To Brazil and Back!



That’s me, fifth from the left, wearing a “I heart Science” tee-shirt that I donned just for the occasion!


I’m baaaack!

Yes, you heard right. After being gone from the blogosphere for over a month–egads!–I’m proudly standing in front of a banner that says,


Which means, I nailed it. I hit it out of the park. A slam dunk, thank you very much.

What am I talking about, you ask?

Well, if you know anything about me, then you know that when I take on something new, that’s as important as this was, I step up to the challenge. Even if that challenge means heading to Brazil to lead a workshop for preschool teachers on how to teach science to their students.

Let me say that again:


São Paulo, to be precise.

And now that I’m back, I can’t say it enough:

I missed you, I missed you–I MISSED YOU!!

Okay, so you’re probably wondering what a gal from Queens was doing teaching science in Brazil. The answer is simple:

Sid the Science Kid!

Alright, so it wasn’t Sid, America’s favorite scientist, who asked me, but rather, the folks behind Sid.  In other words, I went at the invitation of The Jim Henson Company! Yes, they asked me to journey 6,000 miles to São Paulo to lead a class on science for teachers at an under-served preschool.

And I arrived loaded down with four and-a-half suitcases jam-packed to the nines, with all the supplies needed to make science-learning fun for kids.

To prepare for the assignment, I profusely studied the curriculum, which is based on the award-winning, animated series, “Sid the Science Kid.”  I watched 40 episodes of Sid, first in English, then in Portuguese (to familiarize myself with the language), and then I watched it all over again in English. I also did some research of my own, for good measure, to make sure I understood such topics as dirt, decay, and non-standard measurement. And in between viewings, I read “Preschool Pathways to Science,” an excellent educational guide which was used as the foundation of the “Sid the Science Kid” series and lesson plans.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I started out not speaking a stitch of Portuguese. But with a little  help from Rosetta Stone, and a lot of help from two U.N.-style interpreters, it was smooth sailing all the way. Obrigada! (That means, thank you!)

And it was so MUCH fun! I studied and prepped so much I knew my stuff backwards and forwards. I even amazed myself, because let me tell you–between you and me and no one else–I was nervous. Crazy nervous. Not during the class, mind you. (By then I was absolutely comfortable with the material.)

No, I’m talking way before that. I was nervous in the weeks leading up to my trip to Brazil. You could say, I was, ahem, a basket case. Frankly, I was terrified of failing and not being able to connect with the teachers because of some silly old language barrier.  But we did connect, and my Spanish fluency helped a bit.

And to think, I almost let my fear stop me from stepping up to the plate, and discovering that:

1.     I’m a teacher at heart, having thoroughly enjoyed myself as I guided my pupils through the training.
2.     It’s never too late to venture down a path toward brand-new and rewarding experiences.
3.     It felt good to be able to bring much-needed school supplies to a school in a developing country, and to demonstrate to the teachers how to find the scientific learning in everyday things. For example, like taking a clump of dirt and examining it under a magnifying lens (which we provided for all the students), just to see what’s in it, and learning about temperature and the weather using thermometers (which we also brought along).  And you thought The Jim Henson Company was all about entertainment!
4.     I made new friends, too. Because the teachers were lovely and saying goodbye was difficult, even after several hugs and promises to stay in touch.
5.     How heartwarming it was to know that, by taking this project on, I was able to make a difference.

As you can see, it was a terrific experience all around, and in the process, I made a lifetime of memories. Fingers crossed that I get to do it again!

Special thanks to The Jim Henson Company and to Boeing, the sponsor of the project, for their steadfast dedication to helping educate today’s youth, with the hope that one day they will become tomorrow’s scientific leaders.

So now that I’m back, please tell me, what did I miss? What have you been up to so far this year? Do tell!

24 thoughts on “To Brazil and Back!

  1. Awesome! Welcome back, Monica. Your trip to Sao Paolo sounds incredible! I’m so glad you had the experience. It’s really something else when you get to use your gifts in such a meaningful and tangible way. I love Sid the Science Kid! Watched it every chance I got when my children were a bit younger. I’d learn so much.

    Welcome back, and Obrigada as you say!

    • Thanks, SomerE! It was wonderful. I still get such a good feeling thinking about it. Sid the Science Kid is a great show. Glad I was able to help promote it as a quality educational tool. Science rocks!

    • Simone, making that trip and teaching those teachers, who had a quiet dignity about them, was the most amazing experience. I truly loved every moment and felt something exciting stir within me. The desire to teach and know that I’m making a difference in the process, is so rewarding. Sid the Science Kid is a wonderful show and I was glad to bring it to them. Besides, I was able to reach into the recesses of my mind and dig out the Puzzle Place tools you once gave me, and adapt them to teaching science. Seriously, I couldn’t have done it without all my great memories of you and your team teaching me how to do the Puzzle Place workshops.

  2. I missed you so much, Monica. Then again I knew you were doing something amazing and that we would hear about it soon. I just think you are the coolest person I know. Can I just say that – using the word cool!
    I’m proud to know you and call you my friend. My kids used to love Sid the Science kid. How absolutely fantastic that you got to teach science and make it fun, experience Sao Palo and learn some Portuguese, all the while making a difference.

    • Thank you so much, MM. So very nice of you to call me cool. Right back atcha, of course. I’m so glad your kids discovered Sid. Now he has to be the coolest scientist I know! After watching 40 episodes he and I came to be great buds. I also took a shine to his friends–May, Gabriella and Gerald. They’re all awesome! 😉

  3. I am so very proud of you for stepping up and doing something so fabulous! For not letting fear stop you (of course I knew you would never do that). For connecting and for having fun!

    What a wonderful project. You missed nothing but you were missed. I hope you tell more and soon.

    • Val, I must confess, it was touch and go with that fear factor for a moment there. I was going to let it get the better of me. Luckily, the folks at Jim Henson talked me down. They invited me to visit their studios–which were ultra cool–and then over lunch we just chatted and somehow they managed to stir up all this excitement in me and before you knew it, I was already making plans. By the time I got back to San Diego, I was making lists of materials to bring and working on my lesson plans. Voila!

  4. This sounds so exciting. I’d love to have the opportunity to do something like this some day. Glad to hear it was a success.

    • Thanks, Kim. I really was terrified and the last thing I wanted to do was fall on my face. Luckily, I didn’t. I studied hard and the rest fell into place quite nicely. What an experience!

  5. Sounds like it was a spectacular trip. How wonderful you went in a real life capacity, not just as a tourist. I know you made a difference with the Brazilian teachers, their students and of course, you will never forget this. Students and teachers in any country need your enthusiasm. I feel it in every line of your post. Bem vindo de volta!

    • Nope, I wasn’t a tourist–and we picked a fine time to go. It was in the middle of their summer! The days were long and the weather was balmy. We even had some nice tropical rains.

  6. I missed you, Monica — welcome back! Wow, this sounds like a wonderful, memorable experience, both for you and your students. You’re fortunate in having been chosen to go — and I just know your students were glad to have you!

    Love your #2 above, It’s never too late to venture down a path toward brand-new and rewarding experiences. How true! Travel broadens us, as does mentoring and imparting knowledge to others. Bet Henry and Oliver missed you, too!

    • Thank you so much, Debbie. I absolutely loved my students. My ice breaker activity was asking them to draw an outline of their hand, cut it out and decorate with crayons, markers and stickers I brought with me, and then explain to the class why they chose to decorate it the way they did. It was so lovely hearing what they had to say. Then, for the science part, we did an activity on non-standard measurement–and they measured using the hand cutouts! What fun!

    • The beauty of the class I taught was showing these teachers how easy it is to find everyday stuff to use and explore. We took a walk outside with our magnifying glasses and found a world of wonder and curiosity awaited us.

  7. Welcome back Monica.

    Your posts have been missed.

    Pleased the trip was a success and that you had great fun. It’s always nice to do something new, to learn new things and pass on knowledge to others.

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