From the moment Jody Swanigan, Principal of East Cooper Montessori Charter School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, heard about Level Up Village (LUV), she was determined to bring LUV programs to her school.
“What first drew me in was the emphasis on STEM,” said Jody. But after checking out the global STEAM courses offered by Level Up Village and watching some videos on the website, she saw the connection between LUV’s “Take a Class, Give a Class” model and Montessori education.
“The global aspect is very Montessori and seemed to really fit what we were trying to accomplish. Our kids do ‘Peace Projects’ and need to do something with their hands. Connecting them with kids in other countries really bridges the global aspect and reinforces the idea that I can make an impact outside my community,” said Jody.
“Maria Montessori said, ‘Establishing lasting peace is the work of education.’ That’s what Level Up Village does by forming that connection of peace education across very different communities,” added Jody.
She soon began a fundraising drive to bring LUV programs to the school, and to her delight, a philanthropic alumni family covered the entire cost of the program for 130 school students in grades four through eight for the 2016-17 school year.
East Cooper Montessori Charter School (ECMCS) students then embarked on five different LUV courses including Global Inventors, Global Water Crisis and Global Game Strategists. They were paired individually with partner students in Level Up Village partner classrooms in Nablus, Ghana, Jordan and Nicaragua where students were following the same curricula. Together with their global partners, they applied STEAM skills to real-world issues such as energy access, water quality and global health issues, while collaborating on projects such as 3D printing a solar-powered light source or designing a water filter.
Be sure to watch this incredible video by East Cooper Montessori Charter School!
“Even some of our super cool middle schoolers really enjoyed the global aspect of it,” said Jody. “They enjoyed seeing and talking to someone, realizing that there are experiences outside their community, outside their state, outside their country. That stood out for them.”
“My long-term hope would be that children all over Charleston County have access and opportunity to this type of initiative,” said Nikki Hollander, Academic Administrator at ECMCS. “The second hope for me would be that we give children this little spark and it creates a bigger spark for them or a bigger passion.”
Jody invited in local media, including the Post & Courier to take a closer look at the innovative global STEAM collaborations taking place at ECMCS and even produced this excellent video in order to share her school’s experience with the greater Montessori school community.
“The impact that Level Up Village has had on our school and on our students has been remarkable. I personally in my 25 years of education have not seen any education that has so truly matched a STEM curriculum with a global aspect to it in such an impactful way,” said Jody. “Our students approach situations with people who are not the same as themselves very differently now that they have had this experience. Level up Village has helped them look at people and situations through a different lens.”
See this press coverage about East Cooper Montessori Charter School’s Level Up Village programs: