The third year of our virtual cultural exchange program was cut a bit short by COVID-19, but other than that it was phenomenal! We’re excited to bring it back again next year. This was the first year in which we connected U.S. students with students in Mongolia as well Ghana. The students on all sides did an excellent job of humanizing their respective culture for their peers a world away, allowing them to delve into a fascinating world that is both surprisingly different from their own and surprisingly similar.
How did the timing work with non-matching school schedules?
Since other countries don’t follow the same schedule as schools in the U.S. do, and because schools in the U.S. have very specific timelines to meet for their mandatory education requirements, we designed the program to be flexible so that the students and teachers in the different schools could pick and choose activities that they would do. When they received something from their exchange school, they could ask questions, make comments and do an activity to send back in response!
What activities did they do?
Our virtual cultural exchange program is full of engaging activities to help give students a peek into the lives of their counterparts in other countries. Over the course of the school year they taught each other about various aspects of their lives including local animals, types of food, types of clothing, holidays, chores and responsibilities. Here are just a few examples of activities.
Example Activity #1: Record a video introducing yourselves. State your name and something interesting about yourself. Alternatively, you can make a chart on paper that identifies things that make you special, that you like, or that are important to you.
Example Activity #2: Share the kinds of animals that you have in your area. Choose one animal and write a few sentences as if you were the animal. What do you think about living where they live?
The students in Ghana really dove into the activities this year! They made a video introduction about themselves and their school and shared identity maps about themselves. Their work inspired some great questions that fueled the teaching and learning process.
- “What is fufu?”
- “What kind of music do you like to sing and listen to?”
- “What do you like best about your culture?”
- “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
One of the great aspects of our cultural exchange program is that while the students on all sides get to learn and experience another culture, the American students also learn about some of the hardships that the schools in developing countries experience, and make a difference in others’ lives. During the course of the program, our Mongolian school partner was able to use the funds that were generously raised by the students at St. Joseph’s in California to buy a water filter, water tank, volleyball, and school/art supplies. It was interesting to see what their classroom’s greatest needs and wants were, and fulfilling for the American students to be able to help meet them.