By Dr. Stuart Carroll
Department of Early Childhood and Elementary Education
The students in Dr. Stuart Carroll's Junior Professional Experience class, together with the children of Joyce Kilmer Elementary School in Trenton, are conducting a book drive to benefit schools in The Gambia, West Africa. This service-learning project started in September and is expected to continue throughout the year. Once the books are shipped to The Gambia, students at the American Embassy School of Bajul will distribute them to local schools. Headmaster Jim Swetz is excited about the prospect of connecting his students to the local community in this manner. Two student teachers from The College of New Jersey will complete approximately seven weeks of their culminating field experience in The Gambia this spring, and they will assist with the logistics of the project.
The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in the world, and schools there have virtually no resources. Often, a class of forty students will share a single textbook. Some schools have small libraries, but do not let students use them, because the books are so precious. Peace Corps volunteers who have spent time in The Gambia have been helpful consultants to the project. They have recommended that the book drive focus on dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases and other reference books, elementary-level readers and textbooks, and children's picture books, particularly ones about animals.
In The Conceptual Framework for Professional Education: Creating Exemplary Professionals, The College of New Jersey's School of Education expresses a strong commitment to global education, and to the development of teachers who adopt a leadership and advocacy role in schools and in the community. This project has helped junior education majors develop their international perspectives, and see service as an integral part of a teaching career. The children at Kilmer have broadened their horizons and benefited from learning about Africa from participating in philanthropic service. Every class at Kilmer has a collection box, and the children have been wonderfully generous in sharing their used books. Since not all children have books to contribute, some have helped out by packing books, writing books, and writing letters to children in The Gambia, which will be included when the books are sent.
This project would not have been possible without the support of John Goulding, principal of Kilmer School, and the patience and generosity of his staff members. The PDS Network and the Office of International Studies, have succeeded in working collaboratively to bring distant parties together in this international project.
If anyone has books to donate, or would be interested in involving children from their schools in this project, or a similar one, he or she should call Stuart Carroll at 609.771.2221.