Around the World: How Students Connect in Private Virtual School
A high-quality private virtual school such as International Connections Academy (iNaCA) offers students many opportunities to connect with classmates, including online clubs and activities, and real-time classrooms. Even through a virtual setting, students often develop meaningful friendships that continue after a course is over!
If you are considering a private online school for your student, be sure to consider this global awareness as a potential advantage. Here is just one example of how a great international virtual school event can bring students together from around the world.
What’s Around the World?
Around the World in 60 Minutes is an event that connects our iNaCA students across the globe by allowing them to share their cultures and homes with classmates and teachers through a virtual presentation. I collaborated with one of the fifth grade teachers, Cassie, to develop this event after she mentioned that she would love to get her students involved as well. We kept an eye out for students from different parts of the world, and then we held a meeting with them to brainstorm some aspects of their homelands or cultures that other students might be interested in learning about.
It started out as a onetime event, but it grew quickly as students began to show interest. Before the first event was even over, I received a message that read, “Mrs. Mussachio, I want to present at the next Around the World event.” In the next couple of days, I received similar messages, so Cassie and I met with our new recruits, shared the guidelines that the first handful of presenters developed, and planned the second event, Around the World: The Journey Continues.
Since the first presentations, additional international and domestic students have expressed interest in presenting each year, so the reputation for the event sells itself. We no longer need to seek out students—they seek us out!
How does it work?
After the student presenters wow the audience with their multimedia presentations, we have a group Q&A session. The event is hosted in the LiveLesson® room, and at the end of the presentations, we pull up a chat pod for each student presenter. This allows for a nice flow of questions while the presenters take turns answering.
It’s during the Q&A that our school community grows and shines. The students are thirsty to hear about the lives of students who live in other countries. They ask thoughtful questions, including, “Do you have pets?”; “What is your favorite place to bring a visitor?”; and “Do you speak a language other than English?” We even get comments such as “I like your accent” a few times, too.
When does it take place?
We have hosted two events per year for the past two years, and we have two scheduled for the spring.
What do students gain from this?
Through the Around the World events, the students realize just how unique each of them is—they each have their own hopes, dreams, families, friends, and traditions. They revel in that while also taking note of their similarities. We’ve found that it is the simple things that give the students in the audience the greatest thrill—and food, of course. We all love to hear about the delicious food from around the world! For example, a burger with a fried egg from McDonald’s—students are amazed!
The Around the World program introduces students to a life outside of their own neighborhoods, and encourages them to embrace other cultures and celebrate each other. As Around the World and other events continue to grow, we have begun to see something wonderful—the students greet each other as they enter the virtual classroom now, and the students cheer each other on. Relationships have been built, and we have been successful in achieving the vision of the global community of learners.
Because we have families around the world, we are in a position to show students the world. Our students are dispelling misconceptions, embracing other cultures, and making friends on the other side of the globe. These events with the students are a highlight of my job, and it’s astonishing how much the teachers have learned as well!
We’ve visited twenty-four unique locations so far, on six out of seven continents. Our presenters have honored us by sharing a glimpse into their cultures, and our student and faculty have created extensive travel lists—but more importantly, they have made real connections to the world.
I was pleased to share and discuss this project with other teachers at the Global Education Conference, and it was honored by a DILA (Digital Innovations in Learning) Award in the Busting Boundaries category. In the future, I hope to hear more positive stories from other educators around the globe!
What are some unique qualities about you and your student’s hometown? What would you show a visitor from far away? Share a little bit of your culture with us in the comments below!