Portuguese Professional Development: Brazil on the Move K-16 Teacher Workshop

This summer I spent almost a week at the University of Georgia as part of the Somos Nós teacher workshop, again with my friend over at Taught2Travel.  This is my third year attending the series and like every year, it keeps getting better!  I was able to obtain a scholarship to attend through Vanderbilt University that paid for my housing and transportation to and from campus.  Shout out to Vanderbilt University for the support and for providing amazing programming in Latin American studies for educators across the country!

Here is a run down of some of the activities that I participated in.  I truly recommend this to all teachers who are interested in Latin America.  Below is a day-by-day recap of my experiences. Enjoy!

Day 1:  I arrived to Athens, GA around 2 pm, just in time for the welcome reception at the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute which started at 5:00 pm.  We watched an amazing social commentary film on Brazil called "Quanto vale ou e por quilo?".  It's on YouTube and you can watch it for free.  It has English subtitles, so no worries, if you do not speak Portuguese.  The movie was an opener to the comparisons that we would be making in the institute between the US and Brazil.  I have plans to watch this with my husband when I return home.

Day 2: We were privy to another presentation by Professor Alicia Monroe of Vanderbilt University (she presented at a previous Somos Nós workshop at Tulane University) titled, "Slavery and Beyond: Legacies of the Transatlantic Slave Trade to Brazil".  Her work is very much related to my dissertation topic and I was able to gain some perspectives that I had not previously considered.  Later we learned about the relationship between the US and Brazil.  Lastly, we worked on games, learned some beginning Portuguese and worked on writing our curriculum.

Day 3: On this day we started our day at the Ethnobotanical Garden at the University of Georgia.  Karen Bryan lead us on a tour of plants that are used in Brazil and Latin America.  We ate from a stevia plant, yes, the origin of the little sugar packets Stevia in your local grocery store. The plants were soooo surprisingly sweet!  It would be great to start a portable garden in schools with edible plants.  This way I wouldn't have to worry about who would take care of the plants during the summer.  Karen also offered to give us plant clippings to take home with us to start our own ethnobotanical garden.  I will be taking her up on the offer! We finished the morning learning more about the relationship between Brazil and the US.  After lunch, we listened to another lecture by professor Alicia Monroe, titled, "Changing Concepts of Citizenship in Brazil" where she shared her work on considering how enslaved Africans and their descendants enacted citizenship amongst themselves. We also worked on our curriculum.  After the workshop, we ventured out into Athens and visited some bars that were playing live music and jam sessions which has sort of become a love of ours on these trips.  Viva la música!

Day 4:  Today is our last full day of classes.  We had a capoeira workshop from an instructor and anthropologist doctoral candidate from Capoeira Passo a Frente in Atlanta, GA. We heard parts of her ethnography where those who practice capoeira in Brazil talk about how capoeira had saved, inspired and shaped them.  We practiced capoeira again.  I would venture to say that I am not the most enthusiastic about doing the movements of capoeira, but this time the presentation allowed us to do more of the musical parts of capoeira and I found that to be more agreeable and to my liking.  As a music lover, finally I was able to make music as a part of my capoeira experience.

For our next institute,  I would like to have a samba class as we have reviewed so much capoeira in these workshops.  After lunch we had another Portuguese lesson where we learned about how to describe ourselves and others.  This was our last day of Portuguese.  I have attended two institutes with Lunara from the University of Georgia as our Portuguese instructor, and as always, she was great!

We later learned about the past and present fate of indigenous peoples of Brazil from Priscilla Cardosa from the University of Coimbra (Portugal).  I think the indigenous narratives are so often erased and omitted from the colonization story and it was helpful to understand how they fit into the narrative of the formation of Brazil.  She showed us a video of a first encounter with members of an indigenous tribe on the Brazil/Peru border.  It was reminiscent of the colonizing story that I had envisioned over the years after studying the histories of the Americas.  I am thankful and appreciative that this perspective was included.

We were told about the plans for next year.  They are planning a trip for educators to Brazil from July 8 - July 22 in Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. They want the price to be no more than $3,500 for each person. They asked us for our thoughts and recommendations. The University of Georgia already has a sister campus through its Portuguese Language Flagship Program.  Hopefully, it is a go and I will be writing from Brazil (again) in 2018!

Later, Marky, a US citizen and Brazilian professor who had been living in Brazil for 15 years and shared with us about the Brazilian education system.  She also received her master's degree in Brazil and offered us a very distinct perspective on her experience working as a professor at a federal university and enrolling her children in her school.

For the rest of the time we worked on our curriculum in preparation for Friday's presentation.  We were told that Karen had left a couple of cuttings for us from the Ethnobotanical Garden  at the Latin American Studies Institute, but when we got there she had labeled and potted all of the cuttings! She was so kind and so thoughtful for doing that.  I have a black thumb, but the fact that she took the time to pot about 100 plant cuttings for us gave me the confidence to at least try and make a garden for my house , my school and possibly my church.  The themes for the gardens that I would like to create are edible gardens for healthy living, so I grabbed sage, black mint, tarragon, lemongrass, stevia, hibiscus and rosemary.  They were all plants that can be boiled or in some way used to make something edible, like tea.  I think my husband will be very proud!  As always, it was a pleasure to attend today's institute.

Day 5:  Today was the last day.  This is always the hardest day because the institute is ending. We had about a hour to finish our curriculum and then we presented them. My lesson plan is centered about teaching reluctant middle school readers about Brazilian orixás through the theme of superheros.  Comparing US superheros and the orixás and having them make their own superhero story.  With all of the recent super hero movies, it would not be hard for them to make that connection.

Steve shared with us the video for the Portuguese Flagship Program that the University of Georgia hosts.  What a great program! Qualified undergraduate students get $15,000 to go and study abroad to Brazil for a year.  I wish we had this when I was an undergraduate! Please, if you know any students really into languages who would love to study Portuguese, even if they never have before, the University of Georgia offers an amazing program that makes it possible for even out-of-state students to attend.

We had an amazing lunch from a local Latin restaurant and everyone went their own way!  Until next time!

Here are pictures from the institute 


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