accommodate the computers. Being this was an MOEYC project, permission was sought and received from Mr. A. Grant, Director of Region VI office of the MOEYC to use funds from the subvention grant to assist with purchasing some materials and for labour. Additional funds were used from the schoolís tuck shop and income generating project. National Commercial Bank, St. Jago Plaza, in response to our letter, donated money that was used in the purchase of an air conditioner unit for the centre.

Mr. Dennis Robothom, past student of Spanish Town Primary and member of the School Board, responded by donating a working used computer. Through the instrumentality of Mrs. Carole Rowe, past student and employee of Desnoes and Geddes Ltd., a used PS/2 colour computer was donated, also in response to our letter. Mr. Brainard Williams of Computers and Communications, and Mr. G. Small, of Better Meats, Spanish Town donated a used printer.

Walls were put up in the library, windows covered (to prevent air and dirt coming in), tables were build along the walls, and electrical wiring was upgraded and installed. A white board was also constructed, in respect of a dust-free environment. This miraculous computer learning centre was ready for use by mid October, 1996. Upon inspection by Gierke the computer tables had to be adjusted. Then the computers had to be cleaned and repaired. At last, on November 26, 1996, the door was opened and we had our first class under the tutelage of Gierke.

The Grade 6 teachers and students are time-tabled to be in the centre all day Tuesdays and Fridays -- on their off-shift periods. Classes are held on a regular basis and teachers and students have shown much interest. They are guided and taught by Gierke. Alton Bailey, a past student, and fifth form computer student at Jonathan Grant High School gives much assistance to the teachers and students during is off-shift periods.

The centre now has 9 working computers and a printer. Classes are conducted with two students to a computer. It is arranged to accommodate 20 computers. Having gone this far on our own, we are in dire need of another 11 computers to allow at least 30 to 40 students working at any one session. In light of the Prime Ministerís speech to Parliament and the fact that almost everyone is moving towards full use of computer technology, we are once again appealing to the many business establishments and organizations in and around the Spanish Town Primary School environment to be sponsors and donate the computers needed to help our students move ahead academically.

Project helps schools brighten academic futures
by Virginia Lee

If the children of Jamaica are to sit in the driverís seat of their own lives, as the world of information whizzes toward them, theyíll need to pursue the expressway labeled "technology". More and more these days, routes that rely on pencil-and-paper methods take the user through potholes of lost time and to dead ends of missed opportunities. Achievement comes via computer literacy and fluency in the language of information technology.

Seeing these changes encroaching upon them, Jamaican schools are scrambling to provide new, promising learning opportunities for their students. One project dedicated to assisting schools is the "US Peace Corps Computer Facilitation Project." The aim of this project is to assist needy Jamaican schools secure donations of computer equipment and supplies, as well as technical assistance and training.

One aspect of the facilitation project is a web page with information for the schools. Others include a newsletter; a computer-centered network of potential sponsors and facilitators from around the world; an online forum for technical questions from schools; providing free web pages for schools; and coordinating visits to Jamaica, or within Jamaica, by technically-skilled volunteers who can assist schools. The web page and discussion group were initiated by US Peace Corps Volunteer Cathy Lee Gierke, and much of the coordination needed to get computers to the schools is done by her.

Facilitation transformed to hands-on experience.

Thatís the framework. It becomes fleshed out, for example, at Spanish Town Primary, where children will soon be learning by computer. Their opportunity is arriving, thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of Principal Lorna Manning and other staff members, and with the encouragement and help of Gierke and her project associates.

Manning was first introduced to the idea of computer labs during a principalsí workshop, she said, where she observed a lab in use at Gregory Park All Age. "We were all enthused and realized it would be very good for our children. We were hoping for our own computers, for our children to learn." So an assertive search for sponsors (both of finances and of equipment) began, so that a lab could be set up.

Early in 1996, Gierke visited the school to discuss a cost- and equipment-sharing program being proposed by the Ministry Of Education, Youth and Culture (MOEYC). The plan was that Spanish Town Primary would use the computers at neighboring Jonathan Grant Secondary, with training and support from Gierke. Manning recalled, "She said she would be willing to work with us. And she encouraged us to go for it."

The MOEYC program kicked off in September with a week-long training workshop attended by Manning, along with her sixth-grade teachers and remedial reading staff. It was led by Gierke and Mrs. Paula Daley-Morris of MOEYC.

But at Jonathan Grant, the course load in the computer center had recently increased and it was now difficult to find time for an additional school to be using it. "For the size of our school (2,640 students) and because of the shift system," Manning said, "we felt the ideal thing would be to have our own lab, which we would be able to use at our own convenience."

The Computer Facilitation Project had recently contacted United Parcel Service (UPS) in Chicago, which had 13 computers available to donate to the schools of Jamaica. At Daley-Morrisís recommendation, seven of these computers were donated to Spanish Town Primary.

Now, two months later, Manning has had a portion of the school library walled off, desks built, security improved and air-conditioning installed. Using available funds, she has created a computer-learning center. The school is responsible for setting up its own lab and helps pay the cost of getting the computers to Jamaica. Said she: "Weíre helping ourselves, with money from our tuck shop, because it cost quite a tidy sum."

Said Gierke: "I couldnít believe it--Iíve never seen a computer center go together so quickly. The room was basically completed in three weeks. Mrs. Manning and her staff were single-minded in their determination to get the lab going."

"Things are in place now, with five computers working," Manning said Friday, Nov. 22. "We still need printers--we have none," Manning said, adding that seven computers are to be ready for a teachersí workshop in a few days and space is available for six or seven more. Also, she said, "Having spent all that money, we are still seeking sponsors."

Initially, only one firm responded--National Commercial Bank in Spanish Town, with a $10,000 donation. A school board member donated a 286 computer. Since the interview with Mrs. Manning a printer has been promised by Computers and Communications in Kingston.

"Iíve put in quite a lot of work," Manning said, also crediting staff member Jennifer Higgins with making many contacts with potential sponsors, as well as urging Manning on and checking regularly on her progress.

After the official opening of the lab, Tuesday, Nov. 26, Gierke will assist teachers to become computer literate and to use the computer to teach students reading and other subjects. As the teacher training progresses, teachers will begin to take over instruction of students, with Gierkeís continuing support.

"The teachers are very happy--they are very eager to begin," Manning said. "And the children are just as excited. They want to know when they can use them. And Cathy is excited and ready to begin working with us, and she will continue working, to the point where we can manage for ourselves."

Network brings computer-in-education devotees together

Linking all the ingredients for such progress is the purpose of Gierkeís Computer Facilitation Project. Itís carried on mostly on the internet, and in as many ways as promise to be practical and effective. Internet provider Info Channel donated space for a web site, where people from around the world can visit and learn about the needs of Jamaican schools. The worldwide web address is:

Computer types who have items to donate, or information leading to same, or time to visit Jamaica and work in the schools are encouraged to write an e-mail to Gierke

For schools already on-line, the web page offers information and updates on capabilities that are available. It offers tips and reminders about computer use and makes teaching materials available.

"Download Ďductor," the facilitation projectís bi-monthly newsletter for Jamaican schools, offers the above information, as well. And it brings helps about computer maintenance; awareness of viruses and establishing protective policies against them; teaching methods; time management; and a wealth of other tips and information. "Download Ďductor" is also a place where requests for information may be answered and comments or suggestions aired, for the benefit of its readers.

A third tool the project uses is Jah-Net, an email conference or network for those dedicated to computer-enhanced education. Itís designed to link schools in Jamaica with people who can provide technical and consulting assistance; donations of computers and software; and other resources they need, in order to acquire and maintain computers. Currently, few schools have computers, and those that do lack technical skills to maintain them and use them effectively.

Through Jah-Net, Gierke said, "a gentle man from New Jersey helps collect contributions and get them transported; a mover and shaker in New York has 1,000 computers coming to Jamaica soon, in memory of her mother; and a Kentucky woman has volunteered to visit Jamaica and assist with computers in a school." Those examples, and others, are in addition to the work of many Peace Corps Volunteers, who are busy helping schools acquire and use computers. Gierke expresses the hope that Jah-Net will also become a place where local schools can touch base with concerned knowledgeable computer types, to get answers to computer-related questions.

It is through this email conference that Gierke and the other volunteers coordinate donations, transportation, customs, repairs, distribution, etc. Many dedicated people in the United States work with the project on a continuing basis--interacting and pooling resources and ideas. Interested individuals may join this cyber-community by subscribing to the Jah-Net email conference. Gierke by eMail, or by calling (876)984-3583.

Upon learning of the facilitation project, one potential participant in the United States wrote to Gierke: "This is the first time I have ever heard of such a program. Why isnít it advertised on the local radio stations. . . in the United States?" He said that his company has unused equipment and he would attempt to arrange a donation

Initial focus is on motivating needy learners "Weíre starting (computer classes) with four classes of slow learners in grade six, as a pilot class," Spanish Town Primary Principal Manning said. "We want to get them motivated, to see the importance of being able to read and comprehend--of being able to develop themselves.

"When they are exposed to it, I believe they will develop a higher level of interest and motivation, and it will help them develop skills in other subject areas," she said. "Even some of those who feel they cannot learn will realize theyíre not totally lost. There is potential which can be used to free the challenges" they face in their lives.

"I think this will help their reading skills, too," she said. "The (computer) screen is speaking to them, and they must pay attention to it, to do what is expected. Itís very important that they learn to read."

Although there is currently no office space to accommodate a computer, Manning said she hopes to acquire one for administrative use or, perhaps use one thatís in the computer learning center to do record-keeping and other office functions.

Manningís school does have two typewriters, a luxury not present in a Kingston all-age school which has one, along with one copier, for a population of 1,500 students. "It amazes me" said a Peace Corps Volunteer who works at the Kingston school. As in most schools, attendance is taken by circulating graphs, drawn daily by assistant principals. During each of two daily shifts, a graph makes the rounds of classrooms. Teachers write down the number of students in attendance and the graphs are returned, to be totaled and recorded in the proper log.

This schoolís accounting, such as sales of books or in the tuck shop, is also done by hand, and its 40-plus teachers and staff have one Gestetner copier for their use. This school is working with the Computer Facilitation Project and hoping to receive computers in the next few months. Itís easy to see the savings in time, finances and workload that will be reaped.

Another school working with the facilitation project is Guanaboa Vale All Age, which has a computer in its office and a computer room in the process of being finished. Principal Fay Sewell Hall said that fund-raisers have been a vital part of preparing for computers, and she often finds willing sponsors when they see that the school is working hard to earn funds to enhance its studentsí education. The facilitation project has enlisted the donation of one computer for this school and has been assisting the staff to learn how to use those it has.

Summing up her schoolís entry into the world of computers, Manning (of Spanish Town Primary) said: "I feel quite good about it--that something good has been accomplished; and (about) the fact that it has come onstream within such a short while. When I was introduced to it, cost alone was frightening. Itís as if the Lord just opens the way. I think we are quite blessed."

More information about participating in the project is available by writing Gierke or visit the projectís web page.
Project Catherine

Project developed by Paula Daley-Morris, Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture
Administered by Cathy Lee Gierke, Peace Corps Volunteer


The Catherine Project began as an effort to expose the primary children of Spanish Town Primary to computers by bringing them into the computer lab of neighboring Jonathan Grant High School. A week long workshop was held at the Jonathan Grant lab in August of 1996. Sixth grade teachers from Spanish Town Primary, and several teachers from Jonathan Grant attended to learn about using the computer in the classroom, and incorporating its use into the normal lesson planning.

At the end of the workshop, through Cathyís secondary Peace Corps project, 7 computers became available for Spanish Town Primary. Now Project Catherine concentrates on training the Spanish Town teachers and developing a training curriculum for the students. Jonathan Grant is still a valuable resource in this project, as their students can be drawn upon to assist technically in the lab. Currently, a fifth form student from Jonathan Grant assists, provides technical support, and at times, teaches, in the Spanish Town Computer Learning center.

There are multiple objectives for this project:

* 1. Train the teachers on computers, and computers in the classroom.
* 2. Increase student literacy and numeracy.
* 3. Expose students to the foundation stones of computer literacy.
* 4. Explore and develop a training curriculum to meet these objectives.

Initially, the teachers must be trained to be conversant with computer usage, available software, and incorporating the computer into their normal lesson planning This is done by modeling the teaching of the student classes, and allowing the teacher to teach subsequent classes themselves in order to learn the method. Lesson planning ideas are researched, or created, and evaluated with the teachers. Gradually the teachers will take on all lesson planning and training functions.

The long term objectives of the project are to raise literacy and numeracy skills of the students by using the computer as a teaching aid, while at the same time, teaching the foundation skills of computer literacy. Students gain a critical advantage when learning the computer in higher grades. As schools are finding out, when students begin computer classes with no previous exposure to the computer, lessons progress slowly, and there is not enough time to cover all the material required by the CXC.
Basic Skills

The skills considered to be basic building blocks, are:

* 1. Understanding what all keys are used for, and being able to use them without hesitation.
* 2. Being able to reliably read and understand instructions on the screen, and generalize this understanding. to learn new educational software quickly.
* 3. Be able to create and edit a word processing document, using simple editing commands,
* 4. Be able to explain why you would use a spreadsheet, and use one to add a column of numbers.
* 5. Understand file hierarchy, as evidenced by being able to save documents to a specified location on the hard drive, or on a diskette.


Students come into the computer room and Cathy or her assistant, Alton, teach the class the first few times of any new lesson. Once the teachers have learned the new computer software skills, they take over the class.

Classes are held on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each class is one hour long. (This could perhaps be shortened.) Training is with sixth grade students, currently. Each of the eight sixth grade teachers/classes comes into the lab once per week. There are four classes per day, a different teacher leads each class, each teacher bringing 18 of their students into the computer centre. This is a two shift school, and computer classes are held during the teacher and studentsí off shift, when they would normally not be in class.

Teachers bring a different set of children each week, until their entire class has received the current lesson. Then, we start all over with the first set again, and a new lesson.

To accomplish the objectives established above, the following curriculum is being followed:

* Once class for each set of students to teach the keys, some basic terms, and get some practice using the keyboard by doing an interactive tutorial about the keyboard. (This lesson plan is attached.)
* Several math and reading games are being used as filler material, and to give the students experience using menus, the keyboard, reading the screen, and generally learning how to interface with a computer. (Recently, drilling, long used by teachers, has been popularly recognized as a critical element in learning math. Thereís a big push to copy a Japanese methodology that emphasizes drilling.) This also serves to familiarize the teachers with the available software, building their repertoire of activities to do on the computer.
* Next, lessons will focus on some of the basic functions of a word processor -- entering words, and simple editing skills (insertion and deletion of letters, replacing letters, adding blank lines) and work up to using the copy and cut and paste commands. Other simple word processing skills will also be presented and used, such as spell checking, find and replace, opening an existing file, using the calculator,
* These basic word processing skills are used to complete spelling, grammar and language lessons. Students may be asked to correct the spelling mistakes in a letter, to correct punctuation in a story, or to rearrange words in a sentence to make it grammatically correct, using the cut and paste commands. Other exercises may ask students to complete a sentence with by typing in the correct form of the "to be" verb. Basically any lesson the teacher uses in the classroom can be adapted for the computer, making them more interesting, an reinforcing studentsí computer skills. (Some sample lesson plans have been attached.)
* Eventually, students should be instructed on how to save their documents. Part of this lesson will include explaining how data is arranged on the computer, so students can save files in the correct location.

All along the way, the lessons will be ones that fit into current class curriculum, and complement the teachersí classroom lessons. As teacher become more familiar with the computer and gain skills, lesson plans will broaden. Spreadsheets, research papers, graphics, and many more computer and language skills can be added.
Additional Tools

Lessons can be created for any subject with a program called QUIZ that helps teachers build lists of questions and answers that the student can attempt. Incorrectly answered questions are given to the student again later, until all questions are answered correctly.

A grading program is available on the computer to allow teachers to record student grades. As teachers enter scores for homework or tests, the program automatically calculates the studentís total points, and percentage, as well as an average for the class for that assignment. Many different statistics can be accessed easily as a result of recording individual grades.

A book of lesson planning ideas has been provided for the teachers to use to help generate creative lesson planning ideas.

The internet will soon be incorporated into the programme, beginning with e-mail pen pals in New Jersey. The first project will be to share a list of food items a family might need for a meal, where they would be obtained, and how much they would cost. Students will learn about what people in a different county eat, different sources of food products, prices, and price conversion. They will also practice language skills, as they each compose a letter to a New Jersey student.

More computers are needed to increase the number of times students have access to the computers. There are currently 9 computers. A total of 20 is sought.
Student exercises (errors not corrected)

February 2 is Groundhog Day. a folktale says that on february 2 the groundhog will wake up from its winter's sleep in search of food If the sun is shining when the groundhog steps outside its home, called a burrow, it will be frightened by its shadow and will return to the burrow. this means there will be six more weeks of winter.

if it is cloudy when the groundhog steps out of its burrow, it won't be frightened by its shadow and will stay outside. this means that there will be an early spring. this is a sign to farmers that they can soon begin planting their crops

Rarmers in Europe were the first to believe that animals like hedgehogs and badgers could predict the weather When European farmers came to this country, there were no hedgehogs or badgers, so they chose the groundhog to tell them when spring would arrive

Can the groundhog really tell the coming of spring? What do you think?
St. Valentine

There are many legends about St. Valtine. One legend says that he was a wunderful gardener and raised beauteful flowers. Often he would give them to children who lived near his home in Rome.

When Valentine lived en Rome, it was against the law to preech Christianity. Becus Valentine would not stop preaching, he was put in jail. The children mised him, so they tied notes to flowers and threw them into Valentine's winddow at the jail. Later, he was put to his death. Each year on the anniversary of his death, people send flowers and notes, which they call valentines, to thir friends

Another legend says that wile in jail, Valentine be came friends with the jailer's blind daughter. During their frendship, Valentine wrote letters to her and sighned them, "From your Valentine." Valentine praied for her, and she reganed her sight. From that time on, letters of friendship set on Febuary 14 have been called valentines.

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Story Source: Fun Spot

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