ISLE Program

2007 Session II Activities

After two days of writing papers for their session I finals the students eased into their session II schedule beginning with dance, drumming and batik classes.  Extracurricular classes such as Dance and Drumming and Batik offer a chance for students to get creative.


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The girls practice the opening dance number of the upcoming performance.

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Peter Surisena, dance teacher, gives instruction during the bi-weekly class.

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Paige and Will Cole in batik class.

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Haven and Fiona batiking.

Elective courses such as Development, History, Art, Sinhala II, Buddhism and Women's Studies were soon underway. How students enjoyed these and other classes is reflected in the selected quotes below.

Sinhala language instructor Mr. Herath continued to conduct small group and individual sessions, along with regular classes twice a week. Having completed Sinhala I during the session I program and speaking Sinhala daily with their host families, staff members and the people in the community, the students are on their way to becoming confident in using the language.

"Mr. Herath was great about answering questions and focusing on what we wanted to learn so I never really felt like I wasn’t learning the things most necessary to communicate in Sinhala."

"Herath is truly a great teacher.  Learning a new language is difficult regardless of how good the teacher is, but Mr. Herath is really in his element.  He teaches in a month what most colleges teach in a semester." 

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Mr. Herath with Will, Haven and Ruth in Sinhala class.

A field trip for Art, Drama and Poetry class with Prof. Ashley Halpe took the students to the National Art Gallery and to the Sapu Mall Foundation to look at Sri Lankan art.  Also while in Colombo, the students attended a Sinhala play about freedom of the press. 

"Everything Professor Halpé said was clear and easy to follow." 

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Professor Ashley Halpe explains church murals to Nik and Haven during the
Art, Drama and Poetry course field trip to Colombo. 

"The field trip to Colombo, and our poetry/lit reading later on at Halpe’s was an essential part of my experience, and it helped me understand the material better as well as meet the people responsible for the work we were studying." 

Regarded as one of the most famous bi-lingual contemporary authors in Sri Lanka, Tissa Abeysekera held a reading of his works for the students during their visit to Colombo. Other readings by nationally and internationally noted authors and poets followed in the class sessions of this course which included the poet Jean Arasanayagam and writer Carl Muller.  

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Haven eager to hear Tissa Abeysekera, eminent author, read from
one of his books at his office in Colombo.

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Jackie, Nik and Anna on either side of eminent novelist Carl Muller as
he reads from his prize winning "The Jam Fruit Tree."

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Will Cole, Pagie, Katie, renound poet Jean Arasanayagam, Sarah and Ruth
listen intently to a reading from Carl Muller.

Hours of studying during the week was often followed by a weekend cricket match that became a very popular weekly event.  Being one of the most popular sports in Sri Lanka, there are  plenty of opportunities for the students to learn the needed cricket skills from the staff and other members at the ISLE Center.  

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Katie and Fiona, with bat and wickets in hand, ready for the weekly
cricket match at a neighborhood pitch.

The course Development and Change in Sri Lanka, taught by Professor G.H. Peiris and Dr. Nimal Sanderatne, focused on the developing economy of Sri Lanka, ethnic conflict and nation building; political and youth unrest; poverty and unemployment; welfare versus growth; the demographic transition; agrarian transformation; and environmental sustainability.

"The lectures were very well organized and it is clear that our teachers know a lot about the subjects."

The two-day long Development seminars were very successful this year. Attended by both students and the university staff, this year’s guest lectures sparkled a high level of discussion. One of the two guest speakers, Dr. G Usvatte-aratchi, was most recently a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy, but has also been a Consultant on Economics and Public Finance to Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Vice-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Marga Institute, and director of the Department of International Economic and Social Affairs.  The second speaker, Dr Godfrey Gunatilaka, was a member of the former Civil Service of Sri Lanka; Founder-Executive Director of the Marga Institute, a centre established in 1972 for intellectual inquiry and multidisciplinary research relevant to development policy formulation in Sri Lanka. 

"Both professors were highly personable and approachable. And even though discussions were infrequent in class, the professors were always willing to answer questions when they arose." 

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Development students at the start of the Seminar.

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Development Professor Nimal Sanderatne (Center) introduces eminent
economists Dr G Usvatte-aratchi (Left) and Dr Godfrey Gunatilaka (Right). 

Theravada Buddhism is always a popular course, taught by Professor Premasiri, offered students the opportunity to learn both theory and practice from a variety of sources. Professor Premasiri makes Buddhist doctrine very clear in his lectures and gives excellent handouts summarizing the material.

"This course was a good introduction to Theravada doctrine and Prof. Premasiri is incredibly knowledgeable in this topic. It should be offered as an elective to future ISLE students." 

The Gender and Nation course was taught by instructors Sumathy Sivamohan and Kamala Liyanage.  The course explores the question of what is Sri Lanka and who is the Sri Lankan woman and especially, it interrogates the construct of the two terms, Sri Lanka and Woman.  The students in this course engaged in a study of the historiography of the nation, woman, and disciplinary parameters of women’s studies, using scholarly and literary material on gender.

"I liked that this class was mostly discussion based and I felt like we were given the opportunity to talk about things that were of interest to us."

"The lectures were excellent, but what I valued most in this course was the quality of discussion. Both professors were open to discussion and were comfortable discussing sensitive issues."

"This course was useful and made me think about gender roles and relations in Sri Lanka.  I feel that it was helpful to my understanding of Sri Lanka."

Students enrolled in the Colonial History course felt fortunate to listen to extempore lectures delivered by Professor Kingsley de Silva.  His course deals with five centuries of Sri Lanka’s social and political history from the 16th century to the 20th century.  The themes covered included politics, religion, population movements, trade, economic growth and the regional background.

"We often said that listening to Prof. De Silva was like reading a book. His lectures are some of the most eloquent and clear lectures I have ever heard."

"This was my favorite course as I felt I learned a great deal. Prof. de Silva is a very knowledgeable professor and a great lecturer." 

On one of the weekends, program assistant Flynn organized a trip for the students to the elephant orphanage. The tour to the orphanage combined elements of both natural awareness of an endangered species and entertainment.

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Group shot at Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage. 

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Paige and Ruth with Sumanisena, wait with bated breath to ride an elephant.

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Kath, Will, and Ruth gulp down tambili water enroute home.

At the beginning of session II the students signed up for various volunteer activities in the surrounding community.  One particular group of students chose working in the local orphanage as their volunteer project, which included helping to paint the interior walls of the building.

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Paige and Kath in charge of edging the dining room. The students
gave this room and the kitchen a new paint job and a scrubdown at
Singithi Sevena Orphanage.

Another group decided to teach English to the children at Evelyn Nurseries.  

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Sarah taking time with a young girl at Evelyn.

A well deserved celebration before exams and serious paper preparation near the end of session II was a Halloween party with events which included apple bobbing, costume contest, and of course, a pumpkin carving contest. 

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Ruth, Pagie, Will and Jackie prepare to carve.

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Fiona and Haven with their carved cat.

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Group Halloween picture

Session II is the time when students must make plans for their Independent Study project, and complete their annotated bibliographies, research proposals and research presentations. The faculty director met with the students one-on-one during the last week of the session to answer any questions about their project and to offer helpful advice.

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Director Larry and Kath have a chat about Independent Study in the ISLE Center garden.

Learning dance and drumming for several weeks lead up to a grand finale performance at the end of the session.  It is not only a great way to show the skills they have learned but it provided the memorable show for the participants of the audience. The concert is attended by the host families, friends from the community and members of the ISLE center.   

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A picture of the Pooja Dance squad before heading on stage.

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The ISLE men open up the show with a Mongul Bera (drumming) routine.

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Katie during the Koolu dance.

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Will Olson, Nik and Will Cole mid dance.

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The performance concludes with the group on stage.

(More photos on Photo Gallery page.)