Meri Primary School Training
Addis Ababa Education Bureau
Government School

by Dagim Melese and Atsede Tsehayou
TSE Country Lead Professional Development Facilitators

Thinking Schools Ethiopia facilitated a half day refreshment training for whole staff of Meri Primary School. Meri Primary School is part of the 300+ government schools in the Addis Ababa Education Bureau.

The purpose of the training is to support class room use of Thinking Maps for educators which were previously were introduced to the school staff and also included new educators of the school. Forty eight (48) educators partcipated in the training with the majority of them being female educators. Brief introduction of the Thinking Schools Model and description of three broad principles of the model was followed by a round table modelling of introduction and use of all eight thinking processes for the eight Thinking Maps. Educators were then asked to work in collaborative groups exercsing the use of the maps using first general topics and later in departments with subject specific topics . Examples were shared, discussed and reflected upon.


The group was observed being purposeful, actively engaged , with educators exhibiting competence in the use of the maps – coming up with great examples .

The training continues with on going school site visits by TSE Trainers. Above and below are some of the still pictures taken of the training.



Thinkabout Blog
Building from the Ground …Down


by David Hyerle
Founder of Thinking Foundation, Developer of Thinking Maps
Last month I travelled for two reasons. One reason was to work with educational leaders in Ethiopia and the other was to travel across northern Ethiopia. Little did I know that the real reason was waiting far beneath the ground.

After flying into Addis Ababa and then north, our Thinking Foundation team began working in the city of Mekele in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia. We are collaborating with a dozen university professors and lecturers, lead by the Tigray Development Association, to initiate the Thinking Schools Accreditation Process (TSAP). This means that the 37 public schools (that have begun professional development in the TSI approach some months ago) will begin documenting their own evolution as a Thinking School with direct support from highly qualified university researchers. The two day, highly collaborative, seminar was ground breaking for all of us. I wanted to make sure that these leaders evaluated, challenged, and adapted our design to fit the culture, language, values and goals set by Ethiopian educators. The vision is to build quality model sites from which an educational movement supporting high quality teacher professional development in Ethiopia can grow – indigenously.

After the work it was time to explore: we went on several very bumpy road trips in northern Ethiopia to historic Aksum and surroundings (now a international travel destination). Three eight hour journeys took my breath away: crossing high mountains laced with terraced farming, broad river valleys, Grand Canyons one after another, and 15 mile long high plateaus graced by small villages. This trip was beyond my imagination, and ultimately, brought me to sit on the barren floor of an unlit kindergarten classroom surrounded by smiling, eager faces in a town called Lalibela. I had only heard about and looked at a few pictures of the UNESCO site at Lalibela. They call the town the 8th wonder of the world. Like sculpture through which an artist releases a form from solid, cold stone, what I witnessed in this dry, mountain top village transformed my vision of what is possible. There are wonders of the natural world, and then there are the natural miracles of imagination and human potential that transcend our notions of the possible. As this is a season of miracles for many, if you visit here you may come to believe that the human mind can envision most anything … and build it. I certainly see transformative, secular education as such an endeavor.


A sculptor emancipates a vision from stone, slowly bringing it into light, into sight that then often sits untouched upon a pedestal. But what happened in the late 12th and early 13th centuries in Lalibela was the sculpting of 11 churches carved out of stone – literally from the ground…. down. Like building an intricate sandcastle on the beach downward rather than up. Give your mind a moment to consider this: imagine being up high on a mountainside in a village and at that turn of a dusty road, you take a tight, curved steep pathway down into a courtyard nearly two hundred feet to the base of a church. Look up and you see a multistory church … and then above it the ground level from which it was carved. The church was NOT BUILT. It was carved. Completely from the level ground, down. From the outside in. Walk into the church center, a scared crossing of rooms, that could hold a hundred people, and see in the darkness men, women and children dressed in pure white, glistening, sitting or standing while leaning their hands and chins on prayer sticks. Chanting scripture by candlelight. Become transformed as I did by the strange feeling that you were standing INSIDE a sacred sculpture seeking light from the underground darkness.

After stepping out into the full light and heat from the churches (many connected by underground passage ways) up the road we visited a Lalibela kindergarten school owned by a single teacher. She is a mother who started the school in her small home, on her own, to serve the community and the memory of her son who passed away in early childhood. I was sitting on the floor amongst 20 or so 4-5 year old children. I began playfully showing them the hand signs for each of the eight Thinking Maps– each for learning how to visually pattern ideas from a blank page. I looked up at the teacher and beheld the smile of a mother. Outside in the courtyard, I asked her what she needed. And then I immediately asked myself within… as I listened to her: “What doesn’t she and these children and this school and this community need?”

She said she needed $400 for a computer as she needs to create and transmit reports of attendance and other key information to the government so that she can receive funding. And toys – simple toys as she explained – to bring the kinesthetic development required for growth. She needs the basic tools of the trade for the 21st century. I told her I would reach out to my friends for help.
You are those friends.

I have always considered education in its hightest form to be the release of the unlimiting thinking capacities of students into the open, rippling across generations, centuries, human kind – yet all projected forward from thousands of years ago. In Ethiopia you can visit the the bones of our ancestors: the archeologists’ remnants of Lucy under glass at the National Museum. This in a country dominantly Christian in the true cradle of civilization. Many Ethiopians hold, quite naturally in mind, a belief in God and the science of Darwinian evolution.

I was reminded on my visit to a Lalibela church that one of the three wise men, Balthazar, came from Ethiopia and, from a kindergarten classroom in Lalibela, that every child should have the opportunity to grow wise with age.We are seeking funds for one computer in Lalibela, resources for Thinking Schools teachers and students across Ethiopia, and for supporting an evolution in thinking.

For donations to the Lalibela kindergarten and the Thinking Schools Ethiopia projects, please contact David through


Short History of Lalibela from Wikipedia:
During the reign of Saint Gebre Mesqel Lalibela (a member of the Zagwe Dynasty, who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century), the current town of Lalibela was known as Roha. The saintly king was named so, because a swarm of bees is said to have surrounded him at his birth, which his mother took as a sign of his future reign as Emperor of Ethiopia. The names of several places in the modern town and the general layout of the rock-cut churches themselves are said to mimic names and patterns observed by Lalibela during the time he spent as a youth in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.Lalibela, revered as a saint, is said to have seen Jerusalem, and then attempted to build a new Jerusalem as his capital in response to the capture of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187. Each church was carved from a single piece of rock to symbolize spirituality and humility. Christian faith inspires many features with Biblical names – even Lalibela’s river is known as the River Jordan. Lalibela remained the capital of Ethiopia from the late 12th into the 13th century.

Thinking Schools Ethiopia Tigray
Reports from the Field
Wolkayt Woreda Primary and Secondary Schools

Thinking Schools Ethiopia, Thinking Foundation, Initiative Africa
Year 1 • 2015-2016/2007-2008 • Monthly Report
Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out:  Empowering Young Girls: Building Communities
Westwrn Zone, Wolkayt Woreda
Report written by Berihu Alay (COC) • November, 2015 • Humera

The objectives and strategies for the quality improvement of general education during the forthcoming years have been clearly spelled out by the MoE in the General Education Quality Improvement Package (GEQIP). The package is composed of a number of components and sub-components which are complementary to each other and form part of an integrated school effectiveness model.

The strategy have made devised system of assessing, upgrading and certifying quality of education delivery of schools as well as professional capacity of all staff in the education system. However challenges are threatening the successful practice of these policy intentions. The Tigrai regional Bureau of education and TDA believe the introduction and effective and efficient implementation of the project “Growing Thinking Schools Inside Out –Empowering Girls Building Communities” , Educational ideology, which is currently being proven within the international school communities around the world, to have a significant accelerating effect in transforming the quality of provision of education in Tigrai Schools.

Thinking Schools Ethiopia – Tigray is a collaboration of Tigray Development Association and Thinking Foundation for 37 model schools in 12 Woredas located in all  7 zonal administrations with funding administered by Initiative Africa for a Girl’s Empowerment Whole School Change grant from Sida (Swedish Development Agency) that began as a grass roots project by Robert Seth Price along with lead country trainers Atsede Tsehayou and Dagim Melese. Read the chapter on Ethiopia in the Corwin Press book Pathways to Thinking Schools.

wolkayt negash primary school3

The approach of Thinking Schools is a systems approach that uses lifelong thinking and problem solving methods that support deeper understanding and methods of sharing understanding including students, teachers, leadership and parents. This includes secondary, elementary, across all disciplines and supports special needs. The Thinking Schools approach provides an equal opportunity for all students regarding of gender to develop their thinking skills equally for mutual understanding and success. Additionally, the methods are skills that parallel tools an entrepreneur would use to develop and succeed with all students’ professional development.

In wereda Wolkayt, three schools are targeted under this project. These are Getachew Azenaw Secondary School, Negash Primary School and Teshome Primary School.

After the TOT training given for top performing teachers, schools have been accomplished different activities to implement the objectives by accepting the rational of the project. It is believed that the rational for implementation of Thinking Schools Ethiopia is that lifelong skills for use with problem solving in school, life and work for students, educators, school leaders and parents which is vital for growing school community in particular and the whole school system in general.

Hence, target schools have accomplished different activities in the last three weeks. In Nov, 05, 06 and 08, 2015 all the target schools (Getachew Azenaw Secondary School, Negash Primary School and Teshome Primary School respectively) have given trainings for teachers. (See photos if necessary)

Wereda Education Leaders
The role of the wereda education head and management experts has taken a lions position in leading the target schools to give trainings for their teachers in their schools. A meeting with management committee has been held on 03/11/2015 and we gave directions for target schools to plan action plans and give trainings.

wolkayt group meeting

Getachew Azenaw Secondary School
wolkayt getachew secondary school
In this secondary school, all the trained teachers and the TOT trainers together have made an open discussion on how to give training for all teachers of the school. Based on this, they have assigned different committees. (See their minutes). Besides, they have discussed on the action plan prepared by the school director. Then they have all agreed to give the training based on the scheduled time.

wolkayt getachew secondary school2
Teachers of Getachew Azenaw Secondary school community building exercise.
wolkayt getachew secondary school3
Teachers of Getachew Azenaw Secondary school community building exercise.

During the training session, all the responsible trainer teachers have been led the training and all teachers in the school have been participated. The eight different thinking maps have been posted at any angle of the school and discussed in detail.

wolkayt getachew secondary school4

Participants were satisfied and they reflected that they are committed to implement these maps in their class rooms to ensure quality education with clear understanding of the rational of the project.

wolkayt getachew secondary school5
Personal Frames of Reference.

Negash Primary School
Similarly in Negash primary school, TOT trainers with other trained teachers have prepared an action plan and assigned committees to implement the training. Besides, this school has prepared a budget.

wolkayt negash primary school1

Hence, they have accomplished the training with a much needed manner and all trainees have decided to implement the project in their school in general and the THINKING MAPS in their class rooms in particular.

wolkayt negash primary school2

Teshome Primary School
In this school similarly with other target schools, have planned an action plan assigned committees based on the direction given by the top leaders of the wereda education office and me (IEGRS project COC). Therefore, they have given the training for all concerned teachers.

wolkayt teshome primary school3

Tesfa Birihan Secondary School
Whole Staff Professional Development
Addis Ababa Government School

12308881_968501049890665_1772976399_nThe training descriptive that follows is part of the Thinking Schools Ethiopia Addis Ababa government schools project that includes 6 city model laboratory schools and 6 rural model laboratory schools near Addis Ababa.

by Atsede Tsehayou and Dagim Melese
co-country lead facilitators
The training with Tesfa Birihan Secondary School on the 27 November 2015, was a one day training on Thinking Maps . It involved 115 participants constituting the whole staff of the school.  The participants included teachers, teacher professional development experts, deputy directors, and the support staff  including accounts, store keepers, cashiers, people of the pedagogical centre. The goal of the training was to introduce whole staff with Thinking Maps and initiate whole school use with implementation of the maps in the classrooms for students and with the staff for leadership.

12305573_969500083124095_1251699250_nThe training began with community building exercises (e.g. commonalities) which was followed by work on personal frames of references (which was modeled by Atsede Tsehayou, the country co-lead facilitator).  Atsede collaborated with participants in the training including the vibrant educator Marta. They modeled Think – Pair – Share:

  • first Teacher with Student,
  • then Student with Student,
  • then the whole group in pairs.

Participants were then asked to read and reflect on page 25 of the Growing Thinking School guide (a page on Comparison between Thinking and Traditional Students), and asked to share observations on the validity of the comparison given their experiences. This was later followed by a brief introduction of the Thinking 12283006_968497566557680_1349611696_nSchool Model and communication on the emphasis of the days training:  Thinking Maps .

Thinking Maps were introduced with their hand symbols. We modeled the use of one of the Thinking Maps. Subsequently participants were first asked to use general topics to be explored by all 8 maps and next organised into departments and worked on subject relevant topics .

Observations during the training include:

  1. Vibrant school leader – Ato Yohannes Asefa sees the value of the work and is excited to regularly collaborate with Thinking Schools Ethiopia.
  2. 12319604_968516576555779_1109016025_nTeachers shared that one day is not enough. They said they need to master the use of the maps if they are to transfer the maps to their students. So more training in the maps for mastery was requested.
  3. The sub-city supervisor was accidentally there at the school where witnessed and was appreciative to see the teacher attending training on Thinking Maps as shared by the school leader Yohannes.
  4. The educators were serious and purposeful. They were seriously engaged and really trying to exercise using Thinking Maps.