Researcher to present lesson plan to officials

PHILIPSBURG–Dutch researcher and University of St. Martin (US) lecturer Jordi Halfman will be presenting the educational lesson plan she developed during her research in local schools to St. Maarten officials during a ceremony that will be organised by USM later this month.

The plan will be presented to amongst other persons Education Minister Silveria Jacobs, Members of Parliament (MPs) who are part of Parliament’s Educational Committee, the Dutch representation on the island and school board representatives. The lesson plan will also be shared with Ministers and Commissioners of Education from the other Dutch Caribbean islands.

Halfman has been living in St. Maarten since August 2015, learning about the island to better understand the ways in which primary school pupils “imagine belonging in St Maarten.”

Halfman’s work is part of a collaborative effort between the University of Amsterdam, University of Utrecht and USM funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO. The effort is entitled “Imagining the nation in the classroom.”

In 2014 the NWO decided to invest in research in the Dutch Kingdom, focusing on transitions after 10/10/10 and it provided funding to different research groups. The research group that Halfman is part of is headed by University of Amsterdam researcher and USM President Dr. Francio Guadeloupe. Instead of using surveys or questionnaires the group opted to invest in long-term in-depth fieldwork in St. Maarten and St. Eustatius.

Halfman said she is a PhD candidate who was assigned to do fieldwork in St. Maarten. She was invited to teach at USM and to live and learn amongst residents.

“My research has focused on the way national belonging is taught and learned in the primary schools on the island. An important tool in creating this sense of “us,” making children see themselves as St. Maarteners instead of say Sabans or Dominicans is socialisation in the classrooms: singing the St Maarten song, learning about the island’s flora and fauna, doing traditional dances, participating in festivities such as St. Maarten Day celebrations, carnival, etc.,” she said. “Of equal importance is how the teachers address the students. Do they call them St. Maarteners next to the various ethnic backgrounds of their parents?”

She said to get a grasp of what is happening in the classrooms she spent time in five different schools on the island. “The boards welcomed me and the managers of the different schools introduced me to their staff and allowed me to join students in different classrooms. After this initial three-month introduction period, school manager Mr. Stuart Johnson welcomed me to Martin Luther King Jr. Primary School. There I became a teaching assistant in grade three and six. This allowed me to learn from the students while I helped them in mastering their math problems and practicing their language skills,” she said.

“What I have learnt in the classroom from your children is mind-blowing. They take all that the adults present them with – religious, ethnic, racial, sexual and national identities – and create something new: a way of relating to each other that includes, while critically embracing differences, an open and inclusive belonging, hospitable to the national particularity of St Maarten. I have come to the realization that I and my fellow academics and policy makers, here and in the wider Kingdom, can learn as much from them as we must teach them.”

She thanked all those who assisted her during her journey including pupils she worked with, schools and everyone else.

She said the lesson-plan has been developed on the island and will be first taught in the Netherlands. “I hope it contributes to an understanding in which all of us in the Kingdom, on each side of the big lake, realise that respect is a two-way street. Herein we must be willing to learn from each other and grow together. The time in which all teaching methods came from the Netherlands to St Maarten and the rest of the islands should be passé,” she said.

Persons interested in viewing a video on the presentation of the outcome of the pilot studies on implementation of the lesson plan, can go to YouTube page:

Source: Daily Herald
Researcher to present lesson plan to officials