B.A., Interdisciplinary Field Studies - Political Science, Sociology, & Education
The University of Iowa,
Master of Fine Arts, Dance Performance
Saint Mary's College,
B.A., Economics and French
Jingqiu was born and raised in Chengdu, China. She has studied in China, the United States, and France. With a strong passion for arts, especially dance, Jingqiu has dreamed to combine arts and international development. With this goal in mind, she has worked at a dance company, a higher education consulting firm, and an international development agency. She has also taken part in international development projects in Mexico, India, Haiti, and Jamaica. Jingqiu believes in the power of the arts to enable individuals to realize their potential and expand their boundaries.
Wake Forest University,
University of Virginia,
B.Sc., Systems Engineering & Mathematics
Meftehe was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He grew up with a strong passion for visual arts, particularly in using it as a medium for expressing personal narratives. Meftehe served as a student ambassador for the UNHCR and worked with about 108,000 displaced refugees in the Horn of Africa, particularly in the border areas of Kenya, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia. Working in these regions, he experienced firsthand the impacts of arts-based education programs in overcoming the drastic effects of war, tribal conflict, and natural disasters. Having worked as a consultant for various multilateral organizations and agencies in the areas of policy analysis, he is also interested in the intersection of arts-based education program development and policy integration to promote literacy and life skills in marginalized communities.
B.A., Religious Studies
Laura grew up in the state of Nebraska. She has used her dance teaching and performing experience to collaborate with refugee youth empowerment projects, including the Liberian Dance Troupe at the Buduburam Refugee Settlement in Ghana, and the African Refuge Youth and Family Center in Staten Island, New York. At African Refuge, Inc., Laura was also the Youth and Family Program Coordinator, which allowed her to develop curriculum for after school and summer programs. Laura has worked with youth in Nebraska, New York, Ghana, and Liberia, and currently works with families in crisis as a Family Preservation Therapist in New Orleans, Louisiana. She believes strongly in the power of creative expression, particularly dance, to increase resilience in individuals and communities.
An incredible visual artist, Corina specializes in painting. She has also worked with children of all ages for over twelve years, including those with special needs. Corina has both experienced and enabled deep connections and learning through art. Her ability to connect and communicate through art has served as a powerful catalyst for overcoming obstacles, and she is committed to continue using art to create opportunities to those who need it most.
Three of our team members, Shua, Terryl, and Corina, worked with 8th, 9th, and 11th graders to teach critical thinking skills through visual arts and spoken word poetry. In a condensed program, we worked with each class for three hours a day for six days. We built increasingly higher levels of critical thinking, together constructing the steps towards becoming critical thinkers.
We started with collecting evidence through close-looking and making detailed observations. To this end, we began by teaching our students how to make contour drawings in our art class. From within a few meters of the school doors, we gathered all shapes, sizes, colors, and types of leaves. Spreading the leaves over tables and gathering the students around, we asked them to examine every detail of the greenery they were used to glancing over. From the range of edges to the variety of vein patterns in the leaves, the students were surprised at all the differences they observed when looking closely. In practicing making drawings of leaves, the students' eyes slowly followed the contours of a leaf as their pencils trailed along the paper.
In our subsequent poetry class, we asked our students to make observations about a poem we gave them. They again practiced close-looking by discovering differences in line lengths and sentences structures, examining word choice, and uncovering onomatopoeias. They learned how to collect evidence that they would later use to make inferences and draw conclusions. Through this drawing lesson and poetry class, we began to strengthen their critical thinking capabilities through tangible and fun lessons.
Each day of learning built upon the last, increasing the number of tools the students could work with both in and out of school. We taught our students about reasoning effectively, about systems thinking, about credibility and making decisions. A lesson on the color wheel led to an exercise in deductive reasoning. A class on examining assumptions and reflecting on alternatives resulted in the writing and performance of several powerful poetry pieces. Our students consistently blew our minds with their insights and creations, as their own confidence increased with each original piece they created. We greatly enjoyed sharing laughs and paint, their willingness and courage to share some very personal pieces, and learning alongside of them. We are looking forward to seeing them again very soon!
Three volunteers, Laura, Christine, and Patrick, joined CCI team members, Shua, Terryl, and Jingqiu, to unveil this unique program. For seven days, 60 students experienced a rigorous and active curriculum that demanded their engagement in the steps of critical thinking. Paralleling the program laid out in India, each lesson built upon the skills learned in prior lessons, equipping our students with the necessary tools to become effective critical thinkers.
Our students were delighted to learn capoeira moves and salsa steps, to form musical instruments from unexpected materials, to create compositions in improvisation jamming sessions. More importantly, our students learned how to collect evidence they would then use to reason effectively, to identify key relationships within a system and examine their interactions, to identify assumptions and explore alternatives, and to make well-reasoned decisions. Our goal is that our students perform these kinds of complex tasks to ultimately make them critical problem solvers both in and outside of the classroom.
Upon conducting an exit interview with the school's principal, he told us in the short time that we were there, we had changed the way he viewed education. He said that before he thought the way to aid Haiti was through increased financial support and increased school enrollment. Through our program, he realized that the best help for Haiti is to teach students how to think, to develop their positive spirit as they learn how to critically solve problems. These skills will not only improve their individual life outcomes, but contribute to their country's development as they grow into active citizens. This is the education that our students around the world need.