Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Global Encounter

Teaching at a small school has opened my eyes to the reality that many of my students have little knowledge about the world that they live in.  They tend to think of their world as the small town that we live in and their immediate surroundings.

In an effort to make our students globally aware, some friends and I did something a little out of the ordinary around this time a couple of years ago. A family member of mine was getting ready to venture out on a trip around the world...literally.  He and his buddy from college quit their jobs, left everything behind, and set out to see the world in one year.  They called the experience Global Encounter and you can see their itinerary HERE.

Before leaving, Toby called me and asked if I thought there would be any educational value in their trip and we talked about what that would look like.  After several discussions and meetings, we decided that this would be a once in a lifetime opportunity for my students to see the world and so we would virtually travel right along with them.  Before leaving they came to visit our school so that my students would feel like they actually knew our travel companions.

As they traveled, we Skyped with them, participated in live webcasts, and watched the educational videos that they provided along the way.  I cannot put into words the impact that this opportunity had on my students as well as myself.  We were changed forever and still talk about the amazing experiences we were able to have because of Global Encounter.  As word spread about the worldwide trip, many others joined in. Thousands of students ended up following along as they traveled to places that many of my students never even knew existed.

As the trip grew in popularity, we decided that it would help teachers to provide lesson plans and activities to go along with each leg of the trip.  Students would watch Toby and David on location and then we would discuss and dig deeper, learning more about the culture and geography of the specific destinations.

One of my favorite lessons was the Petra lesson.  Students watched as Toby and David walked around the ancient city made of stone while explaining interesting facts and information about what they had learned. My students were in awe of the amazing structures and carvings they saw and wanted to know more about the people that had created this unbelievable wonder.

While traveling along with Global Encounter, we also saw China's Forbidden City and Harbin Ice Festival, Egypt's Ancient Pyramids, Mount Everest, and Milford Sound (and that's just to name a few). They also were kind enough to put together a scavenger hunt for us to participate in along with them that eventually took us to an underwater discovery involving the shipwrecked SS Conch.  (I know this sounds crazy and I still can't believe we were able to do this even as I write.)

When their trip was over, Toby and David came back to our school to visit again.  This time they brought many items that they had accumulated along the way to share including currency, crafts, and even food.  We loved trying Turkey's version of fruit gummies!  The students were able to ask questions and process the experience while learning even more about different cultures around the world.

I wanted to share our adventure to inspire others to dream big for your students.  Look for ways to bring unconventional learning opportunities into your classroom. I believe that every student deserves to learn about the world in an exciting and meaningful way.  Reading about Egypt in a textbook is not exciting. However, seeing someone that you know visit Egypt and share cool facts and photos from their adventure is very exciting.   While this was our way of bringing the world to our students, it is certainly not the only way that global education can be encouraged.  Technology has given us the ability to knock down the walls of the classroom and allow our students to experience the world in ways that were once thought impossible.

By participating in this activity, I learned that my students had a strong desire to know about the world around them.  They wanted to know about people in other countries and other children that lived differently than them.  It was so fun to watch their excitement as we learned about the many places around the world. Unfortunately, this ended up being a one time opportunity but I was so thankful that my students were able to participate and learn about the world in a real and meaningful way.

*Global Encounter is considering posting their videos, webcasts, and lesson plans on the internet at some point at no cost for educators.  If and when this happens, I will post the link along with more information about the program.  


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