Rina Sklar has thrived in teaching music for 19 years at the Hamilton Primary School.
This past July, she shared her teaching skills in a totally different landscape of teachers and students.
Ms. Sklar embarked on a 12-day journey this summer to Kenya, where she and five other teachers from the United States instructed teachers on the education of playing the recorder.
A recorder, according to Wikipedia, is a family of woodwind musical instruments in the group known as internal duct flutes.
And what better organization to promote the usage of a recorder than Recorders without Borders, a non-profit that was born in 2015. According to its website, Recorders without Borders started a musical exchange that year, which today has shared over 7,000 recorders with seven countries around the world.
Kenya was one country that Recorders without Borders established a sustainable music program in the schools.
The program includes the collection and donation of unwanted recorders from students in the United States and the sponsorship of music teachers from America who visit Kenya and train their counterparts to provide recorder instruction to their students.
“A friend told me about this program, Recorders without Borders, and I applied and was then accepted in 2019,’' Ms. Sklar revealed.
But Covid had other plans and the American teachers, including Ms. Sklar, were put on hold.
Then they received the green light and she and the other five teachers who were selected convened outside of Dallas, Texas, in the summer of 2022 where they began writing curriculum on the instruction of playing a recorder.
“That was a requirement that we turnkey to other teachers in Kenya,” Ms. Sklar said. “We designed the curriculum and made videos to send to teachers in Kenya.”
When she flew off to Kenya, Ms. Sklar brought along in her bag 200 recorders that had been donated.
And a large portion of those recorders were gifts from the generous students and families in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District.
She and her colleagues worked with two Kenyan teachers to create instructional videos for their peers and then visited schools, where they distributed the recorders and taught the students how to play the instrument.
These schools were both private and public, and some consisted of “dirt floors and tin metal roofs.’’
But these classrooms—a far cry from her teaching spaces at Hamilton Primary School—delivered a lasting impression on Ms. Sklar.
“As soon as I walked out of the first classroom I knew that I wanted to come back,” she admitted.
The Kenyans wanted her back, too.
‘’It was amazing with their appreciation of what we did,” she said. “They showed their appreciation by baking us a cake and singing us songs’’
But the entire trip was not contained in schools.
The final half of the adventure, was indeed, an adventure.
“Going on an African safari has been on my bucket list,” Ms. Sklar revealed. “And it was amazing. It exceeded my expectations.”
While riding in a safari vehicle, she said that she gazed at the “leopards, elephants, giraffes, hippos and all sorts of antelope.”
The party was housed in the highly popular Kaboso Safari Camp and stayed in the African savanna, which consists of grasslands and small trees.
“We had guards at our camp in order to keep the wild animals out,” Ms. Sklar said. “We were woken up by the sounds of zebras and hyenas.’’
Ms. Sklar and her partners were also in time for a special treat—the Great Wildebeest Migration.
According to the National Geographic Society, the Great Wildebeest Migration is the largest animal migration in the world. Every year, more than two million animals—wildebeest, zebra and gazelle—migrate in a clockwise direction across the ecosystems of the Serengeti (Tanzania) and the Masai Mara (Kenya). The annual migration at the end of the rainy season (usually in May or June) is recognized as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Natural World.”
“We were lucky because the migration came a little later than usual,” she said.
Owning a recorder in Kenya is a stroke of luck, too.
“Recorders are extremely expensive there. Students who can play a recorder are able to gain scholarships because it is a western instrument,” Ms Sklar explained. “Teachers who learn how to play recorders can pick up other jobs to help support their families.’’
Ms. Sklar also built a relationship with a fellow teacher from Kenya.
“I will partner with him on videos and do a live zoom so he can teach my students some Kenyan songs.” she said.
Ms. Sklar realizes that the students in Kenya “do not need us, but they need Kenyan teachers.”
“We are working on making us obsolete so teachers there can work programs without us.”
But, if Recorders without Borders comes calling with an opportunity, she will jump at the chance.
“If the program needs me again as soon as next year, I would go back."
Here is a look at the video of her adventures in Kenya.