After the Montessori Magnet School's Cultural Fair, which highlighted the exchange and a schoolwide exploration of African culture, one inspired parent wrote, "I am so proud to know (that our) children have a dedicated, thoughtful and creative school community that fills their days with enriched learning and engagement of our diverse world!"
1. Connect it to the curriculum. Laura Mack's second graders at Churchill Road complete a yearly unit on Mali. Interacting with real children who live in Mali makes the unit come alive. Says Laura, "This has been a truly amazing experience for us!" At Montessori Magnet, in conjunction with their art exchange, Pre-K through 4th grade classes explored African storytelling, geography, language, dance, jewelry making and much more.
A display of African-style jewelry made by students at the Montessori Magnet School.
2. Share culture through art and photos. Students on both ends of the exchanges created artwork that depicted various aspects of their cultures. The teachers encouraged students to draw a variety of subjects to maximize the amount of cultural information shared -- and took photos that showed their students in some real-life scenes depicted in the artwork.
Artwork created by a 3rd grade student at the Kabe Elementary School, Mali.
3. Attach photos of student artists. Attaching the smiling faces of the student artists to the artwork they create makes the exchange more personal and meaningful. Peace Corps Volunteer Jamyel Jenifer (Fangasso) had students hold signs with their names and numbers indicating their artwork; while PCV Laura Schairbaum (Kabe) took photos of students holding their artwork.
Second grade students at the school in Kola, Mali.
4. Make a display and involve your whole school community. Displays are a great way to extend the cultural sharing beyond the classroom to the whole school community -- and remind students of the friendship and cross-cultural connection they have made. After their exchanges, Laura M. (Churchill Road) and Jamyel (Fangasso) shared photos of their displays by Email -- a great way for students to feel pride in their work and see that it is making an educational impact in another part of the world!
Artwork created by students in Virginia hangs from the rafters at the school in Kola, Mali.
Make a difference! Realizing that her partner school was learning about Africa, Laura S. (Kabe) included a letter with her package, explaining the cultural significance of the artwork and photos. When teachers and parents at Montessori saw the display, they were inspired to contribute, not only more student art projects, but a whole computer box full of school and art supplies - much needed resources at Laura's school.
On behalf of all five school communities, many kudos and thanks to Elisa Byrnes (Montessori Magnet), Laura Mack (Churchill Road), Laura Schairbaum (PCV, Kabe), Amanda Dowell (PCV, Kola) and Jamyel Jennifer (PCV, Fangasso) who coordinated the exchanges at their respective schools! Thanks, too, to all teachers, principals, students and parents whose many efforts made the exchanges great successes!
Students from Kabe Elementary School in Kabe, Mali.