Bridges That Need to Be Built
Last fall, we introduced the Christopher Stevens Youth Network, an Exchange 2.0 effort that will offer complementary physical and virtual exchanges for 10,000 students and 400 educators in 20 countries. iEARN will support online project-based learning focused on eight thematic units: conflict resolution and peace education, the environment, civic education, social entrepreneurship, empowering girls and young women, food security, health, and literacy and education.
This spring, four teachers taking the new Chris Stevens Youth Network online course shared their thoughts:
Even since I became a full-fledged iEARNer, I have discovered that what unites us outweighs our differences and discords. I have found out that we face the same challenges and we share the same aspirations, the same hopes, and the same dreams. My students and I have been stunned by the warmth and generosity of all the community. Now, we refer to a Thai project as though Bangkok is just next door, and when our friends in Islamabad visited an orphanage, we shared their success as though we were there.
I was truly amazed that iEARN was celebrating its 25th anniversary. Why hadn’t I heard of you before? … Seriously? I feel like I have been under a bushel basket!
I really liked some of the projects on the Imagine section of the board. I have shared the cookbook idea with our foods teacher and the mural with our two art teachers. I will be using the ZeroFootprint [Youth Calculator] with my classes as soon as we return from spring break.
Global collaboration, aside from the obvious importance of globalizing our students, is important because it sets the tone that will carry our students into successful careers, which will incorporate all the components of our global society. Our students need to learn the tolerance that is essential in our current world and they need to understand that they are not the center of whichever universe they are currently focused on. In addition to that, learning about and with people from other places is just exciting and fun!
“Stop teaching, let them learn” this statement summarizes my week reflection. Being connected with iEARN community, i realized that we are living a wonderful, interesting, unique but achievable experience that i called “iEARN-D”. “D” refers to my dream, my students’ dream, everyone in iEARN dream.
DREAM to make teachers from different parts of the world join and make a whole community express and share their ideas, hopes and expectations of a better world.
DREAM to link our students regardless their differences via technology , make them know about each other while working collaboratively.
DREAM to enable the new generations put hand in hand beyond the existing barriers to create a wonderful world.
DREAM to plant knowledge, peace, and tolerance buds in their spirits.
DREAM to be stronger than the world leaders to live and make a world completely different from the horrible one we are living in.
So, let the new generations, not only learn about and with the world , but teach the whole world that they are better prepared to change the WORLD, simply because YOUTH can.
This week I learned a great deal about iEARN and feel that I have a better understanding of the foundations of the program and its goals. Of the new insight I gained the most meaningful moment came from the first video, on the anniversary of iEARN. I learned about the first ever iEARN project, the teacher-student exchange between Russia and the United States. I was taken aback by the teacher who described her first encounter in Russia, after all the polite pleasantries of first meeting one another, when she was asked: “Why do you want war with us?” The teacher said firmly, “I do not want war, I have a son.”
This exchange truly captures the philosophy behind everything iEARN does. That moment was powerful for the individuals on that first exchange trip, and it still holds power for me today, as someone who was not even born yet when it happened.
Every day the leaders of our nations partake in a never-ending ballet, where everyone has a part to play. They battle each other for the staring roles and do their best to trip one another up when the audience is watching. They are careful, elegant, and practiced in their movements, following the laws, the codes, and the ethical outlines they have written on their own behalf. Yet, for all that grace and delicate balancing they are in their own show, and we are the audience.
… The greatest changes happen when a small group of people take on something greater and more powerful than they are; like those teachers who bravely faced their nations’ enemies, only to find that they shared more than words could ever say.
It is important for us, as teachers, to pass that idea on to our students. We must be ever mindful of generalizing, oversimplifying, and putting words into the mouths of the millions of people across the world. We must be ever vigilant in reminding them that they have a voice and a say. By participating in iEARN they have a forum in which to share those voices, and to hear the voices of thousands of other students across the world. It is by sharing those voices that we can truly learn about our world and build bridges where they most certainly need to be built.