Our Connect Miami Project At After School Program In Little Haiti

It was a time where students, parents and staff, worked together on a community project, in a way that was different for ever

yone. We worked on creating a “sawdust alfombra” meaning a carpet made from sawdust. In several countries, this is an Easter tradition as communities would work together to create a colorful display on specific streets. These are judged for competition (design, colors, how elaborate, creativity) in some Central American countries during “The Holy Week” of Easter bringing many to watch and admire these carpets that sometimes take up many blocks.

At Morningside we began by coloring the sawdust with food coloring. However, that was insufficient, so we added paint and or dye, to get more vibrant colors. Some little ones added too much water and were saddened when they realized we were not making soup. Sadly, they had to wait a day or two to allow the sun to dry it up. After that, all groups were listening and trying to follow directions to avoid messing up.

When colors were reached that satisfied each group, we put them out to dry in the sun. Days later, instead of using the ground where school children travelled, we built frames  so that we could move them after completion. We have three classes and within each class, we had smaller groups of 3-4 students. Then they were charged with a theme and whatever they chose to contribute to that theme, they will design a cardboard mold that the sawdust will go in. Eventually, the preK-1st grade students used shapes to create a robot or scarecrow, depending on your angle when viewing.

The 2nd – 3rd grade students depicted a floral arch used as the background for beautiful pictures or a variation of pinwheels, if you’re looking from a side angle.

Finally, the 4th-5th grade students had much more to sort out because there were many “chiefs and no Indians.” Eventually, they designed a colorful sign with the letters: TAYB. The landscape surrounding it merged many colors to exhibit the diversity and unity among them; yet, their freedom to innovate. The last box was an abstract design to complete our carpet.

There were happy times and frustrating moments; clean areas and messy, dirty workstations; Ms. Deborah had a lot of dirty clothes while Ms. Judith did not enjoy sawdust in her hair and face. Mr. Jacques fingers stiffened from stapling cardboard shapes and Mr. Bernard sunburnt from building the frames. Ms. Jeanette was snapping pictures while monitoring those argumentative moments when group members were trying to abandon one group for another that looked more successful at that moment. Finally, Ms. Dashon, created the banner by having all students, parents and staff, trace one hand and decorate it, promoting that connection.

Several parents helped along the way in various ways and everyone had fun. The best part was the big smile when that finished product was displayed.  Almost daily, some students are asking when will we do it again while others suggested, let’s do it for Christmas. Regardless of a next time, clearly our sawdust creations conceived memories that will linger for ages, big and small, proudly show off to any person entering the premises of TAYB Morningside.