Manila: Benignio “Ninoy” Aquino High Schoo

Today, was an unbelievable day, as always. After an amazing day exploring the city and visiting the Fulbright Foundation, we toured the Benignio Aquino High school. This school is one of the top schools in Makati, and one of the top schools in the country. It’s truly amazing! They have an ECO PARK in the middle of their school!!! More on that later.

We were introduced to the school in the conference room. First, was introduction, followed by a prayer and singing of anthems, both Filipino and American. I must confess, that I stumbled a bit as I sang the US National Anthem. T_T I was so nervous!!! After that, we heard speeches and had a round-table discussion. It was inspiring hearing so many students speak fervently about the power of education, and how much they valued the efforts and work of their teachers. During our discussion, we talked about the different roles teachers can play: facilitator, leader, sage, cheerleader, guide, parent, and guardian. It was fascinating to hear that such roles were mostly held in common between our two countries.

After our round-table, we toured the school and observed several classes. One class was taking a quiz on biology (circulatory system), another was studying Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion (Action/Reaction Pairs– they termed this “the Law of Interaction”). This class was outstanding, and the teacher used some of the same strategies that I used. She broke the kids up into 5 groups (each of about 8 kids) and each group was assigned a task: Act it, Draw it, Write it, Build it, and Watch it. They had 15 minutes to complete their task before they had to present to the class. Everything was efficient and orderly, even when the students were outside working. She had the students evaluate each other, and provided her own evaluation. She made time with all the groups, and checked for understanding between all members. It was amazing to observe a strategy I do myself. I was able to pick up a few tips and tricks: rather than have fill out long evals (which are a pain for them to write and  for me to read), have them just give a slip of paper (red, green, or yellow) based on the rubric I gave them. If I train them right, the paper would be better feedback than having them write long defenses of their grades.

The real highlight, for me, anyway, was the ECO PARK. This school has truly embraced sustainability and environmental education. They have an actual park with trees, a river, and pond! There are tables for reflection and study, a greenhouse, recycling, and plants, EVERYWHERE. On one side of campus, there is an edible garden, and behind campus they’re growing mushrooms and herbs, and doing hydroponics. Teachers of all classes take their students to these places to learn. They write haiku and other poems about the garden for language class, they study how the foods in the gardens are important to their culture in Filipino and Social Studies class, etc. The recycling is used to fund the garden, and they cook at eat what they grow. It is embraced by the school, because the school sees it as important to include it in their lessons.

My take away from this: I need to sell my garden more to the staff. The place is meant for the whole staff to use as their classrooms, but I’m not sure that my colleagues realize that. They don’t want to go in and step on my toes. Which, is admirable. But, the place is meant for everyone. I need to make that more apparent to my colleagues. Also, I’m going to redouble my efforts to create spaces of beauty and peace throughout my campus. If the school is pretty, then people will act accordingly, as they say. They will take pride in the school if they see people taking pride in it and making something for them.

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