CLAY AT HARVARD 2.0 

As Clay completes the end of its 14th year of instruction and our 11th class sits for its KCSE exams, we are eager to catch you up on a number of events since last we checked in!

Many of you know that the Clay School Family has been especially lucky in developing a close relationship with Harvard’s Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) and its Active Learning Laboratory (ALL), run by Dr. Anas Chalah. It was to ALL that our second annual batch of eager Clay students came in July for 2 weeks and wrote another chapter in this success story. This year’s Form 3 juniors were Charity, Rosemary, and Joshua. Like last year’s group, they traveled 2,275 miles to join a cadre of international students from Korea, Hong Kong and across the U.S.—all there to experience new learning pedagogies and pathways for solving problems, specifically about water issues affecting their communities.

In the first week, using team-based and design thinking, the cohort of students identified specific water issues to tackle. Equipped with these newly acquired techniques and advanced scientific tools in the ALL lab, each team was charged with creating a solution for their specific water “problem/issue.” The three teams undertook: a solar-powered UV system for killing and removal of algae blooms caused by nitrogen runoff in a Korean river; a small village solar-powered still for water purification in Makueni County, Kenya, where Clay students hail from; and finally, a water treatment plant to service the entire Mathare slum of Nairobi which lacks central clean water distribution. Each project was thoughtful, unique, and required the students to understand scientific, engineering, cultural, and economic components. Many thanks go the Paulson SEAS for its generous scholarships and also to our consistent and loyal donors for funding the journey.

CLAY LEADERSHIP AT HARVARD

Accompanying our students on this trip were Benson Mutua, one of Clay’s Founders and its Country Director, and Daniel Kilui, Deputy Principal, Business and Math teacher and a graduate of Clay’s second class in 2009. Both observed the students throughout their two weeks at ALL. Additionally, under the tutelage of Dr. Chalah, they themselves went through a set of experiential exercises to learn about the pedagogy that underlies the teaching at SEAS and ALL. This was done with an eye towards the creation of a new initiative at Clay to enhance its faculty’s teaching methods. Dr. Chalah first planted the seed of this initiative last March when he came to experience and observe the school and its faculty in Ngomano, Kenya. During this trip, he realized that if we could bring ALL to Clay and unlock the “Harvard” methods for the faculty in Ngomano, not only would it be more practical, it could have a greater impact than just bringing 3 or 4 students to Cambridge every year. That seed is now fully sprouted, and Daniel and Benson’s orientation was the first step toward creating a teaching/learning Incubator at Clay. More details and updates on the Incubator below!

Benson and Daniel with students
CLAY STUDENTS AS TOURISTS IN BOSTON AND NEAR THE SHORE

Our summer visitors also had some non-academic fun, giving them more memories to take back home – swimming (remember, no water at home) in the ocean which they had never seen, shooting hoops at the Boston Celtics brand new Auerbach practice facility, Science Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, and pizza—their favorite. Finally, they entertained guests and donors at two receptions as graciously as if they had been doing it their whole lives. We felt like proud parents.

MUSIC AND DRAMA COMPETITIONS

Back in Kenya this summer, the Clay Music and Dance Team rose up the ranks through local and regional competitions as they have for the past four years to compete in the national finals of the East African Musical and Drama Festival. This year’s festival was in nearby Wote, where our dance team placed 4th overall with their spectacular Rwandan folk dance. See, below, a snippet of them rehearsing iast March, early on in week 2 of learning it (singing in the Rwandan language which they don’t speak!)  Additionally, at the Festival, Nicholas Wambua, Form 4, won 2nd place in solo drama presentation, his third time as a finalist in the past 4 years. He finished 1st in his Freshman year. The team had the luxury of traveling —as they do now with all their field trips, sports and academic meets—in Clay’s beautiful new yellow bus.

TEACHING AND LEARNING INCUBATOR BACKGROUND

When Benson and Daniel returned to Clay from the states, they led Clay’s 11 faculty members through the same journey of self-discovery and initial teacher training that they experienced at Harvard. This Phase One training, delivered in a thoughtful and culturally responsive way, led Clay’s teachers to understand how beneficial such training could be, not only to each of them, but also to Clay as an institution. Dr. Chalah’s teaching Incubator idea was now on the ground at Clay.

Following the teachers’ affirmation of their shared desire to learn, Bob and Dr. Challah traveled to Clay for a three-day intensive to kick off Phase Two of the Incubator. This included faculty workshops exploring different ways of ideating, examining global problem sets, and other techniques to deliver curricula. The results of Phase Two exceeded our expectations and outcomes were immediate in the classroom. Students worked enthusiastically in groups doing experiential and hands-on exercises, enlivening their standard curriculum in new and engaging ways.

Phase Three of the training will unfold in greater depths starting in January of 2020 and will continue in the coming years. We will update you on its progress. We see our teachers as future mentors and educators within this process—paying it forward to their colleagues. The ultimate goal is for this Incubator to become a one-of-a-kind Kenyan-run center of learning and teaching for faculty from across the country. We envision this center to eventually be operated as a business, charging fees and creating a sustainable revenue stream for Clay—all the while improving lives beyond the walls of the school.

Dr. Challah working with Clay faculty in Form 4 classroom on campus in Ngomano
NEXT STEPS

On behalf of the Clay community, we again want to express how grateful we are for those of you whose generous support has already shaped the successful arc of such a small and remote school. However, in order to bring the Incubator to fruition, and so that we can achieve academic, environmental, and financial sustainability, we need to raise the financial bar in the short term. The initial expenses of this project require a dedicated campaign in the coming months. We hope each of you can become part of this success story with a gift now and or in the future. Even if you have already made a gift or pledge this year, a donation towards the Incubator will help create innovative education that will impact students throughout the country. Stay tuned for the next chapter. And a happy Fall from all of us at Clay.

With gratitude,

Bob and Bonnie Wax

For the Board of Directors, Clay School/Project Education Inc.
www.projecteducationkenya.org