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Apr 15, 2016

Partnerships Kickoff in Washington DC & Wisconsin!

Palestinian students preparing for their exchange
Palestinian students preparing for their exchange

Second graders in Washington DC and High School students in Pewaukee, Wisconsin joined the ranks of our future global citizens as they began their 2016-17 School-2-School partnerships this quarter. Creative Learning paired Terry, a second grade teacher's class at Marie Reed Elementary school in Washington DC with our long-time partner, the Sukma Bangsa in Aceh, Indonesia and Kate, a music teacher's class at Pewaukee High School with another returning School-2-School partner, the Arab Evangelical School in Ramallah.

Our new American partner schools reflect the diversity of America. Marie Reed Elementary school is a Spanish immersion, “Title I” school where the majority of students come from Latin and Central America. Terry’s second grade class also includes students from Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Ethiopia. Terry hopes that the School-2-School program will expand her students’ knowledge and awareness of other countries and cultures beyond the four walls of her classroom. She explained, “The only way to combat ignorance and the lack of diversity in our schools is with conversation, cultural awareness, and by building relationships with people who have experienced a different life than our own – and in so doing, perhaps find more similarities than we expected.”

Pewaukee High School is located in a small community 40 miles from the capital of Wisconsin. Kate is constantly exploring ways to incorporate more global awareness and to create global connections for her students. Kate explained that she wants her students to see their lives extending beyond the borders of their home community and that “the ultimate goal is to have our students not just see their life in Pewaukee.” These new partnerships are part of an 18-month virtual exchange model that Creative Learning has launched this semester. Future reports will highlight the exciting exchanges that will take place between our partners in the months and year ahead.

In addition to these new partnerships, the students engaged in our two other partnerships are thriving. Chris, a middle school teacher at the International Academy at Cardozo Middle School in Washington DC, and his class, have spent the term conducting an email exchange with their counterparts at The Carter Academy in rural Bangladesh. While both groups of students are using the partnership to improve their English, these email exchanges haven’t just been about building writing and reading skills. Students have destroyed stereotypes and gained a new understanding by sharing their cultural differences and similarities. They have shared with each other their dreams for their future and the obstacles they face but also the mundane, like their favorite soccer players and the kinds of music they listen to. Chris says, “My students were able to develop a sense of empathy and understanding for their partners through e-mail exchange.”

In Grand Rapids, Minnesota, high school teacher Eric and his students’ skype on a monthly basis with teenagers at a youth center in the slums of Casablanca, Morocco. Their structured discussions have ranged from daily life to the diversity within their own communities. Eric says, “My students have been surprised by some of the questions they have had on issues like race and discrimination, and also by the fact that while we can discuss political issues here quite freely, their peers in Sidi Moumen don't feel the same level of freedom discussing political issues.” Eric continues, “Mostly though, they have been fascinated that their peers are so much like them - similar interests in things like music, technology, hanging out with friends, and dealing with the stresses of school.  I am convinced that participating in this program has helped my students understand their new friends in Morocco as peers and friends, rather than as "the other".

Students are also planning the launch of long-term parallel service projects that will be implemented this spring. The students in Grand Rapids plan to develop rain and pollinator gardens that will enhance sustainability in their community through water and pollution management. The Moroccan students are developing their own project and the two groups will share and discuss these parallel projects and their sustainable impact as part of future dialogue sessions. These projects will demonstrate how young people can effectively be agents of positive community change and make people aware of enhancing sustainable living.

2016 has thus far been a great year for School – 2 – School, with our recurring and new partnerships. We can’t wait to see what else our wonderful educators and their students will produce for the rest of the school year. Thank you for all of your support!

Jan 12, 2016

Our 2015-2016 School-2-School Partnerships

Creative Learning is pleased to announce the start-up of two of our 2015/16 School-2-School partnerships in this last quarter of the year. Both of these partnerships build off of successful programs last year, between Cardozo middle school in Washington DC and The Carter Academy in rural Bangladesh and Grand Rapids High School in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and The Sidi Moumen Cultural Center in Casablanca, Morocco. We are excited to see how our wonderful educators and their inspiring students build on their success together in this upcoming year!

With our Washington DC – Bangladesh partnership, both schools are working on improving their students’ English reading, writing and speaking abilities. Students in each school are creating a series of videos about their life stories and teachers are also introducing e-mail as a tool for communication. Chris Obermeyer, of the International Academy at the Cardozo middle school explained that almost all of his students had never used email before and did not have their own accounts. Last year, as part of their pen-pal program, students would actually hand-write letters, their teachers would scan them, and then print them out. Creating email accounts and then sending messages back and forth builds off of the letter writing last year and improves both sets of students’ English writing skills and vocabulary. The exercise also offers an opportunity for students to gain confidence with communicating in English in both an informal and formal written form.

Chris says the current e-mail exchange, which includes students sending their own short video clips of the students demonstrating a “day in their life” “has been a great way to introduce the students to one another and is a great activity that allows the students to build on their professional skills for their future like writing applications and learning to write in a more professional manner.” He continued, “This activity has been extremely beneficial in teaching his students important information that should be included in all e-mails like how to personalize and email and how to include the correct subject formatting that will help them with applying to colleges and jobs in the future.”

With our Minnesota – Morocco partnership, Eric Northard, a World History teacher at Grand Rapids High school in Grand Rapids, Minnesota and Mohammed Elkhattaby, an educational assistant at the Sidi Moumen Cultural Center in Morocco, are leading a series of theme-based dialogues on youth engagement in schools and in their community. Eric says, “The discussion of the different types of international clubs and student councils that his school offers which focuses on developing leadership skills, sparked interest in the students in Morocco, hoping that they could maybe develop a student council within their own center that would allow them to share their voices with their community.”

We expect 2016 to be a big year for the School-2-School program, as we continue to support these two partnerships’ growth and are poised to announce new partnerships in the first quarter of next year. Thank you for all of your support!

Sep 29, 2015

2014-2015 School-2-School Recap

Chris with some of the TCA high school students
Chris with some of the TCA high school students

         School-2-School closed out our final partnership of the 2014-15 school year with Mr. Chris Obermeyer’s successful volunteer trip to The Carter Academy in rural Bangladesh in July. Mr. Obermeyer and his students at the International Academy at the Cardozo middle school in Washington DC, spent the 2014-2015 school year exchanging videos and letters with the students at TCA, The Carter Academy, in Chandpur, Bangladesh. Like their counterparts in Bangladesh, the students in the International Academy are learning English as they are all new immigrants to the United States, hailing from more than 10 different countries.

         In July, Chris visited TCA for two weeks where hedelivered trainings on integrating technology into the classroom, using small group activities to build critical thinking skills, andutilizing voice recordings to enhance speaking and listening skills. He worked directly with the teachers and students he and his students conducted the virtual exchange with over the course of the year. Prior to his departure, he raised $1600 and purchased five tablets that were donated to TCA.I’m so thankful that I was able to visit the students and teachers in Bangladesh and can’t wait to have the opportunity to go back. I was happy to hear that the work I did while I was there is continuing, and I hope they are happy that the lessons they taught me will continue to shape the lives of my students and myself here in the US.To read more about Chris’ experience, read his return blog!

         With the start of the new school year, we are pleased to announce the launch of our 2015/16 School-2-School program! We plan to continue to grow and deepen our partnerships with schools in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Morocco, and Palestine and applications for US partner schools are now open for this year. Please visit our website to apply and please consider supporting this year’s program. Your support made all the successes of 2014/15 possible. Thank you again -

Students testing out their new tablets
Students testing out their new tablets
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