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Kenya Book Project – Connecting Chicago to the World

Kenya Book Project – Connecting Chicago to the World
August 8, 2019

Yue Chen has been a Visual Arts and Mandarin instructor at Lake Forest Academy since 2015. A native of China, Yue earned a BA and MA in Ceramics at the Academy of Art & Design, Tsinghua University in Beijing, China and her MFA in drawing from Kansas State University. She completed the Global Competence Certificate (GCC), in May 2018. As part of the program, the GCC fieldwork experience took Yue to Kakamega, Kenya in the summer of 2017. She and other teachers in her cohort worked with the Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) to develop and present HIV prevention education programming. 

When Yue returned to Chicago, her culminating capstone project idea was a book, illustrated with her students, to tell about HIV and how to prevent it, followed up with student-led panels to explain their learning. She had been particularly inspired by how ‘Sophie’, a cartoon character she created and used in the HIV Prevention and Treatment presentations in the villages, was well-received by the local villagers. She decided to initiate a bookmaking club in her school. 

Yue received eager response from the student body. Over 20 students came to the first informational meeting. This project required specific drawing skills, and students took on different roles. In the core group of six students, she worked with three illustrators, two story-writers, one fundraising coordinator, and one digital designer. Over the course of two years, the group usually met once per seven-day cycle. 

Beginning with backward planning, Ms. Chen shared information about the community they were writing for. She told the students about her experiences and showed photos and videos from her trip. Initially, they were hesitant to ask sensitive questions, but as the group came together to explore storytelling, they became more comfortable and confident in asking deeper questions. The students had studied HIV in health class, and expressed that this work made the issue real and they were proud to be taking action to make a difference. A few other students got involved to help with fundraising. They organized bake sales and created greeting cards to sell. In addition to raising money, these fundraisers provided opportunities for the students to tell the rest of the school community about the importance of the project and increase awareness about HIV. This May the book was finally completed and printing is underway. 

Yue joined the Global Concentration department at Lake Forest, teaching senior GC electives in Fall 2018. In their junior year, students may join a dynamic, student-driven cohort for two years which allows them to collaborate, develop their skills and delve into a variety of global issues. As part of this study, Ms.Chen will be leading the Lake Forest Head of School Symposium (service-learning) trip to Kenya in 2020. Some of the time will be spent introducing and distributing the book to local communities and schools in Kakamega. This fall students from the book group will lead panels to reflect on their learning, the process, and outcomes. These presentations will continue to inform their school community while helping them prepare for the time in Africa. 

Unfortunately, FSD has closed their Kakamega office and there is no way to continue with the original plan to work with them to distribute the book. Ms.Chen is seeking local connections in the region who would benefit from the book. Please reach out to Yue Chen at ychen@lfanet.org if you have contacts that could help. 

The Global Competence Certificate (GCC) program is an online, graduate-level certificate program. The GCC combines online academic coursework with immersive global fieldwork and structured collaborative practice work; to prepare educators to better understand global issues, teach for global competence, and facilitate students’ development as globally informed, engaged citizens. World Savvy has just announced a new partnership for the GCC with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). The program is now accepting applications for the fall 2019 cohort. To learn more or register please visit https://snhuvt.org/gcc


Connie Rensink is a programs administrator consultant for World Savvy. As a former classroom teacher, she completed the GCC in 2016 and currently works with educators and schools to integrate global competencies into existing curriculum. Connect with Connie at somethingmoreglobal.org and on Twitter @rensink_connie 

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