Service & EE

Local and Global Service Experiences :
Biology and English Teaching, Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

In December 2006 I was fortunate to travel to Gongo Lamboto, a small town south of Dar-es-Salaam, to teach Biology and English to incredibly motivated students. Below is a short vignette that describes my day-to-day experience in Tanzania.

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Standing in a small gray classroom, with cold concrete walls, I greet my youthful Tanzanian students enthusiastically, “Habari za asubuhi! Mambo?” Good morning! How are you?

The teenage students respond in unison, “Poa! Vipi?” Good. And you?

“Swari.” I reply, with a conspiratorial smile on my face. The class giggles at my use of the Swahili word for “groovy.”

I catch one bright, young man still peering through the barred windows, looking out onto the dusty dirt roads and outdoor markets of Gongo La Mboto, our small town outside Dar-es- Salaam, Tanzania.

“Let’s begin,” I smile, “Has any one here ever seen a lizard?” Half of the class raises their hands. “Where did you see this lizard? And where do you normally find lizards? What kind of habitat do they like?” I emphasize the word habitat, and write it on the board.

The students begin listing the places they had found lizards: “On the wall!”

“On a tree!”

“In the bathroom!” This response elicits happy laughter.

“Why might you find a lizard in the bathroom?” I question the class, thinking about the buckets of river water used to flush the pit toilets, “What might be in the bathroom that the lizards would need?”



Very good, I think to myself. They’re really going to enjoy our animal observation projects this week!

Bridge Building at Occoneechee Mountain, Hillsborough, NC

In September 2007, I worked with Ranger Chris Grenier at Occoneechee Mountain State Park, Hillsborough NC, to build a footbridge on a new trail along the river. With the help of dedicated volunteers, we were able to install the bridge in record time.

Environmental Education and Water Quality Monitoring as an AmeriCorps Volunteer, Knoxville, TN

In August 2002, I began service as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Knoxville, TN. My first mission was to teach local high school and middle school students about ecology, especially stream ecology. This experience whetted my appetite for formal classroom teaching, but also reminded me of the importance of hands-on experience and service-learning. Teaching at Stock Creek High School was especially enlightening (please see my Teaching Philosophy for details.)
Newspaper article about our work at Austin East High School, CAC Americorps, Knoxville, TN

My second mission was to monitor the water quality of a number of Knoxville's streams. I spent weeks performing surveys, where I analyzed the physical properties of the stream, including stream velocity and depth. This also meant taking a number of water samples and quantifying their basic chemistry (e.g., N, P and dissolved O2 concentrations) and the degree of bacterial contamination (i.e., fecal coliform levels). The best part of a stream survey was the biotic inventory: I loved identifying the fish and tiny macroinvertebrate larvae of Knoxville's waterways.

Stream monitoring as an Americorps Volunteer in Knoxville, TN