Big Sister Mouse is our school on the outskirts of Luang Prabang
After many years of planning and construction, Big Sister Mouse opened in June 2016. It's a school. But it's not like other schools.
For young children, we follow the official Lao curriculum of course, but in a more interactive way than most schools. We have a strong focus on reading, and we stay away from rote. It works: In their first year with us, children learn to read, and also to love reading. We often use games, story-telling, and hands-on activities. In this picture, a visitor and an older student play an arithmetic game with two second-graders. They're learning some English from the visitor, as well as numbers.
As of early 2017 we have pre-school for ages 3 to 5, plus grades 1 and 2. We expect to add one grade (perhaps more) each year.
For young adults, too, we're using innovative approaches. A typical classroom session, with a teacher at the blackboard, is the exception. For the most they learn through reading and discussing what they've read; writing about it; doing things; and interaction with visitors.
Many of them want to become teachers, and they often help with the pre-school and primary-school students. It gives us a chance to explore new techniques, and they get hands-on teaching experience.
What do they like most? English practice with visitors. In this photo, several students practice English conversation, one-on-one, with travelers who have volunteered for a day.
We have strong interaction between different age groups. Often, even within a class, children who have learned something will help their classmates who didn't yet get it. This doesn't slow them down; on the contrary, it reinforces their own learning. Young-adult students frequently lead activities with children, too, and we're continually creating new games and activities. In the third photo, two members of our staff who are deaf demonstrate sign language to a group which includes pre-schoolers, older students, and a visitor.
If you're in Luang Prabang, please drop by our shop in town to see what opportunities are available. (Sorry, drop-in visits at the school are not feasible.) Typically, we take a group to the school three times a week. We provide lunch and transportation; we appreciate a small contribution of about $5 to help cover those costs but it's not required. Many visitors say it was the highlight of their trip.