Greenhouse for Gongthung featured in Green Metropolis

Toronto born BCF teacher Warren Tanner talks more in depth about his School Development Project, Gongthung Greenhouse in a post from Green Metropolis, an online community that empowers the people and city of Toronto to live greener.

Photo Credit: Warren Tanner - Construction of Gongthung Greenhouse
Photo Credit: Warren Tanner – Construction of Gongthung Greenhouse

With our newly constructed greenhouse, Gongthung Middle Secondary School will be able to participate for the first time in Bhutan’s Agricultural and Food Sufficiency Program. Students will be able to learn first-hand a variety of alternative cultivation and harvest methods, with the hopes that they’ll share such knowledge with their families beyond the school gates. In addition to this, and thanks to the overwhelming support our project has garnered, our bonus funds will go toward excursions to regional agricultural research centres, during which students will not only learn about operating a greenhouse but the evolving career options that exist in the rapidly changing agricultural sector, as well. – Warren Tanner

Read more at Young Canadian Hero Grants Green House to Gongthung.

Kuensel Online – Junior Guiding Program

BCF teacher Matthew Stretton is currently teaching English at Yangchen Gatshel Lower Secondary School in Thimphu. Matt has been developing a Junior Guiding Program at his school to provide tourists with the opportunity to experience a glimpse into the traditions and culture in Bhutan, guided by the students! The idea for the program arose out of the many excellent experiences he and his wife Lucy had when visiting their students’ homes, or being guided by them through the local forests. 

Photo credit: Kuensal Online - Students and tourists interact during the tour program last Saturday
Photo Credit: Kuensel Online – Students and tourists interact during the tour program.

Among the tourists was the executive director of the Bhutan Canadian Foundation, Nancy Strickland, who suggested the students write down their experiences and also about the community.

“The program is a win-win situation, as the students improve their spoken English and the tourists get to learn about the community first hand,” she said.

Matt conducted the same program with a group of 20 tourists from Australia a week ago with class VII A students. “It was a success,” Matt said.

For those not familiar with Bhutan or Chamgang, it is a unique opportunity to see a slice of life that they wouldn’t otherwise get to see and a good chance to contribute to the education of the students here, he said.

Read more about the program from the Kuensel Online article – One Unique Program With Twin Objectives.

Tshangkha is Happy!

Inspired by Happy Bhutan, BCF teacher Sarah Diamond and students from Tshangkha Lower Secondary School completed a video for their schools variety show! The intention was to celebrate the school’s beauty and build relationships within the school community. Showing off some light-hearted aspects of school life in the midst of some intense exam preparation!

Check out Sarah’s blog Sarah Out and Abhut and her video here!

School Development Project Update – Gonthung Greenhouse

The Teach in Bhutan program offers teachers more than just the opportunity to teach eager students in the Land of Happiness. It is also an opportunity to generate an even larger positive impact in the greater community!

Bhutanese village of Gongthung
Photo Credit: Warren Tanner

Warren Tanner has been teaching in the Bhutanese village of Gongthung for the past five months, busy with teaching a full schedule, making new friends, and learning a great deal about subsistence farming and the challenges faced by local farmers. Currently, 80% of the population relies on subsistence farming to support their families. However, the three-month growing season is not enough to meet the needs of those living in this school community.

In response to this reality, Warren has developed a plan to grant Gongthung Middle Secondary School and the greater community a Greenhouse! This project, in conjunction with The Bhutan Canada Foundation as part of our School Development Program, is generously supported (in-part) through The EuroCan Foundation.

Learn more about this exciting project at Gongthung’s Greenhouse – and stay tuned for updates!

Do you wish to make an impact in Bhutan? Apply today to Teach in Bhutan!

Stories From the Field – Valerie’s Anecdote

Continuing on with our Stories From the Field, we bring you an anecdote from BCF teacher Valerie Robert who is currently teaching English at Rukubji PS in Wangdue.

Rukubji PS_2
Rukubji PS, Wangdue

It is hard to find simply one moment and one story to illustrate life in Bhutan. It’s more akin to a tapestry of moments colorfully woven together. You wake up pondering what today will bring, and you go to bed realizing you could never have predicted the events of the day, for better or for worse. Maybe you will find yourself in a smoky room during a housewarming, being swung around in a circle by aged grandmothers, dancing and singing to pace of drums beaten by monks. Maybe you will find your way home blocked by a yak. Maybe you will create consternation in your classroom by whistling and inadvertently inviting in the demons, and then have to atone for your sin by spending the rest of the class learning a prayer from your students in order to recite it and chase away the evil. Maybe you will get a spontaneous hug from a student, a little hand in yours, a shy smile, a few kind words. Maybe, as you are walking the 8 km return trip to the nearest shops, someone will offer you a ride, buy your groceries AND buy you dinner, simply because they would like to help you. Maybe your students will give you a surprise party because they have noticed you are lonely. Maybe the cow paths will lead you to a sacred water source, hidden from view deep in a mountain fold, little prayer flags and offerings fluttering in the breeze. Maybe you will one day realize that your mind is calmer and clearer, that your heart beats peacefully, that thought and time have altered, and that the sky, which now seems the limit, is also within reach. That is the true gift of Bhutan.

Thanks for sharing Val!

For more Stories From the Field check out our series!

Stories From the Field – Reading Event at Trongsa PS

We are happy to share another inspiring story from the field! This week, BCF teacher Kyle McGee; who is currently teaching at Trongsa Primary School in Trongsa; participated in managing 400+ students for a reading event held at the school in August.

Photo Credit: Kyle McGee - Class 6 girl helping class 4 boy
Photo Credit: Kyle McGee – Class 6 girl helping class 4 boy
Photo Credit: Kyle McGee - A class 6 girl seems to have tamed a few of the crazier class 4 boys and has them reading!
Photo Credit: Kyle McGee – A class 6 girl seems to have tamed a few of the class 4 boys and has them reading!

It seemed like an impossible task. Manage 400+ 8-10 year old students with only 3 people – one quiet teacher, one caretaker, and myself. All of the other teachers were required to go to a parent meeting and we would have to manage by ourselves. 

As I knew about it the day before, I was able to do some planning. We had all the class teachers tell the students to bring their library books. Saturday would be the first day of a Reading Buddy program we had talked about. 

The next day was challenging to say the least. As there was little supervision, most of the students avoided work during their normal cleanup time. We rang the assembly bell late and that caused more confusion. A sound system was arranged so I could talk to all the students and tell them what was going on. 

Photo Credit: Kyle McGee - A small group of class 4 and 6 girls - A few of them can't read without help..
Photo Credit: Kyle McGee – A small group of class 4 and 6 girls

The concept was simple. Upper class students would partner up with lower class students to help them read their books. Arranging the students was much more of a challenge. After our traditional assembly, we lined up all the students by sections. As I was trying to explain what we would do, the power went out and chaos ensued. Luckily the other few staff members stepped in to help. 

We started matching up students and sent them to areas to start to read together. It took awhile to round up a few students who ran off, but we finally got things going. 

…In the end, we decided to implement this program every Wednesday. We now forgo the morning assembly and 1st period just for reading and it has helped a lot. I’m just glad things worked out and the kids really had lots of fun reading! 

Trongsa PS has a blog, which highlights some of their experiences, the history of the school, and professional development. There are a few posts with absolutely stunning photos about the successful reading program at Trongsa PS, which you can read here: Bhutanese Teachers’ Teaching at Trongsa Primary School.

For more Stories From the Field check out our series!

Stories From the Field – Ashley’s School Development Project

Recently, we have received some incredible stories from our teachers in the field and today, we are excited to bring you one from BCF teacher Ashley Huffmon, currently in her second year teaching at Kanglung PS. Ashley has undertaken the task of revamping her school’s toilet facilities as part of a School Development Project. For 2013, the School Development Program is funded through a grant from the EuroCan Foundation. The EuroCan Foundation focuses on conservation issues, particularly as they relate to renewable energies, climate change and sustainability.

Kanglung-last-1-109Helpful students ready to start!

Ashley’s project for “Clean and Green Toilet Facilities/ Implementing the WASH program” has the goal of reducing germs and incorporating a healthier lifestyle for the students of Kanglung Primary School. Ashley hopes to make the washroom a more welcoming place where the students will use it properly and the facility itself will also be a better, more sanitary place to use the toilets. In addition to making the restrooms look more inviting the students will learn a lifelong lesson on the habits of using the toilet properly to keep themselves healthy, happy, and disease free.

Before PicturesCurrent washroom facilities.

Ashley reports: Each year my foundation allows us an opportunity to do a project that will have a positive impact at our schools. Last year I chose to do a school newspaper and while it was VERY successful, this year I wanted to do something that would have a much greater impact on their lives. This year I chose to completely revamp our school’s toilet facilities. I know it seems like it’s not a big deal, but if you saw what I see everyday, you too would want to do something about it. Most of the students I see everyday simply lack the knowledge of proper hand washing and my school does not have the money in its budget to properly supply the materials and water for every student to be able to wash. In addition to the student’s lack of knowledge for personal hygiene, they are unaware why they are frequently sick. I believe this is in direct correlation to the lack of personal Hygiene and not knowing its importance. However, with the help of this grant I have been able to begin my project and it is now under way.

Helping to PaintEveryone’s helping out!

We have cleared weeds, plants, painted, repaired, and found a new spring for water in the Boys’ toilet. I have hired carpenters to add shelving in both toilets. We have purchased locks, sanitary napkins, toilet paper, and other things to get the project in a “mid-swing”.  My grant money is running out, but I do not want to do my project half way. I am still waiting on bucket donations and bin donations from the Petro station in Trashigang. I am also planning on making sure my school is actually going to start harvesting rain water, so we will never run out of water in the toilets.

Process9A beautiful blue!

Even though I’m teaching 32 hours per week, it feels great to leave school at 6:30PM and know this WILL make an EVERLASTING IMPACT. I can’t wait to show the FINAL project! Coming soon…

Ashley’s project is currently in the middle process; where students, staff, and our passionate BCF teachers join together for the common goal of improving the daily lives of the students and to incorporate healthy strategies for living. We can’t wait to see the final product!

To see past BCF School Development Projects, take a look here: Stories from the Field.

Stories from the Field – Library Improvement

We’re happy to have another wonderful and inspiring story come from BCF teacher, Reidi who taught at Autsho MSS in Lhuntse, and helped improve the library with a School Development Grant from BCF. This is one of the many Stories from the Field.

Before Renovations.

“The Library Improvement Project that has been done at AMSS has been just that: improving. I think one of the most positive outcomes of this project has been that the students themselves were able to take part in the renovations and organizing of the new books and decorations we purchased for the library. They got a sense of excitement and ownership and that generated new pride and interest in the library itself and literacy studies.  

After Renovations!

The reading areas that were once barely used can now be found with students and teachers a like enjoying. Some of the materials that were purchased were used to make books’ catalogue cards that have enabled the librarians to keep inventory of the library’s collection and have aided overall organization. There were over 70 students who were involved with decorations and renovations, and then I was able to make announcements during morning assemblies about what was going on and why. Through this, students learned literacy skills such as alphabetizing, categorizing by genre, and it produced a school-wide interest in reading!

I have used the space to do book circles and talks, led lessons on the proper way to use and care for books, and how to effectively search for one in a well-organized library. I was surprised to learn that this was the first time these basic library/literacy skills have been directly instructed. I feel it’s an honor and privilege to be the one to bring this new and important aspect of student life and learning to my school.

Reidi and her wonderful student helpers!

The principal, staff, and students a like have commented regularly that the work done here and the result of this project will leave a lasting, positive mark on this school. It makes me proud to know I have created something constructive, new and will leave something important behind. We are all so grateful for having been grated this special opportunity through the Bhutan Canada Foundation.”


Thanks for sharing Reidi!

Stories from the Field – Walking after School

Continuing with Stories from the Field, we’re happy to share BCF teacher, Iman’s story, of her experience at Rukubji Primary School.

From the first day, I began the routine of taking a walk after school.

An athlete at home, I needed a way to keep my body moving and wind down after teaching. Since Rukubji is a small village surrounded by mountains and forest, there are beautiful paths to walk. Yet the best walks have been on the road with my students. Many students at my primary school walk for up to an hour to reach school each day.

Walking them home has become a favorite activity. At first, the students were a bit shy to talk and ask questions, but that quickly faded. They began torrential questioning, asking me about all the things I know and don’t know. They began to open up, to talk about their lives, to share jokes, songs, and stories. I can hear the improvement in their English too, as they try to make me understand- searching for words, asking for meanings. They now ask me “Where are you walking today Miss?”, eager that I’ll say the name of their village.

I have developed relationships with my students that would not be possible without these walks. I have learned who they are beyond the classroom, something that is far more difficult to do in an American school. Knowing who they are has helped me teach them. I can draw on my experiences with them and contextualize and connect what we are learning.

One of my favorite walks began with teaching the words to “Doe, a deer …” from “The Sound of Music”. By the time we had reached the road from the path out of Rukubji, I had the whole crew of Chazam-bound students chanting at the top of their voices. We sang the entire 3-kilometer walk, entering the village of Chazam as if we were the musical itself.

These walks will forever be in my heart because of the students who made them so memorable.

Photo Credits: Iman Mefleh

What a great story, thanks Iman!