The Flood Garden Project at MDFT
School: Making a Difference Foundation Tanzania Preschool (MDFT)
Location: The village of Ngaranumbe in Arusha, Tanzania. (We are HERE!)
The people in this area are a mix of urban Maasai and Meru families who earn relatively low incomes. Most residents are forced into squalid rentals lacking dependable electricity or running water. Refuse is habitually discarded into the street or nearby river beds which serve as a drinking water source when the neighborhood water wells are unusable.
Most local schools lack basic necessities such as school books, learning tools and proper ventilation. Teachers are poorly trained and the lack of teaching tools and resources contributes to low motivation to innovate learning. Parents must pay school fees and purchase uniforms and are frequently coerced to pay more to prevent their child from being expelled at the school authorities’ whims.
Although there are many highly profitable foreign industries in the area, most residents are passed over for the jobs and companies regularly import foreign workers with better technical skills. Any local ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit is often trumped by a glass ceiling of a culturally-imposed low self-worth, poor education and a lack of viable opportunities for upward mobility.
Headmaster: Mr. David Gido
The Story: In 2009, a young teacher named David Gido noticed a growing number of preschool children left unattended in the streets of his Arusha neighborhood. The children were AIDS orphans living with aging grandparents or children who were left alone for the day because parents could not afford preschool fees.
In 2009, he opened Making a Difference Foundation Tanzania Preschool using his own small income to pay for teachers, school supplies and to help parents who could not afford preschool fees. In November of 2011, David Gido joined forces with Todd “TJ” Duckett, a former National Football League star, to create a school model that would provide the students the skills to overcome abject poverty.
David and TJ share the belief in the value of young people to their communities and want to provide better opportunities for the many scores of talented but frustrated youth of Arusha. They plan to create a free, local mentorship and career training program where these young people will be provided with skills to match and surpass their foreign competition.
While those plans are being hatched, there is a more pressing need to transform the approach to education for the neglected and defenseless children in the streets. Both men wanted an education model that provided a way for destitute and forgotten children to profoundly transform their self-value. They wanted a place where kids could acquire many amazing skills through hands-on learning every day.
In November of 2011, the Flood Garden Project was born and in December, the first seed was planted in an unused rubbish lot on the side of the school . Amazingly, by the month of February 2012, the staff of MDFT began to sell their first harvest!
The Flood Garden Project is an education model that serves as an example of how schools in poor communities can become more effective.
By creating a small working farm within the school property, they have provided needed learning tools and awesome opportunities for children to learn by doing. This is a very cost-effective and self-sustaining way in which to learn in a school that has no electricity and very few other resources.
The Flood Garden Project Curriculum:
At MDFT Preschool, our curriculum is designed to focus on developmental activities and learning around the Flood Garden crops, animals and play time. We draw our inspiration from successful learning philosophies that emphasize critical thinking through play and hands-on activities such as the Montessori and Project Based Learning models.
This year, the MDFT teachers together with Matinga Ragatz, an award winning education specialist, will continue to develop the Flood Garden curriculum and create the learning tools (books, toys, garden tools, classroom materials, etc.) specifically customized for the social needs of the children we serve. The aim is to provide a powerful academic head start that will provide the critical thinking, language and employment skills to profoundly transform their future opportunities.