Global Connections Inspire Empathy

By Kim Collazo

Robbins, North Carolina, is a rural town that just 1,180 people call home. Many of the children in this quiet community don’t have an opportunity to travel to see distant places. However, twenty-five of our 4th-grade students now have good friends more than 7,900 miles away in eastern Africa.

Thanks to a collaborative engineering project called Global Inventors, organized by Level Up Village, our Robbins students have learned about the global energy crisis, how to build 3D objects using CAD software, how solar lights and circuits function, but most importantly, they have learned empathy through meaningful global friendships.

Our connection with Tynwald Primary School in Zimbabwe ended up being more than just a unique global learning experience. After having traded several weekly videos, learning to say each other’s names, and finding out what our new friends like to eat and do at school, came news that deeply affected us all. I’ll never forget the day we had to tell the children that their friends’ country was in turmoil. Zimbabwe’s military had just launched a takeover of the government, forcing their long-time President, Robert Mugabe into seclusion. Our students were interested in learning more about how this could happen; the idea of a military takeover was completely foreign to them.  

More importantly, our students were worried about their friends. Were they safe? Were their families all right? Were they still able to go to school? They immediately wanted to make new videos to let their STEM partners know they were thinking about them and their country. The comments in the videos were touching, and reinforced to those of us teaching them, just how valuable this experience was for our students.  

Since that time, Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new president, our students have collaborated on their 3D flashlight designs, the projects have been printed, and we have submitted our final videos to our dear friends. And although the course is nearing its conclusion, our students will never be the same. The experience of connecting globally to share, collaborate, acquire new skills, and most importantly, learn empathy will forever remain with twenty-five 4th graders in rural North Carolina. 

Lots of excitement at Tyndwald Primary School in Zimbabwe, too, during the Live Chat with Kim Callazo’s class.