By Ms. Melina Easter
Think. Create. Share. Grow. As a media specialist in a rural school district in Southwest Virginia, my goals include inspiring students to think critically, collaboratively create, and responsibly share their ideas. Through this process, the ultimate goal I desire for them is simply growth. Whether it’s base knowledge like learning facts about a topic or the soft skills of managing how to work within a group of diverse opinions, reflecting upon that growth is key to creating independent, lifelong learners.
Partnering with the IVECA program gave my students the opportunity to take their growth to the next level as they began to see themselves as global citizens rather than just Virginia citizens. During the fall semester, my seventh-grade students spent time researching inequalities in the United States and thinking about solutions to those problems. Then they were able to share their ideas with students in South Korea as well as explore that country’s similar struggles and solutions. My students were surprised at how alike our countries were in regard to thoughts on inequalities. However, the differences became clear when race and digital divides were highlighted as problems for the United States. In Korea, there is little issue with race and the country is pretty well-connected in terms of technology. The digital divide becomes more of an issue in Korea alongside ageism as older generations struggle with new technologies. Knowing this information has allowed my students to consider ideas they had previously never encountered. Growth.
In addition to the Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities in seventh grade, my second through fifth graders have spent library media time researching two countries in Asia: Japan and South Korea. Along with research, they read a folk tale from each country and watched a travel video. However, none of that makes an impact like actually meeting a native citizen from the country of interest. President and chairman of IVECA, Eunhee Jung, was invited to meet virtually with fourth and fifth-grade students to share some personal experiences as a global citizen. Students were reminded that body language can be just as important as being able to understand the spoken language. They learned some do’s and don’ts of cultural expectations that make visiting another country like Korea so exciting. Because of this personal connection, many of my students became excited about visiting other countries and learning more about their world. Growth.
Now they are thinking; they are creating. They are sharing, and they are growing - all in a global context, rather than a Southwest Virginia one. I look forward to our school continuing our growth as global partners in learning. Teachers often want to give their students the world - and here we have the opportunity to do so. Thank you, IVECA!