Learning about the world comes to life when you learn with the world.
Bringing such opportunities into the classroom is at the heart of global education, but it requires high levels of commitment, engagement, and collaboration among students and teachers. This fall, students studying Spanish at Wilmington High School demonstrated they have what it takes.
Upon completing a three-month intercultural exchange project with learning partners in Missouri, Romania, and South Africa, WHS students earned certificates of excellence for outstanding performance and valuable contributions to the high school global learning circle.
Learning circles are not new to Wilmington High School students. New WHS Principal Samantha Woodruff has emphasized community-building circles since the start of the school year to support learning and social/emotional well-being of staff and students.
Spanish teacher Karen Clarke saw the intercultural exchange as an opportunity to expand on that practice. She connected with teacher-partners-in-learning through iEARN, a non-profit organization registered in Spain. iEARN engages participants from more than 140 countries in designing meaningful educational projects that aim to improve learning and quality of life for all.
Students in the four participating schools greeted one another by composing digital introductions about their school, community, and state or province.
“Curiosity is a wonderful place to begin learning about students whose history, cultures, and lives seem vastly different from your own,” explains Ms. Clarke, “but global learning also provides an exciting context for students to learn about themselves, their school, and community.”
The project, called “Hello World,” began with WHS students researching areas of interest to collaboratively produce a digital presentation that reflects the traditions and values of Wilmington City Schools and WHS, including pride in their agricultural heritage, observances honoring veterans, local employers, festivals, natural history, Independence Day, Hispanic Heritage Month and traditional holidays.
Global learning partners became better acquainted through several rounds of questions and answers.
One surprising connection WHS students discovered is that Spanish and Romanian are quite similar, for both evolved from the language of Rome: Latin.
Upon seeing South African partners wearing uniforms, WHS students launched a global discussion that generated new understanding of dress codes and self-expression.
Topics that students found most interesting were school traditions, athletics, music, and how all learning partners were coping with disruptions in their school life due to Covid-19.
Students’ heartfelt good-byes made a strong case for global learning.
Freshman Zachary Irwin wrote, “Thank you for letting us get to know your school and letting us tell you about our school.”
Addison Beckett added, “Thank you so much for helping us learn about your culture. It was very interesting!”
To which, Keitumetse manyaka from South Africa replied, “Thank you very much. I was happy to be part of this, and I have learned a lot from other schools and country and their cultures. Thank you very much — will miss you. Hope to meet you again in the future and will love to visit USA some time.”
Karen Clarke is a Spanish teacher at Wilmington High School.