Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Congratulations Soc 205 Online Service-Learning Students!

I want to congratulate our online service-learning students for a job well done! As mentioned previously on this blog, students in my online course, Soc 205 World Cultures, spent the past 12 weeks working with our service partner, Casa de los Angeles, to create sample blogs that are designed to attract, educate and interact with supporters and volunteers.

This hands-on project, along with in-depth class discussions and reflective journals, helped enrich the study of world cultures and provided a transformative learning experience. Here are our students' "thank you" messages to Casa de los Angeles:

"After we began our service learning project, we realized that what we were doing, creating, and engaging in was more than just a school assignment. What we were involved in was something that we would remember forever; we were actually helping change the lives of others! One might ask what our favorite part of this project was. Some might answer that they enjoyed working on the creation of the blog. Some might say how much they’ve learned about the world around them. Some might even mention the feelings they have when they help others. As for us, we would tell you all of that and so much more!

Donna and Miguel, it’s an incredible feeling knowing that there are people out there like you, who can dedicate their time, energy, and themselves to a greater cause. It has been such an amazing experience working with Casa de los Angeles on our first service learning project. We would like to extend a thank you to you and every person who has been involved with your organization, including all of your little angels, for allowing us to be your service learning partner, and for showing us just how wonderful people can really be. It has been our pleasure."
Sincerely, Team Three, Soc 205 OLS World Cultures Online

"This service project has taught us a lot over the past 12 weeks, and it has been an amazing journey to communicate with you, our professor and classmates online. We have also learned important skills through doing this ASL project. We hope our ideas and sample blog will help Casa de los Angeles continue to build a strong online Casa community.Once again thank you for being our service partner and for this wonderful experience. Please continue what you have been doing for the past 10 years, because you guys have given those children a future. We know the families in San Miguel de Allende must be thankful for what you and your staff have given to them."
Sincerely, Team Four, Soc 205 Online

"Two hands are better than one, and by creating this sample blog, we hope to contribute ideas for bringing awareness to potential donors and volunteers, to help expand the organization and help end poverty. The service project has enriched our learning experience about World Cultures and the culture of Mexico. It has also taught us responsibility and allowed us to help strengthen a community. Thank you for allowing us to be of service to Casa de Los Angeles!" Sincerely, Team One Casa, Soc 205 Online

Below is a message to our students from Donna and Miguel at Casa de los Angeles:

Dear Students of Soc 205 ASL Online,
On behalf of the families we serve in Central Mexico, we would like to thank you for all that you have done to help . . . for the time and energy you have given to your work on our behalf. We look forward to using the ideas you created on your sample blogs to keep our supporters informed.

Isn’t it amazing that through your presence in cyberspace, your love and generosity have become apparent to our staff and the women and children we serve? We have shared the blogs you created with our staff and some of the moms. It is so heart warming to know that the time in your class was memorable and very well spent.

You give us all hope for the future because you have hearts for service and will do remarkable things in your lives. Know that there is an open invitation to you to come and visit us . . . esta es tu casa Mexicana!

Muchas gracias,
José Miguel Hernández Chávez
Donna Quathamer

I have also created a brief overview of the service project with screenshots from the team-created blogs and posted it below. Enjoy!

Dr. Coppola, left, Dr. Kulik, right

My friend and colleague, Dr. Sandra Coppola, Director of Counseling at Berkeley College, visited me in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico last week. While she was staying with me, we visited our academic service-learning partner, Casa de los Angeles, to meet some of the children and volunteers. After our visit, April, a new volunteer at the day care center, took a photograph of us next to one of the beautiful murals painted on the walls of the center.

"I was so happy to have the opportunity to visit Casa de los Angeles, the site for the online ASL project. The center was cheerful and the children and staff were so welcoming. I felt so proud to see the contribution our students made to such a worthwhile organization. The experience of seeing the smiling faces of the children in person is something that cannot be put into words. Thank you!"

--Dr. Sandra Coppola

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

El Dia de los Locos (The Day of the Crazies)

"A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.."
Emily Dickinson
On Sunday, June 13th, San Miguel de Allende celebrates one of its many festivals, El Dia de los Locos (The Festival of the Crazies). The parade of "los locos" will wind its way through the centro right past my house. Participants dress up as clowns, animals, cartoon characters, monsters, famous entertainers, Mexican politicians and cross-dressing men. This week's issue of the local newspaper, Atencion, describes the fascinating history of this festival, which is a blend of Catholicism and paganism.

"This carnival was originally an act of faith and devotion that began in the nineteenth century, when orchard workers danced to give thanks and ask San Pascual Bailon, patron saint of food, for a prosperous year. Today, some of the Locos participate in the parade not only for fun, but also to show their devotion to San Pascual Bailon.

During colonial times, San Miguel was surrounded by large orchards. They were all irrigated with natural springs and the water was carried through channels all around the city. The Franciscan friars at the Tercera Orden monastery, next to San Francisco church, held a celebration outside the church for the orchard workers to honor San Pascual Bailon on his day. In the afternoon, the friars went to the orchards to bless the crops.

The Locos parade derives from the orchard workers' dance on San Pascual Bailon Day. As onlookers increasingly crowded the dancers, some of the older celebrants began to disguise themselves as scarecrows to keep the crowd at a distance so the children would have room to dance. They also brought small wild animals such as racoons, skunks or possums to scare the crowd away. The people began to call them "locos", the name they still carry today. Later on, the Locos began to dress not only as scarecrows but also as clowns with colorful costumes and cardboard masks. The orchard laborers were divided into workgroups called cuadrillas, and each cuadrilla performed its own dance. This is how the current groups, called cuadros, began; The modern Locos parade actually condenses several celebrations into one event: San Isidro Day on May 15, San Pascual de Bailon Day on May 17, Corpus Christi, and San Antonio's Day on June 13" (Que Pasa, Atencion San Miguel, June 4, 2010, pg 2)

Visiting Our Service-Learning Partner

As my online students put the finishing touches on their service-learning projects, I am back in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where I will be meeting with our service-learning partner, Donna Quathamer, of Casa de los Angeles. Student teams are using their social media skills to create prototypes of a web log (blog) for this non-profit day care center. They are doing a superb job and have demonstrated sincere commitment to our service partner. Not only are the student-created blogs educational (about the culture of Mexico and mission of Casa de los Angeles), they are also designed to engage and update supporters and volunteers about news and events. By next week, we will be ready to present our projects to Casa de los Angeles!