MPH Panama Practicum 2013: La escuelita!

Nicole Woyak
July 12, 2013

Today marks the end of our first week of working at La Escuelita, and was probably one of the most fun days I’ve had so far in Panama. After another early bus ride, we arrived at La Escuelita and learned that the nutrition presentation we had worked on all night had been pushed back until Monday, and that we would be leading today’s physical education classes instead. At first, I was extremely disappointed because I had planned on preparing a yoga class to do with the kids next week. I had absolutely nothing prepared for today and we were all panicking when we were told we had only a few minutes to improvise a class. I quickly realized I didn’t know the necessary vocab to pull off a yoga class, so we came up with a few simple games and activities instead.

We first worked with a group of first grade students. Roxy suggested that we divide the kids into groups for a soccer activity. Roxy, Phillip, Michelle, Helen, Elaine, and I each received a group of four kids and numbered them one through four. Then, one of us would call out a number (ex. DOS!), and all the kids who had received that number would run into the court to play, and the first kid to score a goal would win a point for their team. The kids LOVED this, and we let them play for about 20 minutes. Then, we had them all sit in a circle and played “gato gato perro” (our version of duck duck goose), which they also loved. Next, we taught the kids the “Gangnam Style” dance. A lot of the kids already knew it, so I only had to show them the steps a few times before we all did it together. It was so cool to see all the kids, as well as my other teammates and professor, laughing and doing this ridiculous dance. We still had a little bit of time left after Gangnam Style, so we played freeze dance to “Beat It” because one of the girls had told me that Michael Jackson was her favorite singer. The kids had great dance moves, and one of the little boys did the moonwalk and it was probably the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.

After the first class, we had a short break before going on to work with a group of fifth graders. We started with the same soccer game, and these kids also had a great time with it. They then asked us if they could divide into two big teams and play against each other. Since these kids were a little bit older, they didn’t need as much direction and we just let them play for most of the class. The kids were great soccer players and had a blast. We finished the class by setting up some chairs for a relay race, which was also a lot of fun!

These kids were absolutely amazing. They were all extremely energetic, sweet, and polite. They were so enthusiastic about everything, and whenever I asked for a volunteer for one of the games, I found myself with a dozen smiling kids running towards me, jumping up and down, raising their hands and begging to be picked. Seeing how excited they were to play with us was one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced.

Over the past few days, the kids have become more comfortable with us and I’ve made several new little friends. They have as many questions for me as I do for them, and we’ve had a lot of insightful conversations. They’ve been VERY patient with my mediocre Spanish and have taught me a ton of new words. Several of them wanted to know what America was like and if it snowed there. Many expressed a desire to travel to other countries, especially America.

Although today didn’t start off the way I had planned, it ended up being amazing and taught me a lot about being flexible. Furthermore, interacting with these incredible kids today really motivated me to keep working hard on our deliverables. I really want to produce something that will positively impact these kids, because they really deserve it.


About the MPH Panama Practicum

A group of University of Southern California graduate students are researching public health in Panama City, Panama, for a two-week international practicum, organized by the USC Master of Public Health (MPH) program. This post was excerpted from panama.usc.eduView all posts in this series »