- December 21, 2015
For most second-grade students, it can be hard to imagine what life is like in other families, let alone in other countries half a world away. But on March 7, the hands of excited second-grade students at Alta Vista popped up over and over again as they begged for the opportunity to ask their peers questions about their lives.
Their second-grade peers who attend St. Peter’s School in Ghana, that is.
A few months ago, Alta Vista Elementary Principal Barbara Shirley approached second-grade teacher Faith Piper about a woman who had donated a book called “The Ghanaian Goldilocks,” to the school.
Debi Flock, the donor and member of the Ghana Mothers of Hope Association, suggested that Piper use the book to talk to her students about Ghanaian culture. But Piper decided the lesson didn’t have to end with a book.
“We took it one step further and we decided, well, our kids should meet their kids,” Piper said. “And so, she put us in connection with one of the schools that she sponsors and our second-grade class got to spend a lot of time writing letters to their class, and they’re sending letters back to us ... We’ve really been focusing on what makes us different and unique, but also what makes us the same.”
Following the exchange of letters and books, Piper and Flock organized a Skype video-conference session wherein the students could ask each other about their respective cultures and lives at home.
A variety of questions bubbled over on both sides, from “What’s your favorite sport?” to “Does your family own a car?”
Plus, a few performances were peppered in to enhance the learning experience and demonstrate what culture meant to students in both countries. In Ghana, students beat their drums and performed a traditional dance. At Alta Vista, clowns visited to play pranks on each other and incite laughter from the students.
“We came in because the book they sent to Ghana was ‘Clifford Goes to the Circus,’” said Karen Bell, a clown who has been with the Circus Arts Conservatory for 13 years. “And they’re doing that, of course, because Sarasota is a circus town … So, they realized that kids in Ghana have probably never seen an American circus clown before and they asked us to come over and give an example of what that is.”
In order to help demonstrate circus culture, the Alta Vista students put on red clown noses before the Skype session began. And the excitement in the room went from infectious to bursting when, upon starting the video chat, they saw that the students in Ghana had donned identical red noses for the call.
But costumes and performances aside, all of the students simply seemed eager for the opportunity to talk to one another.
“I think it was cool that we actually got to hear what they were saying because it’s, like, really far away from here, and most people don’t even get to talk to someone that’s outside of the country from us!” second-grade student Ava Lunde said. “Or, sometimes, they don’t even get to travel to another state. And it’s so cool that second-graders like us get to take an imaginary trip and see all these kids from Ghana!”
According to Piper, a little bit of time every day was dedicated to learning about why it’s important to get to know other people from different cultures. Accepting others regardless of whatever is different in their lives, she said, is crucial.
“[My students] wanted to know more about the kids. They’re starting to realize they’re just like them — they’re kids,” Piper said. “And I’ve seen it go a long way for kindness in my classroom, too. They’re all like, ‘Oh, we need to be kind to others, just like we’re learning about with the students in Ghana.’ So, even though we took a more global approach, there’s also an impact closer to home, too.”