Early Lessons in “Brasil”

17 06 2010

We are having a wonderful time in Brasil. I learned that this is the correct spelling- Sorry “Bill Gates and Microsoft if you want me to spell it with a “z”. I figure that those who call Brasil their country know best how to spell their country’s name.

We arrived very early in the morning on Sunday and tool a quick tour of Sao Paulo stopping at a wonderful market, the historic city center and one of the most famous Futbol parks in all of Brasil.

Historic district of Sao Paulo

As I figured, I would learn a lot on the trip and it started as soon as we landed (if not before). Did you know that most of the countryside of Brasil around Sao Paulo is covered with forests of Eucalyptus trees? The Atlantic rain forests were cleared in the 16th century and you must travel close to 1000 km to the west or nearly 2000 km to the north to reach the rain forest? Or what about the Cashew? I have always thought it strange that our students often do not know where their food comes from.

Cashew nut and fruit

Now I know that even I have that problem. Did you know that the cashew nut grows on the outside of a large fruit that is made into a very tasty juice in Brasil? We saw these in the market and were amazed. And here I thought that the cashew was much like the peanut or walnut- simply a nut inside a shell that grew on a tree or underground. How wrong I was.

For the past day and a half, we have been leading workshops with a group of professors from across campus representing many different disciplines: chemical engineering, architecture, school of dentistry, nursing, biology, history, physical education and several others. During one of the sessions, we asked the participants to work in groups to conceptually develop their “ideal classroom”. The outcome of this exercise produced some wonderful ideas and surprises (for us). Each group had as a core of their design, a connection to their environment.

Workshop with program coordinators

The awareness of their surroundings and nature was something that really spoke to us. There was a real desire to bring the outdoors inside. This even included bringing the “smells of nature” into the classroom. But then, when you see the weather here, you begin to understand. We are here in their winter yet there are no heaters. The summers are hot and A/C is needed. Yet each group recognized that A/C is not good for you. The desire was to really connect with the environment and develop spaces in harmony with their surroundings.

Rachel sharing her groups "ideal classroom"

The second part of this was to keep the buildings eco-friendly. If we could build classrooms that allowed nature into the learning space on a regular basis, what might the classroom experience be and how would this change the efficacy of learning? I can only imagine that we would see increases in performance and happier students- more willing to engage. If I ever get a chance to design a school, I will have to keep some of these ideas in mind.

Now, back to Futbol…This is truly the national sport. I don’t see an equivalent in the United States. Yes, we have our Super Bowl, World Series and NBA championship. But we really don’t have a sport and a team where our entire country rallies behind the players.

Futbol gathering at Marcelo's home

Futbol gathering at Marcelo's home

Yes, we do support our teams but here in Brasil, the entire country was said to shut down so that all could watch the first World Cup game with Brasil against North Korea. There was Green and Yellow everywhere. The buzz of stadium horns was alive in the air…Cars driving with large flags and the spirit of soccer everywhere. We were honored to spend the evening with the Unicamp Provost’s- Marcelo- family at his home. The game went very well for Brasil (2-1).

A Canine futbol fan and Marcelo's neighbor

Later that evening, we experienced shopping in the largest mall in Latin America where the sea of green and yellow was everywhere. The festive atmosphere was amazing as we also experienced a concert in the mall by one of Brasil’s favorite singers. The friendly, festive atmosphere was everywhere. We are having an amazing time and can’t wait to learn and experien

A young futbol fan

ce more of this amazing country.

A couple of rookie futbol fans learning from a pro




One response

20 06 2010

Hi Chris!
just a note to say that I really enjoyed the workshop and I`m already reading Gardner (and tomorrow I`ll get the copy I ordered of Tribes).
Thanks a lot for sharing with us your views and experience. I hope we can all meet again.


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