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School & Classroom Program: The World Seems Smaller

​We’re happy to introduce outstanding teacher Michelle Boyce, who participated in the School & Classroom Program this year. In ten years, we have connected 3800 teachers and 275,000 students in 128 countries. Join us for the 2014-2015 school year by registering today at: http://www.ptpi.org/community/SCP.aspx. See why Michelle joined, what her students learned, and make it a priority to connect your students to the world.

School & Classroom Program: The World Seems Smaller

Name: Michelle Boyce

Hometown: Bellevue, Nebraska USA

Partner Classroom: Sondu, Kenya

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you hear about PTPI’s School & Classroom Program and what motivated you to start?

I am not certain how I heard about it, maybe a postcard or flyer. I was excited to partner with PTPI, as my son has traveled with People to People on a trip to Australia, and although I cannot take each of my students to another country, I decided I could give them a taste of another country through the partnership program. I myself have limited exposure to other countries and expected to learn as much as my students with this venture, and I did!

After being matched and starting communication with your partner class, did you notice any effects on the students in your classroom? If so, did those effects spread beyond your classroom?

I specifically requested to be partnered with another country outside the North American Continent. We were lucky enough to draw the School of Hope in Sondu, Kenya. This was a perfect match in my opinion because of the distinctive differences in our cultures, language, economic status, and pretty much every way possible. What an incredible personal experience for my students. There was an immediate reaction within my classroom. They clamored for more information on the country, the area, and the culture. Their compassion was overwhelming, and they instantly wanted to help make the education of these students better and easier any way they could. We began by making friendship bracelets to accompany our first letters. We conversed back and forth through email, gaining knowledge and developing friendships with each of the students. We sent candy and picture books describing fall holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. They sent photos and more letters. We sent more candy and some soccer balls, hand pumps, and needles to fill them.

Still, the students wanted to do more. They brainstormed the idea of having a school wide fundraiser. We checked with administration, and they approved it. We partnered with the Student Council.  The students created a power point to share with the student council, and then they divided up, two or three students to a grade level.  They created a slide show for each classroom, tailoring it to the age level. They printed pictures of the SOH students so they could have a “face” to know who they were helping. They wrote a letter to the parents of the students in that grade level, they made collection boxes and posters to hang by each class door so the students could track the money they donated. They collected and counted every day. After two weeks they wired $1095 USD to the SOH. It was a very rewarding experience. Many of my students blogged about it over the weeks. www.kidblog.org/Boycetown2013-14.

Did you and your students learn things about your partner class’ country that were unexpected?

A great many things – the animals that are different, the food, the classrooms, the society, the people. But the concept that hit home the hardest for my students was that not everyone lives as they do. They are very privileged and lucky to live as they do. The fact that caused the most commotion was the wild animals they have free and loose in Kenya! The Big 5! Wow!

Do you feel it is important for all people to learn about other cultures?

When you ask the students in class what they feel is the biggest impact about this program, they will tell you that it has made the world seem smaller. It has made it seem more of one global community. I think that people can only become more sympathetic, more empathetic to others lives when they understand the similarities and differences of other people and their cultures.

What skills do you think your students will take from this beyond the classroom?

I think they will continue to be compassionate to other students, and I hope they keep up with the correspondence of our friends we have made in Sondu. I hope they continue to strive to make connections to people outside their “circles” and to continue to put themselves in other people’s shoes.
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