Believing that learning should give expression to worship, knowing that Third Culture Kids (TCKs) can live in a culture yet remain very much outside of it, and wanting to have time myself to explore more of Kibuye gave birth to learning experience days at Kibuye Hope Academy (KHA) this school year. The kids have dissected owl pellets, “followed” birds on migration journeys, categorized rocks, seen eye dissections, watched a friend’s heart beat on a sonogram, and become inventors. We have taken time to stand in awe of the things around us as part of the curriculum. In leading these days, adults have learned for the first time or all over again about these topics and felt the energy that comes from learning in community and in living ways.
The most recent learning experience day focused on trees. Through the rings on a fallen tree, kids learned how to tell how old it was and the historical events the tree had lived through. Our particular tree was part of a world where John F. Kennedy was president of the United States, and the space race was on. It was alive during the Burundian civil war, could have watched Michael Jackson’s music video for “Thriller” (if trees did such things), and witnessed our team’s arrival.
On a nature walk, the kids pondered what a tree actually is and discovered that a banana tree is not actually a tree. They saw, touched, smelled and learned to identify several local trees. They discovered that trees are a wonderful resource that God gave us for many practical and aesthetic purposes, but that replenishing this resource is vital. Without this last step in utilizing trees, deforestation and erosion happen and animal habitats are disturbed or even destroyed. Burundi itself used to be covered in trees that are now firewood or charcoal, and animals that used to be here are no longer. Forests are now farmland used by subsistence farmers who make up a large portion of the population here.
In the afternoon, we piled 19 people into the 11 passenger “school bus” and headed to the coffee washing station where we learned from a local Burundian man (and George who translated) about the process of getting coffee from tree to exportation. The kids see coffee trees all along local paths, but on this day, they touched the coffee cherries straight from the tree, saw the machine that takes the cherry husk off and sorts the beans, climbed on the vats where the coffee beans soak after being husked, and ran their fingers through the beans drying in the sun on huge tables where workers sort the beans into three categories. Students walked through the warehouse where the coffee is stored in burlap sacks until it is transported to Gitega and stood on the scale that weighs each sack to be loaded on the truck.
Trees are a fascinating and useful part of God’s creation. The coffee washing station is just one example of the ingenuity and backbreaking work local Burundians engage as they attempt to provide for their families. Learning by experience allows all of us to see more the creative provision of our God as we worship him through the joy of becoming educated. Getting outside the school walls gives us a glimpse of the country and the people God has called us to.