Sunday, February 26, 2017

Friday Fun-day

It's Carnival season here in Dominica (similar to Mardi Gras in New Orleans). There will be no school on Monday and Tuesday as our village joins with the rest of the island in a big celebration prior to the start of Lent. [Click here to read my account of the carnival celebration last year.]

This year, I didn't attend the big kick-off parade in the capital (which I wrote about last year), but I did try to go to the parade in the second largest city of Portsmouth. Unfortunately, their parade was held on Sunday, February 12, and buses don't normally run on Sundays here. It took too long to get there, and so we only caught the tail end of the parade. I did enjoy “dancing” with some of my young female students riding on my shoulders, as shown below amidst the crowd that followed along behind the band in the final float.

Last year, the Friday preceding Carnival was called “Freaky Friday” which I wrote about in this story. This year, our celebration was called “Friday Fun-Day” and took place on February 24. Coming up with a costume is always difficult for me, but this year I decided to try and create a suit of armor out of aluminum foil and silver duct tape. Isn't it every woman's dream to fall for a knight in shining armor? Unfortunately, I ran out of foil before I could totally finish it (maybe that's why there were no women throwing themselves at me). The kids seemed to enjoy it, though. Several of the local villagers got a good laugh seeing me walking to school at 8:00 AM in full costume.
One of the first activities of the day was to hold a parade from the school, past the playing field, and up the main street in the village before returning. It was similar to the Diabetes March we held a few months ago, except that our students were all dressed up in a variety of costumes, ranging from store-bought masks to a simple large rice bag with neck and arm holes, and plenty of scissor cuts to create fringe. Unlike the modern Halloween “industry” in America, most of these creations were handmade by the students.
A variety of organized games were played throughout the day. For example, marbles were placed in a water-filled tub that was filled with large chunks of ice, with ping-pong balls floating on top. The object was to stick one foot into the ice cold water, pick up marbles with your toes, and then drop them in a cup about a yard away from the tub, all within 60 seconds.
Another game was a version of “Pin the tail on the donkey,” but this was “Put the nose on the clown.” Students were blindfolded and spun around before trying to stick the nose in the middle of the clown's face. [I'm the one who drew the clown's face.] Notice the student dressed like an old man on the left of the clown poster below—he played his role quite well.
A very talented woman provided face painting, as shown in the following pictures.
My biggest contribution to the celebration was to conduct the first-ever model rocket launches in my village. For the weeks leading up to this day, I had worked with the fifth and sixth graders, teaching them about rocketry. We built our own launch pad, using scrap wood, a coat hanger, and a tin can lid. We built our own electronic launch controller as well. I also taught them how we could determine the altitude the rocket reached.
Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in coordinating the launches, that I didn't take any pictures. However, I was given the picture above, which shows me supervising a few of the kids, crouching behind the makeshift protective blast screen near the launchpad (which was too far to the right to be included in this picture). However, you can see a girl dressed in a Minnie Mouse costume standing against the light pole in the distance behind us. She is one of four students (distributed around the field) viewing the rocket through a paper tube, waiting to follow it to its zenith, and then record the angle from their pre-measured positions. Using these angles (and a tangent table) we could mathematically calculate the altitude.
By the end of the day, everyone had a great time! Plus, all the kids are eager for more rocket flights. They loved the sound and smoke of the rocket blasting off from the launch pad, climbing almost out of sight, and then seeing the orange and white parachute unfurl for a slow return to earth. Model rocketry was a big hobby of mine when I was their age, and it was a “blast” for me to share this experience with them (using an Estes rocket and B6-4 engines, just as I had used in my youth). Besides having fun, hopefully they learned some science and math as well.

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