Our deep dive into Peru was well under way. The class was scouring the internet for good source material. Elliot (A.K.A. Sorrel) had found an informative site about animals that were sacred to the Incas. Cora (Annarrgeal) was in the midst of developing a beautiful slide show about wildlife in the Amazon. The entire class was as engaged as any fourth grade class could be in late May. But reading articles and watching videos about a place and the people who live there can only take you so far. My students had developed some base knowledge about Peru with their research, but how could I help them extend their understanding with my trip?
How could my good fortune help them become more invested in a far away place?
Coincidentally, that’s right about the time that Yo Yo (August) raised his hand and said, “Monkeys, Greg! There are at least 32 species of monkeys in the Amazon. You have to take some pictures all the different kinds of monkeys.”
“So, um, Yo Yo…you want me to find and take pictures of all thirty two different species of monkeys?!?!” I responded cautiously.
“Yes,” he confidently answered with a nod of his tussled hair.
While I knew I had a little monkey-species-to-photo negotiation with Yo Yo an interesting idea started percolating inside my bald head.
“How about I photograph ten different species of new world monkeys? Thirty two is an awful lot. I’m only going to be in the Amazon for a week,” I carefully replied.
He considered my position and countered with, “Okay, but Sam needs to be in one of the pictures.”
And that conversation was how “The Peruvian Challenge” began. Homework for one of the last weeks of school was for each student to take what they learned from their research, look at the itinerary for my month long trip that I shared with them, and come up with a challenge for Sam( my traveling partner) and I that could only be done in Peru.
Parameters continued to be placed around the challenges. Panda Bear (Alisa) raised her hand early on in the process and sweetly said, “Greg, please pick a berry from a plant in the middle of the Amazon and eat it.”
“Well, PB, I would really like to come back home, and that might not be possible if I eat the wrong berry. How about if someone who knows a lot about Amazonian berries points out one that I can eat?”
And below is a partial list of some of what I will be attempting to do over the next month and the student who requested the challenge:
1. Meditate at the top of Machu Picchu- Luca (Haystack)
2..Eat a (safe) berry in the Amazon. Alisa (Panda Bear)
3. Get Alpaca wool. Try to get it in an open market. Also, if you can, hug an Alpaca. -Eliana (Countess Eliana Zenyatta McReaderstein)
4. My challenge is to see at least 3 different kinds of cows in Lima. There should be a lot of cows in Lima. Also, bonus points if you pet one. – Benji (Bessy)
5. Eat five dishes, one has to include guinea pig. – Sierra (Python)
6. My challenge for you is to find 6 different kinds of plants found only in the Amazon, cool plants. – Galexy (Andromeda)
7. Take a picture of Sam in front of the Torre Tagle Palace, Huaca Pucllana or Lima Cathedral if you go there. – Cora (Anarregal)
8. Mistake Heather for an Alpaca.- Rosa (Lady Warmblood Bareback Trotter)
9. Take pictures of 10 different species of monkeys. Take a picture of at least one with Sam – August ( Yo Yo)
10. Eat a meat pie that is a delicacy in Peru – Brighton (Vicks McMoneyshot)
11. Eat a street doughnut and write a paragraph about it and you must slow down time – Enso (Da Big Italian Meat-a-ball)
12. Find 5 kinds of plants and 5 animals that aren’t usually found in the United States and if possible get a picture with at least half of them. Simon (Sparky)
13. Take a nice picture of Sam and you in front of Machu Picchu. – Emma (Ms. Gamey McGamerton)
14. Find the secret chamber in Machu Picchu – Corabella (Snickers)
15. See a puma, snake, or alpaca.-Elliot (Sorrel)
Even after putting together this great list, I still wondered what more I could do to help my class understand what life was like in Peru..