AYF Internship: Engaging Students at TUMO in Yerevan
By U. Daron Bedian
Working at Tumo has provided me with a totally different view of Armenia. The building itself is large, modern, and technologically well equipped, even by American standards. But while the building and its furnishings are impressive, what truly makes Tumo unique is the mindset of the people there and the atmosphere they create.
First off, it is important to recognize that Tumo is not a school. They emphasize teaching in a somewhat unconventional manner, placing the impetus on self-discovery and creation. Students do activities on “Tumobiles” (movable desks with computers), until they earn enough credits to join a workshop. These workshops range from animation to game design to computer programming to music, and are available to all of the students.
Working with the music workshops, I could really see Tumo’s philosophy shining through. The kids enrolled in the music workshops have no traditional musical background, and most of them only learned to play instruments when they began the program, yet they work on every aspect of the music making process: writing, recording, mixing, editing, and producing their own work. The groups, aside from one folk ensemble, are also unconventional, including an all-girl pop band, an all-girl punk band, and an electronic group.
At Tumo, I felt that I was helping kids to discover more about music and to engage with it in new ways, rather than just lecturing them. This was a more rewarding way for us to teach and was a more engaging way for students to learn. On top of the unconventional structuring and atmosphere of Tumo, there is also the Armenian aspect. The students incorporate aspects of Armenian culture into their work, which strengthens and advances our culture by maintaining it and adapting it. For myself, I know that teaching students of course helps them in the short term, but I feel that more importantly, in the long term, I truly felt that these students, and by extension, myself, will make a positive difference in Armenia’s future.