Our classroom has four walls, but these days in Social Studies class, student learning is going far beyond our local bubble. This is no typical geography class. Students are writing emails to new penpals all over the world, eagerly awaiting their responses. We’ve heard back from teachers who have agreed to share their letters with students in the Philippines, Afghanistan, France, Norway, Iran, China, Australia, India, Russia, Italy, Turkey, and Israel. Our students at Innovation Academy can’t wait to hear back. As teachers, we are frantically trying to keep up with coordinating these relationships, forged through former Innovation teachers and friends, past IREX fellows, and sites like www.epals.com. Even without any student responses yet, the excitement is palpable.
We are also using world religion as a lens to learn about different beliefs, traditions, and practices that vary and maintain consistent across borders. Last week, we visited five houses of worship, all within a half hour drive of our school. We met with leaders at a Buddhist center, a Hindu temple, a Muslim mosque, a Jewish temple, and a Greek Orthodox church. Our new class blog, Sacred to Me, Sacred to You, will impress you! Our students have shared what is sacred to them, from Jesus on a cross to footballs and legos. Photos of their sacred objects are shown on the blog. We are inviting readers from all over the world to contribute, and we’ll also post what we learn through our research about religions that are not our own.
Want a taste of our field trip experience? Check out this video that I made:
If you are not a 5th or 6th grade student in Social Studies right now, don’t be too jealous. You can join us! Here are some ways that you can connect with our students:
a) Volunteer to be a guest speaker: We have a Wednesday speaker series in which guests give talks on places around the world where they have lived, worked, or traveled. Do you have expertise to share?
b) Contribute to our Sacred to Me, Sacred to You blog: What is sacred to you? If you want to contribute, check out details on the blog and email your writing, photo, or video link to email@example.com. Be sure to say where you are writing from!
c) Share a Resource: We are always looking for ideas for websites, books, videos, and other resources to share with our students. Let us know if you have an idea about global citizenship, geography, culture, or religion.
d) Follow and comment: In addition to my upcoming posts from Ukraine and Turkey that will appear here (in less than a month), more student work will be displayed on the Sacred to Me, Sacred to You blog. Students would love to know that you are checking out their work, so come back soon!
We look forward to welcoming you into our classroom, virtually or otherwise!