The Muskoka Foundation believes that education is one of the most important tools to get people out of poverty. In fact, the basis for all of our own programs is training. Providing people not only with the opportunity and materials but the know-how to succeed allows communities to move beyond charity and the cycle of dependence into creating their own success.
There have been significant advances in educational techniques in the last decades, the use of technology, new educational games, global links in science projects, and drama and art as new teaching methods. There are also new ways to manage classrooms better and improve performance outcomes through innovative use of technology. Finally, there are interesting ways to get students to develop a more aware and persistent approach to their own lives by learning about other cultures by new links and travel programs.
The Muskoka Foundation hopes to leverage these advances in a portfolio of educational initiatives that travelers leverage in their interactions with developing communities, specifically:
Communities with existing computers and connectivity
1) Technology use training: millions of computers have already been donated and left in schools around the world, however, difficulties arise in many cases due to lack of training, fear of theft, breakage or lack of electricity. The Muskoka Foundation Education Program follows the 'train the trainer' model by training teachers, administrators and student leaders on how to get the most of the technology that they have received. We are in the process of setting up partnerships with OLPC (One Laptop per Child) and IBM to leverage their existing technology donations.
2) New technology training to improve classroom management and improve student outcomes: The Muskoka Foundation has established a partnership with ClassRunners, an organization that uses an interactive environment for teachers to manage student attendance and performance, as well as to share assignments, grades and papers. This technique improves teacher efficiency, but most importantly allows for early identification of student challenges that are shared with parents and administrators leading to critical interventions. The Foundation provides the software, training and server links.
3) Links to other cultures: It has already been established that links across cultures of developing communities allows children on both sides to not only learn about others but to develop a greater sense of fulfillment and self-determination about their own lives. The Muskoka Foundation is in the process of setting up partnerhips with GlobalHood that takes children to developing communities and also with Kiva that allows children to invest in developing communities. The Foundation also focuses on developing curriculum about the cross-culture to ensure lasting learning.
Communities with & without connectivity:
1) Focus on making education more fun: train teachers and conduct workshops with students using drama and art programs. These are typically not paid for nor focused on by large foundations and/or global development organizations as math and literacy have become the only “way in” for education and leave the classroom environment often boring and inaccessible. These fun-based educational techniques are typically reserved for the more elite developed schools with significant funding, The Muskoka Foundation would like to bring these to developing communities.
2) Focus on making education more relevant: Often science programs are presented in an irrelevant, “theory of gravity” approach. The Muskoka Foundation would like to focus on links to global “practical” science groups that help students across the world approach science in a locally relevant way, from seed production to impact of weather on local activities.