Global Initiatives in the Classroom

Originally written as a letter to parents on November 9, 2012

As our head of school Dr. Gary Krahn is fond of reminding us, “In order to change the world, you must first understand the world.”  The middle school teachers have embraced this vision. Their creative efforts — with the incredible support of Director of Global Initiatives Dr. Michael Roemer – have placed our students in regular contact with people from around the world.  These exchanges offer a dynamic perspective on the world. As students share stories with peers around the globe, the world becomes a little smaller but a lot richer. Here’s just a sampling of recent initiatives.

Virtual Exchanges

Eighth grade English and History classes, led by Mr. Snyder, Mrs. Harper, and Mrs. Elliott, are engaged in a cross-cultural dialogue with students at St. George’s School in Edinburgh, Scotland. Students use a private discussion board to share ideas on topics vary from introductory getting-to-know-you exchanges to more substantive discussions on the history of the civil rights movements in the United States. This will be an on-going initiative.

Seventh and eighth algebra students, led by Mrs. Cooper, have begun a mathematics exchange with students at St. Martin in the Fields in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Using a blogging platform, students engage in cross-continent mathematical problem solving. In the first blog post, a St. Martin teacher posed a math question and asked our students to both answer it and explain how they solve such word problems. Next, Mrs. Cooper will send a question, and the students can begin discussing different perspectives on mathematics (and life!).

Sixth grade global studies teacher Mr. Knight has begun a video exchange between TVS students and fifth and sixth graders in Nagaoka, Japan.  If that name sounds familiar it is because our Japanese exchange students came from that city, and Mr. Knight is collaborating with one of the Japanese teachers who visited our school!

Face-to-Face Exchanges

 In addition to hosting Japanese exchange students for a week, the TVS middle school has enjoyed the presence of Louise Jensen, a Danish student teacher who has been on campus since October 29 and will be here until December.

How will her presence help our students understand the world?  Here’s one example. The week after Thanksgiving break, Ms. Jensen will spend time with Ms. Cargill’s history students.  The class study principles of government and the ideals upon which the Republic of Texas was founded.  In turn, our guest will speak on how these principles of government play out in Denmark and other European countries.  Students will compare and contrast how different governments set priorities.

These regular exchanges, often with students their own age, help our students step into the shoes of people from other cultures in a way that a textbook does not allow.

I was recently perusing the our 8th grade Texas/Scotland discussion board and found this gem as part of one Scottish student’s detailed introduction of herself:

The strangest food I have ever eaten is probably Haggis crisps. I was really hungry and my dad gave them to me saying they were cheese and onion and I ate them! Scotland isn’t all like what you may think we are like – not everyone likes haggis, neeps and tatties (haggis, turnips and potatoes) and no one walks around in tartan kilts from a day-to-day basis unless it is some sort of special occasion and not everyone has ginger hair!

You may not know this, but in 2014 sixteen year olds and upwards are voting for Scottish Independence which is what Alex Salmond, our first minister wants. I do not really agree with this because I am proud to be part of Britain and happy to be linked with England. I am proud to say that I am from the same country as Jessica Ennis or Rebecca Adlington or Mo Farah, but if we split I would not be able to say that because Scotland would have their own Olympic team and none of our English athletes would be in it. It is always in the newspapers about the Scottish Independence Referendum, but I will be in my late fifteens so won’t be able to vote. I saw in one newspaper about the American President vote!

Suddenly I wanted to read more about the Scottish independence movement . . . and haggis.  Now imagine you are an eighth grader reading this: you now have a point of contact with a peer half-way around the world who is awakening you to new points of view and new avenues of exploration.

As we engage in more international activities, I’ll keep you apprised. These are small, but important steps to raising global citizens.

P.S. For the record, here is what Wikipedia told me about Haggis: “Haggis is a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.”

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