Hello again, everybody from Roatán, Honduras! As of today I have officially been on the island for one month. In some ways it feels like I’ve been here for a while, I’ve gotten used to my new routine, found a favorite coffee shop, and gotten to see most parts of the island. Mostly, however, I seriously cannot believe how fast the time is flying by! With one month down, and about one month left, now is the perfect time to take a minute to reflect on what I’ve actually been up to so far. Here’s a small update on both work and life on Roatán. 

Pretty much everyone we’ve asked has named this beach, Camp Bay, one of their favorite places on the island.

The Work

To my fellow IEDP Cohort-Mates, remember when we were told that our internship experience would likely not turn out exactly as we expected?  Well in my case, the always wise Dr. GK has turned out to be right yet again. You may remember from my last blogpost that the bulk of our scope of work on Roatán was going to be data collection (so visiting schools implementing the program, assessing kids’ knowledge learned with a test instrument) to monitor the program’s progress. Well, the current political climate of Honduras has led to a change plans. A move to institute major education reform back in April instigated nation-wide teacher strikes that have led to school closures, on and off, for the past couple of months. Since my arrival, school has pretty much been off. The causes of the strikes are, of course, deep and complex, and transcend the education sector; so as a short-term intern, it’s unclear if I’ll be around to see the stakeholders reach an agreement. The implications of this for my internship experience: no school = no data collection. 

But in the spirit of blooming where you’re planted – we were asked for a monitoring report, and will do our best to produce a monitoring report!  Rather than collect quantitative data on student achievement, we have taken a turn for the qualitative. After developing an interview protocol designed to understand teachers’ experiences with the program, we have so far met and conducted interviews with 12 public school teachers. The experience has been by far my favorite part of the summer to date. Through these interviews, we’ve met a group of incredibly passionate and dedicated educators who were kind enough to share their experiences with us –their teaching strategies, challenges and barriers, motivations and aspirations. In addition to introducing us to some incredible people, the interviews also helped us to better understand the context in which the program is operating. Teachers were kind enough to invite us to visit their schools to chat, even though there was no class. See a bunch of pictures below!

This classroom had a beautiful underwater mural covering all four walls. One of the teachers actually painted it himself!
The first school we visited! What you can’t see is that this school is actually up a HUGE hill, and there is a view of the ocean right behind me!

But as I learned in Qualitative Modes of Inquiry last semester, qualitative research can be a very time-consuming an iterative process. A number of interviews under our belt, we moved on to transcriptions (so. much. typing.), and in the past couple of days, to analysis! We’ve really only just begun, but I am already excited to watch themes and patterns emerge from the interviews, and develop into something more coherent!    

Apart from this whole process we are always multitasking, working on a number of other things at once! Here’s a brief overview of some of the other tasks we’re juggling on a daily basis:

  • Instrument Design: We have been super busy developing a couple of different assessment instruments! First we came up with a series of quizzes (one for each unit of the program) that teachers can use to periodically check their students’ mastery of the lesson objectives using the program. We also developed an oral assessment tool, which, back when we were going to do quantitative data analysis, was intended to measure student learning to monitor program effectiveness. We learned how to use some survey design software so that the assessment can be delivered on an app via tablet. We had a lot of guidance in working our way through the software (and a lot a loot of help with the coding), but I still felt really proud of what we built!
  • Proposal Development: I’ve been helping out by drafting an initial version of a proposal to secure additional funding to expand the program. It’s in the super early stages, but I am still very thankful for all the Concept Note practice. 
  • Program Content: Early on in the summer we were busy generating content for the second version of the program – writing stories to match each lesson’s objectives. Now that that’s done, we’ve been checking everything over. So, looking through the program and matching it to the teachers guide to make sure that everything is aligned. 
I saw this little guy in the tree outside my bedroom today.

Everything else!

On top of all this, we’ve had a lot of time to explore Roatán!

A few weeks ago, we made friends with a lovely family local to the island, who took us to a Pirate festival in a town called Jonesville! The festival had all sorts of food, reggae music, fireworks, and attendees from all over the world. 

In a personal highlight, I finally got to try snorkeling. Roatán is home to one of the largest reefs in the world, and people come from all around the globe to dive here. I personally am no scuba diver, but the other day with just a snorkel and some flippers I finally got to see the reef. I can definitively say that it was beautiful.I have no photos to show for it – you’ll just have to imagine fish and coral and eagle rays and beautiful clear water. 

We finally tried a plate of Machuca! Machuca is a typical Garifuna dish: essentially a supremely delicious seafood soup served with mashed plantain.

Through a friend/taxi driver/tour guide we met on our first day, we were also able to take a boat ride through a mangrove forest! Growing up in South Florida, I saw mangroves all the time. This, however, was something different. The boat took us through mangrove tunnels that looked like they belonged in a storybook, then led us out to a shallow pool at the end where we could go swimming! 

Me very happy because I’m on a boat through the Manglar

Meanwhile, today is one of the first rainy days that we’ve had on the island so far, and we are all enjoying the cool (albeit humid) air. With one month left I’m looking forward to continuing to do all the exploring that time permits. With that, I think you are all up to date for now!