For six months, mh2t and hv2t participated in a pen pal program with students from Portledge School on Long Island, NY. This exchange was organized by the 2018-2019 Fulbright ETA from New York who wished to facilitate student interaction across the Atlantic. The overall theme of this project was culture and camaraderie and reflected the motto of the Fulbright program, “more culture, less shock.” Specific goals included increasing knowledge of foreign people, promoting understanding and empowering youth to actively participate in our interconnected world. More broadly, international collaboration allows students to experience a more globally-oriented education.
In total, the participants exchanged seven letters. The first was a handwritten letter that the students eagerly awaited in the mail. The following six letters were exchanged on an online platform, Schoology, and were based on specific topics, including traditions & holidays, daily life & school, nature & surroundings and sustainability. The predetermined prompts helped the students to think more deeply about their own lives and about how their actions, thoughts, interests and values differ from those of students in other countries. In addition, the writing sessions promoted togetherness between the Dutch students. They shared their letters in class and worked together to formulate responses.
The program ended in the first week of July with a video call, which allowed the Dutch and American students to interact in a new way. They welcomed one another, asked lingering questions and led mini virtual tours of their respective school buildings. The students were enthusiastic and smiled for the duration of the conversation! Experiences such as this are important for students. In addition to learning about different cultures, students also practice writing, communication skills and creative thinking!
Kaitlin Biagiotti, English teaching assistant
(Kaitlin starts teaching in the USA after the summer break and worked at De Meergronden this schoolyear.)