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!