International visits spark curiosity and span the globe
Jackie McCarthy’s class of third graders had just returned from lunch. Seeing they had a visitor who wanted to talk to them about their Mexico studies, their eyes lit up and the wheels in their heads started turning a mile a minute.
In keeping with Superintendent Ed Davis’ vision of expanding globalization within the schools, each class at Waxhaw’s New Town Elementary School has “adopted” a country and learned as much as they can about it. Since the beginning of the school year, students have worked diligently to produce posters and artwork that decorate the walls and detail interesting facts about each locale and its culture.
While students learned the basics about each country like the types of food eaten, its population statistics, the language spoken and celebrated holidays, it is clear they went much deeper in an attempt to truly “visit” each country studied.
International festival takes students globetrotting
During their International Festival Day in November, each third grade class hosted “visitors” from other nations, as children went from room to room learning about various countries that included visits to Canada, Egypt, Haiti, Poland, Senegal and South Korea.
As part of the experience, students created and carried around passports that received stamps upon arrival. Students in the “host” country had to share information about their country with others. “We sat on the carpet in each classroom and listened to different people talk about their country,” explained one boy in McCarthy’s class.
Studies include a detailed comparison analysis between the country studied and the United States, and students even familiarized themselves with a country’s fairy tales to get a better feel for the subject matter.
While children learned about international cultures last year, “this year we are incorporated them into the curriculum wherever possible,” notes McCarthy, who has managed to integrate these cultural lessons into subjects ranging from music to art to math.
A thirst for first-hand knowledge
When McCarthy’s third graders learned their visitor in fact had first-hand knowledge of Mexico – the questions began in earnest with all of the children engaged and participating. Questions ranged the gamut and covered topics from schooling to housing; weather to clothing; from the spiciness of the foods to the color of its oceans.
Comparison questions about the ruins of Mexico’s ancient peoples – the Aztecs and the Mayans, made it clear that these students had an in-depth knowledge of the country they had studied, and yearned for more.
To expose children to even more cultures, New Town’s third graders will embark on a Lunch and Learn program this week featuring videos from the “Families of the World” series. Each week during lunch for nine weeks, they will get the opportunity to watch a video that focuses on life in a different country.
When asked to reflect on their work of the past few months, many admitted surprise upon learning some unexpected details – like the fact that Mexico has bullfights and that modern Mexican fashion is not unlike that of the U.S. All raised their hands in a resounding “yes” to the question posed “Does all this studying make you want to go visit for real?”