Although an educational trip with music was not necessarily on the agenda, Lee students were able to weave their enjoyment of music and instruments into their lessons.
There were four music education majors and one church music major on the trip.
“When you go to a foreign place, the things that you bring that are special rise and become really important at that moment,” Dr. Austin Patty, trip coordinator, said. “Once we were kind of discovered as having musical ability, they wanted us everywhere.”
The trip started with students teaching at a private Christian school in Cuena. Here students focused on integrating the arts into their lessons.
“Some of them used poetry. Reading poetry and having the kids create some poetry in Spanish, “ Patty said.
Others used music, drawing and action-based learning.
Some of the Lee students knew enough Spanish to teach their lessons. Others needed an interpreter. Many of the interpreters were older students.
Senior Tyler Morrison was one of the students who needed a translator. Morrison said speaking through a translator made it difficult to know if the students really understood the concepts.
He said the actual teaching was not very different.
“I had the chance to do the three main things I wanted to do after college,” Morrison said.
These were to teach in a foreign country, preach on a Sunday morning and lead music during a worship service. He said the trip was a good preparation for the future for him.
The Verbo School had grades kindergarten through 12th grade students.
“A lot of what we learned was through teaching, yes, but also through observation,” Patty said.
Patty said the teaching style at the school was more lecture-based and less visual and action- based then education in the United States.
Morrison said the relationships between the teacher and the students were more relaxed than in the States.
“It was interesting to see how our students handled complete curveballs — things that they had not prepared for at all,” Patty said.
While the Lee students were teaching at Verbo School, students were getting ready for required testing.
“The whole nation has this sense of wanting to raise the bar and really do good work,” Patty said.
The Lee students were placed in whichever class was available and often were teaching different ages than for what they had prepared.
Senior Amy Humberd taught in the high school classes.
“One of my favorite experiences was teaching at the school,” Humberd said. “It was a little hard because it was the first year with this program. We had to be flexible.”
Briana Yankie, who is entering her junior year this fall, taught eighth, ninth and 10th grades while at the school.
“I really got to connect with some of the eighth-grade girls there,” Yankie said.
Forming relationships with children throughout the trip was a highlight for her.
Even though Yankie speaks Spanish pretty well, she did not always feel confident teaching entirely in Spanish. She used a mixture of English and Spanish.
Humberd said she had taken two years of Spanish and was able to translate a little while she was in Ecuador.
Lee students were also asked to teach English classes, something that had not been planned.
“I was really pleased to see the flexibility of the students to adapt creatively to new situations every day,” Patty said.
Patty said the Lee students developed a game to teach the Ecuador students how to give direction such as go left or right in English.
Music also played a large role when the team went to the Agua Viva (Living Water) after-school program, outside of Quito.
The ministry was started by Church of God missionaries Bobby and Tabitha Lynch, who started the program to help children develop good character traits.
The Lee students chose to focus on the Fruits of the Spirit to teach biblical character traits.
On the fourth day, the children in the program showcased what they had learned with a special presentation to their parents.
The presentation even included an original song written by Jordan Robson. The Lee students purchased recorder-style and pan pipes and taught the children how to play them to perform the song.
After leaving Cuenca, the Lee travelers spent three days at the Agua Viva after-school program.
Humberd said flexibility was needed here because they were not sure what to expect. The Lee group did their planning at night for the next day’s activities with the children.
At Agua Viva, Humberd taught the children how to play the recorder.
Agua Viva students welcomed the Lee students into their homes for a visit.
“You could see the poverty,” Patty said.
The father of the family Patty visited had lost his job do to an eye injury. Now, he does whatever work he can find.
“They really depend on that day’s wage for that day’s food,” Patty said.
Lee students also visited a public school.
“There were two rooms for the whole gamut of elementary school students,” Patty said.
The Lee group performed the song they had taught at Agua Viva.
After many students from the school studied to be qualified for jobs in the city and were unable to find work, the school has incorporated ways to make a living into the curriculum. Raising livestock used for food, such as guinea pigs, is a part of the school’s lessons.
“It was an eye-opening experience for me,” Morrison said.
Once the teachers at the school found out some of the Lee students were musicians, they asked them to perform a concert.
There was also time for exploration on the trip.
Patty said he enjoyed seeing the “wonder of God’s creation.”
The Andes Mountains, a huge waterfall and the Amazon jungle were main highlights for the Lee University students.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more beautiful,” Morrison said. “I thought I knew what mountains were from being in Tennessee, but I was wrong.”
The monkeys were a highlight of the Amazon experience for Morrison.
Patty said he enjoyed the unique plants and animals of the Amazon.
“And the sky is constantly changing … it was beautiful,” Patty said.
Although Patty was the faculty leader on the trip, he was not a part of the original planning.
Fellow Lee professor Dr. Linda Thompson and her husband developed the trip while visiting Ecuador last summer.
Thompson planned to join the students on the trip until physical therapy for a broken leg kept her from traveling.
Patty became the trip leader in Thompson’s place.
Patty said he was interested and asked a lot of questions about the trip.
“It just seemed like it was the right thing to do so I said sign me up,” Patty said. “I was just surprised they weren’t able to find a Spanish teacher or an education teacher. I am a music theory person.”
Last summer, Thompson and her husband made contact with churches and ministries that would be willing to have the students.
“We knew we wanted the opportunity for students to teach and interact with students in Ecuador,” Thompson said of planning the trip.
Her thoughts are already on next summer.
“My intention is certainly to make it available next spring and make sure I’m on it,” Thompson said.
Both ministries the Lee group visited said they would welcome them back.
Fourteen students were a part of the trip.