A New Approach to History in Class

A young school teacher from Las Tunas devised a project which combine fun and learning

By: Juan Morales Agüero

Email: digital@juventudrebelde.cu

2017-06-26 | 17:25:26 EST
"History classes need to be creatively taught to motivate students," Yuri says. Photo: Juan Morales AgüeroZoom

June 26, 2017

LAS TUNAS.— Enthusiastic people rarely make friends with routine. To repeat the same formula every day, to reproduce the preceding days, to insist on this or that ... No, definitely, that will lead to no good. Each dawn should be a preamble to an act of creation capable of bringing better practices to our ways of doing.

At school, no class should resemble another from the motivational viewpoint, evading boredom or yawning among students. It is no coincidence that the teachers who care most about this detail are most successful. Among them is Yuri Garcia, who at the age of 37 - ten of these as an elementary school teacher - proposed to collect in a book everything that can be done in terms of amenity in the teaching of History.

"The idea of preparing this material began in 2009, when I was at the school of teachers Manuel Ascunce, he remembered. At that time, meetings for knowledge among students were common. I was tasked with History. From the first moment I wanted the meetings to be different, especially away from routine.”

The first step was to plan a strategy in which motivation would become the basis of amenity and interest for a better understanding of national history. Intentionally, his design did not include among his "collaborators" the manuals, branded as "bored" by some boys. He took paradigms of the time into consideration.

In a few days Yuri had the frame of the project. It consisted of a kind of didactic game of question-answers and exercises, aimed at strengthening content with greater difficulties of assimilation. He emphasized those related to the four stages of Cuba´s history and the most relevant events in each one. To make them more motivating, he linked them with curious facts, and that caused fun and interest to increase.

"I also resorted to the local history, with which students have outstanding debts, he said. Especially in the case of Las Tunas, where eight mambises of this region were titled generals in the independence wars of the 19th century. The paradigm was Major General Vicente García González, who became president of the Republic in Arms, and when he took the city in 1876, he set his own house on fire.”

Martí, Las Tunas and the Total History

As part of the José Martí Cultural society, in his project Yuri would not allow himself to leave out the most universal of Cubans. The whole history of our homeland is influenced by the thinking of Martí. Although the national hero never set foot on Las Tunas, some circumstances relate him to its context. And the enthusiastic teacher had them in mind.

"Look, in August of 1897, after a fierce combat, the insurrect troops commanded by greater general Calixto García Iniguez occupied the once city Victoria de Las Tunas. In that fray stood out as artilleryman José Francisco Martí Zayas-Bazán, son of the Apostle. Such was the boldness shown by Ismaelillo from his cannon, that he was promoted to lieutenant.

"Another curious fact is that Manuel Nápoles Fajardo, born in Las Tunas, was the one who first edited a text written by José Martí. It was a poem dedicated to Micaela Nin, wife of his teacher Rafael Maria de Mendive. The piece was published on April 26, 1868 in the newspaper El álbum de Guanabacoa - at that time directed by our coprovincian - and its named precisely, A Micaela. It is inspired by the death of Michelangelo, the eldest son of marriage. By then Marti was only 15 years old.

Yuri also gave space in his project to today´s scientific, economic, sport, religious, and artistic issues, in short ... He also sought space to talk about customs and traditions, something that forms an organic part of any locality´s history.

The presence of literature in homeland history is also relevant. Thus, the links of certain literary genres with historical facts appear in a playful way when the poem written by Nicolás Guillén was dedicated to Che Guevara, or the one by Rubén Martínez Villena was related to the Protesta de los 13. These techniques encourage the exercise, as well as academics, become fun and culture.

According to Yuri, "the project has already been implemented in several centers of Las Tunas through the Martiano Youth Movement. It was welcomed in the University of Medical Sciences and in the Francisco Muñoz Ruvalcaba High School Institute. Now, we are developing it every month in Plaza Martiana as part of a sociocultural project approved by the José Martí Cultural Society. Several schools are involved.”

Much to be done yet

Although his text is inclusive and comprehensive, Yuri does not feel fully satisfied. In each revision  he finds some reference to improve or some subject with aspects to explore in depth. From his position as a specialist in the Major General Vicente García Provincial Historical Museum -labor that alternates with university teaching- he does not cease to study the history of the city. Because, as someone said, "you must first know your own before you learn to know and value others."

"So far, I have assumed the edition of this booklet, which contains about 500 questions, whose answers are scattered in different texts. It covers four parts of history, in its widest range. Someone printed me a few copies and designed a cover. But everything is very handmade. I would be very pleased if any publishers were interested in reproducing it for schools. Because, although it is not for me to say it, I think it has games and didactic exercises which can make the subject more attractive and profitable to the students »,Yuri said.

Translated by ESTI

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