Guest post by Nathan Lutz, Global Learning Coordinator and Primary School French Teacher at Kent Place School in Summit, New Jersey
In my role of Global Learning Coordinator, I am constantly seeking ways for our students to have global experiences. Girls in the Middle School and Upper School at Kent Place School have many opportunities for global engagement, including several options for trips. Our Primary School students, however, don’t have as many opportunities. Our World Language classes have sister classes with which they correspond via letter or Skype, but I feel like we can always do more. After all, technology has given us new opportunities for communicating with people all over the world.
When introduced to Level Up Village (LUV), I knew that by we would have new opportunities that would excite our students about meeting other children from around the world. This fall, the Primary School launched LUV’s after school enrichment course, Global Storybook Engineers. In the winter, we will offer two more: Global Video Game Designers and Global Scientists (a course that focuses on the chemistry of water).
Global Storybook Engineers is offered to our girls in Kindergarten and first and second grades. Students read a popular multicultural folktales, such as Strega Nona (an Italian story about a witch and her helper) and Jabutí the Tortoise (a mythological story from the Amazon). From there, they must create an alternate solution to the story. To accomplish that, the girls learn the components of “design thinking” – that is, empathy with an audience, definition of the problem, a solution, the prototype, and testing.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating because the thing you want to make fails. But that’s part of the process,”said Claire, a student in the class. “If it doesn’t work, you try again.”
What we as teachers especially appreciate about this course is that it pairs literacy with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Research shows that when STEM problems have a narrative, real-life story to them, students working on them are more engaged. In addition, combining reading with engineering their own designs leads to a boost in literacy.
To make it even more interesting is that our KPS girls were paired with a sister school, Seeds of Hope, in Huaraz, Peru. Each week, the girls made and exchanged videos in which they discussed their problems and their solutions.
Through the partnerships we have with Seeds of Hope and the Science League, we hope to broaden perspectives and dissolve borders.
These partnerships were facilitated by Level Up Village, which is building a global learning community through its pioneering global STEAM (STEM + arts) programs. Founded in 2012, LUV fosters relationships between more than 95 schools in the United States and more than 30 global partner organizations in 23 countries in the developing world. Each participating U.S. school directly sponsors a global partner school through Level Up Village’s “Take a class, Give a Class” model: a portion of the tuition delivers the same class to students at one of LUV’s Global Partners, many of whom live on less than two dollars a day.
In fact, many of LUV’s partner schools serve students who would not normally get an education. As a result, Kent Place’s involvement in LUV courses helps Michelle Obama’s #62milliongirls initiative, which fights to provide education for girls who for economic or other reasons are not able to go to school.
In Global Minecraft Builders, designed for students in children in grades three, four and five, our girls learned about urban planning and the mathematical principles that drive it through the popular game Minecraft. By the end of the course, they built a virtual Utopian city in collaboration with their Global Partner. As with Storybook Engineers, Global Minecraft Builders calls for students to make weekly video messages to exchange with their partners, who are constructing the same Utopian city.
For this course, Kent Place was paired with students at the Science League in Sweileh, Jordan, which has been serving students at refugee camps in Jordan (among them Syrian and Palestinian children) as well as other groups in the country who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford opportunities to learn anything science-related.
“In Minecraft, you get to learn how to build things using geometry,”said Lauren, a student in the course at Kent Place School. “My partner and I discovered that we like to build the same things. We made a garden together.”
“I really like how you get to make a new friend across the world, and that you get to work together on the same project. We made a house,” said Sofia.
Through the partnerships we have with Seeds of Hope and the Science League, we hope to broaden perspectives and dissolve borders. As Level Up Village states on its website, “Never have intercultural fluency, global citizenship and acquisition of critical-thinking skills been so easily within our students’ reach.”