As recounted in the previous post, the Global Connections and Exchange Program was built upon an earlier iEARN and US Department of State partnership program called CIVICS: Community Voices, Collaborative Solutions. CIVICS began in 1999 as a one-year pilot program to support two educators in each of six countries—Egypt, India, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—with online curriculum resources. Program goals were to:
- generate effective and cost-effective ESL/EFL learning materials for educators;
- increase the English language reading, writing, and listening skills of participating students;
- create safe and nurturing environments for students and educators worldwide to address conflict resolution issues relevant to their lives and their communities.
A key aspect of CIVICS was:
to introduce schools and community groups working to bring about resolution to the challenge posed by ethnic nationalism to the iEARN model of absorbing, integrating, and accommodating diverse communities into educational, as opposed to an ethnically defined, communities of learners. Participants also will interact with iEARN students and educators that have incorporated community service, environmental campaigns, and other activities that involve students in the larger society in their curricula.
The grant funding ended a decade ago, but CIVICS still thrives and continues to empower and engage young people in marginalized areas and regions in conflict. CIVICS also lives on in the Global Connections and Exchange Program, where students and teachers are able to address issues relevant to their lives in a safe and nurturing environment.
iEARN-Syria joined Global Connections and Exchange Program in 2004. As part of the program, Syrian educators, volunteering their expertise and time, installed Internet Learning Centers at Damascus school, joined projects to promote cross-cultural dialogue and civic education, and worked with the Ministry of Education to host educator workshops focused on project-based teaching methodologies. Damascus students and teachers also participated in historic exchanges, including a visit to Riverwood High School in Atlanta, Georgia.
In 2005, iEARN Syria organized the Environmental Mural Project, as part of the Art Miles Mural Project. Teachers and students painted murals to promote the Cleanliness Act 49 in Arnous Square, Damascus. The message of the murals was, “Hand in hand, we can make our future green and clean.”
During the past several years, iEARN-Syria Coordinator, Samah Al-Jundi, has worked with schools when possible on iEARN projects, but the country has not been able to provide the tools, resources, and stable and safe environment for most teachers and students to connect and collaborate with their peers across the globe. Ever optimistic, Samah wrote this week:
I believe we should focus on what is working not what is broken. Frankly speaking, focusing on what works in our community and encouraging local decision makers and teachers to build capacity and be the change they want to see is more likely to work. …
Some teachers want the [Phoenix] to rise and fly high. They are ready to be the change they want to see. They want to see the world and be seen by the world.
The desire of Syrian teachers and students to connect globally is strong. On December 1, 2012, in the midst of a civil war, the first iEARN workshop was held in Lattakia at the Syrian computer society with the cooperation of Syrian Youth Council, the Mada Society and the Hakeem Center.
iEARN-USA is proud to be continuing its Global Connections partnership with iEARN-Syria, and we’d love your help to increase the program’s impact in the United States by enabling as many U.S. classrooms as possible to participate in this exciting opportunity to engage in hands-on, people-to-people, global collaborative projects at a critical time in U.S.-Syrian relations. Let’s rise up, join our Syrian peers, and fly high.