Project archive for Balqa'

Parent Training and Library Start-Up

Award Amount: $141.00
Volunteer(s): Mona Al-Soraimi
Locations(s): Mahis
Dates(s): June, 10, 2012
Participants: 3 female teachers, ages 25-55

On June 10, 2012 a few key women in the Mahis community were trained in interactive story telling and given 2 sets of books to start a community library at the local mosque.  After an in depth discussion on the importance of instilling a love of reading  in small children, Rana explained to the women how they can create a culture of reading in their own communities.  The logistics of creating a community library and weekly story time were discussed followed by training on interactive reading.  The participants each had an opportunity to practice reading using interactive storytelling techniques and given feedback by the trainer.  The funds were used to pay the trainer and for 27 colorful, glossy (Arabic) children’s books that will be used to start the community library and weekly storytelling.  The particpants are teachers at the local Girls Secondary School and will start the community library/storytelling at the local mosque closest to the school.  Starting July 1, when they begin summer classes, they will invite girls in their Tawjihi Home Economics class to bring their younger siblings between the ages of 4-10 to the local mosque every Sunday from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm for weekly storytime.  By attending with their siblings, the older girls will gain interactive story telling skills and their siblings will be able to borrow a book of their choice for the week.


Brain Camp Parents Workshop

Award Amount: $169.00
Volunteer(s): Shaylyn Garrett, James Garrett
Locations(s): Salt, Khalida Al-Qurashiya School
Dates(s): May 2011
Participants: 18 female, 1 male

The Brain Camp Parents Workshop was conceived as a response to parents and teachers repeatedly asking me–a young, childless PCV–for advice about how to prepare their children for school and how to support them in their studies.  It was also the natural outgrowth of Brain Camp, a curriculum for teaching critical thinking to Jordanian students.  We wondered how we could teach parents to start promoting critical thinking early and to use the same tools we have been teaching students.


The workshop consisted of three sessions in which parents were taught through Arabic powerpoint slides, then participated in activities and discussions to solidify what they learned.  Day one focused on the attidudinal aspects of learning.  We taught the importance of “mindset,” or a child’s beliefs about their own intelligence, and how parents can choose praise language and at-home activities that improve acheivement motivation in their students.  We challenged parents to re-think the deterministic attitudes that pervade Jordanian culture, and gave them concrete tools for how to teach their children that “you are only as smart as you try.”  Parents went home with simple games and activities that encourage patience and persistence.


Day two was devoted to teaching parents about the physical aspects of the learning process–how the brain works, how challenge promotes brain growth, and how they can foster early brain development in their children.  We talked about nutrition, sleep, drinking water, and limiting television time.  We also helped parents practice methods of homework help that promote challenge and critical thinking rather than simple completion of assignments.  Parents went home with basic templates of how to help their children study through brain-stimulating games and challenges rather than simply repetition and memorization.


Finally, on day three, parents learned about the critical importance of reading in promoting school readiness, critical thinking, and love of learning.  Parents learned about scientific studies showing the effects of non-academic reading on acheivement, and they learned how to select books for their kids, how to set up reading routines, and how to read together in a fun, interactive way.  They watched a video by a Jordanian woman who is promoting reading throughout the kingdom, and listened to a presentation by the school librarian about how their kids can check out books.  Each parent went home with three books in Arabic and English to help them establish a culture of reading in their homes.


Funds were used for the purchase of books, games, and homework help supplies, as well as the production of DVDs containing the workshop slides and lecture material.  Participants included parents and teachers.

The response to the workshop was overwhelmingly positive, with parents eagerly siezing the information and coming back each day with small success stories of how what we taught is working for them.  Parents reported never having learned about the importance of reading, and reported a change in their childrens’ attitudes about books once they introduced the “reading for fun, not for studying” concept at home.  Overall, it was a great and inspiring success!


Brain Camp

Award Amount: $200.00
Volunteer(s): J. Garrett, S. Garrett
Locations(s): Salt Boys Youth Center, Khalida Al Qurashiya Secondary School for Girls
Dates(s): July 2010
Participants: 55 female students, 25 male students

In July, 2010 we offered two 5-day, 20-hour summer camps to boys and girls in As Salt, Jordan with the aim of developing in them the building blocks of clear, creative, and critical thinking.  The curriculum was built from the ground up with the aim of teaching the following concepts:

  • Basic brain function and the learning process
  • Creativity
  • Effort (Patience and Persistence)
  • Memory
  • Organizing Information (Pattern Recognition)
  • Reasoning
  • Strategy
  • Decision Making (Using Criteria and Priorities)
  • Problem Solving

The camp began with a colorful, fun, and interactive PowerPoint presentation teaching basic brain function and the physical and attitudinal aspects of the learning process.  Students then learned additional “brain facts” by competing in a school-wide scavenger hunt administered by teachers, PCVs, and the school principal.

Each day thereafter, two “cognitive skills” were introduced through group warmups requiring the use of those skills.  Then, again, PowerPoints and interactive discussions were used to teach each concept, after which students practiced what they learned through games, group tasks, and hands-on activities, often in the form of stations.  For example, students practiced creativity by learning the process of brainstorming; they practiced patience and persistence with a series of tactile puzzles and brain teasers; reasoning was taught through an interactive whodunit exercise; and students trained in strategy with games like Chinese Checkers and Blokus.

In addition to cognitive skills, students were taught about healthy eating and “brain foods”—such as berries, fresh vegetables, whole grains, and green tea—and were served these foods each day during a snack break.

The camp culminated in a final project competition in which teams of students created a “pollution solution”—an invention to combat pollution made with a limited set of materials.  The project was designed to require the use of all the cognitive skills we had studied and practiced throughout the week.  Students also performed creative presentations introducing their projects and attempting to convince a panel of “investors” of the merits of their invention.  We saw students create water filtration systems from straws and Pepsi bottles, a cardboard solar powered bus, a tinfoil robot that retrieves litter, and an “ecovillage,” with houses and roads made of recycled materials, as well as many other great projects.

While the opportunity for students to hear and practice English was another component of the camp, great care was taken to ensure that students of all English levels—even those with no English at all—could participate.  All PowerPoint slides were written in Arabic, and counterparts offered translation during presentations and discussions.  Also, games and activities were specifically and carefully chosen to be as visually-oriented as possible, so as to limit the amount of language required to learn each cognitive skill.  To the extent possible, activities were facilitated in Arabic with student-assisted translation when needed.

At the end of camp each student received a certificate and a “Mental Exercise Book,” which contained photocopies of games and activities they could do at home and share with their parents and siblings.  We also included several websites where they could find more “brain-building” games to play online.

Teambuilding Camp

Award Amount: $130.00
Volunteer(s): A. Bates, B. Gebre-Medin, A. Sinclair
Locations(s): Salt, Wadi Al-Hor, Deir Ala'a
Dates(s): July-August 2006
Participants: 150 female, 150 male,

In January of this year, volunteers in the Balqa Area organized a week-long training camp for 39 promising male and female youth leaders, aged 16 and over.  During the camp, we trained youth leaders to conduct interactive workshops that focus on problem-solving through teambuilding activities and problem-solving through drama.  (We also produced a manual for youth leaders.  The Arabic and English versions of the manual can be viewed at  The training camp was an enormous success, and the youth leaders have taken the activities and teaching techniques that they learned and created a vibrant youth-led program.  They’ve formed a leadership committee that meets weekly to plan and debrief workshops, and they’ve organized follow-up training sessions to learn new teambuilding activities and improve their facilitation skills.   To date, they have conducted teambuilding and drama workshops for over 350 youth!   Workshop participants are gaining a more enriching and impacting summer camp experience and  youth leaders are learning valuable lessons in cooperation and program management.


We used USAID (SPA) funds to purchase portable custom teambuilding equipment from Project Adventure, a low-ropes course program in America.   Currently, four different youth centers are sharing this equipment and the boys and girls centers often want to use the same equipment at the same time.  We would like to use FOJ funds to replicate some of the most popular “challenges” (teambuilding tasks that groups work together to solve).  The challenges that we would like to replicate are described in detail in our Peer Educators Manual (  They include “Wooden Puzzle” (page 82), “Acid River” (page 90), “Spider Web” (page 106), “The Trolley” (page 120), and “All-Aboard” (page 130).  Since these challenges will be used on a regular basis by energetic Jordanian youth, they require quality wood and rope to ensure their longevity.  Additionally, we would like to use FOJ funds to purchase an assortment of supplies that the youth leaders often use for icebreaker games and discussion facilitation.  These items include: a plastic chicken (Chicken Ball, page 68, Steal the Chicken, page 78), a glitter stick (Talking Stick, page 144), an opaque sheet (Blanket Name Game, page 64), spoons (Spoonball, page 69), hula hoops (Hula Hoop Game, page 55, Balls in the Hoop, page 92), and post-it notes (Sticky Notes, page 134).


Currently, all of the teambuilding supplies are stored in a well-organized cubby closet at the Salt Girls Center.  The director of the Salt Girls Center gives first priority to her female youth leaders, and when boys and girls camps are scheduled at the same time, the boys are often unable to use the equipment that they want.  At a recent troubleshooting meeting, the boys suggested reproducing some of the most popular activities and storing them at the Salt Boys Center.  FOJ funds would purchase the supplies, and the boy leaders would donate their time to construct the challenges.  A local woodshop worker has also agreed to donate his services.   We hope that we can reward the initiative and drive of these inspiring young leaders and ensure that both the girls’ and the boys’ centers are set up for success.



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