STEM to STEAM

Christine's most recent work has been aiding the first educational affiliate of Strathmore Hall, Young Artists of America, which mentors and trains children to be professional performing artists through social and political collaboration efforts.  She worked as a teacher in Haiti at Hope On A String, a grass roots organization focused on achieving community-driven solutions for the country's development issues.   During her time in Haiti, she educated members of the community by teaching English and assisting in creative collaboration efforts. Her current interest lies in merging the gap between the arts and sciences through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education and using design thinking to reshape higher education across the country. 

 

 

Circles of Reflection

There is a quiet revolution happening right now in Haiti called, reflection circles. I was motivated to live in Haiti because of the opportunity to assist the nonprofit organization, Hope On A String.  What drew me to this organization was their purposeful mission statement which aims to empower the Haitian community and build leadership through artistic expression.  Before my work in Haiti, I had my first experience with a reflection circle in a drama class at NYU.  At the end of class, I told my theatre professor how shocked I was at my ability to feel less inhibited during the exercises when in a circle.  It turns out I was not the first to be excited about this form of sharing.

Reflection circles have been sprouting up everywhere to build stronger institutions like school systems, community development projects, and social businesses. The system of thought evolved from a grassroots movement in Haiti that is now transforming education and leadership globally.   This movement is based upon the formation of a simple circle:  a continual structure that allows no individual to stand in front and no individual to stand behind. The approach allows the moderator to give away authority and helps share power in group discussions.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It has the oldest schooling system in the United States. There have been 33 coup d’etats and other violent changes in government in just the past 200 years stemming from colonialism, slavery and exploitation. While teaching a drama class at Hope On A String, I introduced an exercise to the students with the purpose of exposing vulnerability.  Nearly half of them dismissed the exercise entirely and left the room in fear that they would be judged by their community.   I lied awake that night trying to discover a solution to shift the power dynamics in the class. The next morning, I moved all desks and chairs towards the outside of the community center and directed the students to stand in a circle.  I then asked the oldest man and leader of the village to stand in the center and continue yesterday’s exercise. He immediately surrendered to the text and began to weep on the floor. Two boys gathered around him saying “nou kapab” which in Haitian Creole means, “we can do it.”  The older man pulled himself up to stand and finished the exercise, while shouting triumphantly back to the members of the circle, “Yes. Yes. Yes, we can!”  Suddenly, a domino effect occurred and everyone wanted to participate. The empowerment that the students felt that day reverberated throughout the community.  Not only did the students finish the exercise successfully, they also left the class feeling acceptance from their peers and a compelling reason to be hopeful about the future. 

Reflection circles have been sprouting up everywhere to build stronger institutions like school systems, community development projects, and social businesses. The system of thought evolved from a grassroots movement in Haiti that is now transforming education and leadership globally.   This movement is based upon the formation of a simple circle:  a continual structure that allows no individual to stand in front and no individual to stand behind. The approach allows the moderator to give away authority and helps share power in group discussions.

Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It has the oldest schooling system in the United States. There have been 33 coup d’etats and other violent changes in government in just the past 200 years stemming from colonialism, slavery and exploitation. While teaching a drama class at Hope On A String, I introduced an exercise to the students with the purpose of exposing vulnerability.  Nearly half of them dismissed the exercise entirely and left the room in fear that they would be judged by their community.   I lied awake that night trying to discover a solution to shift the power dynamics in the class. The next morning, I moved all desks and chairs towards the outside of the community center and directed the students to stand in a circle.  I then asked the oldest man and leader of the village to stand in the center and continue yesterday’s exercise. He immediately surrendered to the text and began to weep on the floor. Two boys gathered around him saying “nou kapab” which in Haitian Creole means, “we can do it.”  The older man pulled himself up to stand and finished the exercise, while shouting triumphantly back to the members of the circle, “Yes. Yes. Yes, we can!”  Suddenly, a domino effect occurred and everyone wanted to participate. The empowerment that the students felt that day reverberated throughout the community.  Not only did the students finish the exercise successfully, they also left the class feeling acceptance from their peers and a compelling reason to be hopeful about the future. 

Hope On A String uses the circle formation for most of their class work and community meetings to this day.  It was this little circle of change that cultivated a posture of humility and grace, inspiring others to action. My experience in Haiti taught me that it is essential to keep compassion in mind whether it's performing on stage, conducting business for a Fortune 100 company, or working in a science lab.  I look forward to making my passion for humanity a sole focus of my work.