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Teachers’ junket will bring Africa to Hall students

POSTED: June 6, 2009 12:10 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

North Hall Middle School teacher Kathy Mellette shows a snakeskin Wednesday to Ben Finley, 11, as part of the water conservation class during the summer SEARCH camp at Martin Elementary School. Mellette is one of two Hall County teachers going to Tanzania with a University of Georgia teacher education program.

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Two Hall County gifted teachers hope to bring pearls of East African culture to their students following a monthlong expedition in Tanzania.

North Hall Middle teacher Kathy Mellette and Friendship Elementary teacher Toney Lancaster trekked to Tanzania on Friday in association with the University of Georgia African Studies Institute.

The Hall teachers are two of eight East Coast K-12 teachers participating in the Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad Short Term Seminar based at the Tumaini University Makumira College campus in Arusha, Tanzania.

The seminar aims to augment African language and culture programs at the University of Georgia and in K-12 educational curriculums. Lancaster and Mellette said they will weave East African units prompted by the expedition into their classroom learning experiences this fall.

"It’s a different world than where they (Hall students) grew up in," Lancaster said of Tanzania. "They need to see there are places in the world other than Gainesville, Ga."

Since November, the teachers have been taking intense Swahili language courses in Athens to prepare for the trip.

While in Tanzania, they will visit public and private schools, as well as the famed Ngorongoro and Serengeti national parks. Mellette said the Ngorongoro Crater is one of the best known wildlife reserves in Africa and was the setting for the Disney animated film, "The Lion King."

The North Hall Middle teacher said while at Ngorongoro National Park, she’s hoping to see all of the "big five" African animals: buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.

The local teachers will pursue different aspects of Tanzania’s culture during the trip.

Lancaster will be teaching Tanzanian students about aerodynamics and the physics that make airplanes fly.

"They’ll be creating planes that really work," she said. "I know they usually see planes, but they don’t know much about them. So I think it would be good for them to understand something that’s really far away, but really close."

Lancaster said she’ll be collecting information, artifacts and photos to document Tanzanian history, culture, animals and conservation efforts to share with her Hall County elementary schoolers.

Mellette has a slightly more serious agenda.

"I’m very interested in their public health and AIDS issues," she said.

And Mellette will be learning about Tanzania’s conservation efforts and teaching Tanzanian children about Georgia’s ongoing efforts to preserve the Chattahoochee River.

"My focus is that even in Georgia, students know about conservation stuff, like don’t take long showers because we’re in a drought," she said. "So I hope they’re learning that over there."

Mellette said potable water is the No. 1 limiting health factor worldwide.

To prevent incurring disease themselves, the teachers took malaria pills and received numerous shots for polio, typhoid, yellow fever, hepatitis and tetanus among other diseases.

"Our arms are living sacrifices," Lancaster said.

But the teachers said the needle pokes will be worth it. Lancaster also is seeking outdoor adventure and will stay on a week extra to hike Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Even after they learned they will be landing on a dirt runway, the ladies are still jazzed about their African adventure.

"It’s about connecting our world," Mellette said. "Teachers are teachers no matter where you are. We all share the same dreams and hopes and that’s what Toney and I are getting the chance to do."



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