Olympic Dreaming: 5 Ways to Connect Kids Globally

Every couple of years the Olympics convene to host the dreams of athletes, their trainers, supporters and fans worldwide.
If all goes well, the end to our obsessive two weeks of watching the competitions and their heart-rending stories leaves us feeling a cocktail of one part reawakened patriotism blended with one part awareness of our global connectedness. 
A few embarrassments and disappointments aside, it’s a good way to begin the school year and a perfect time for The Great Global Project Challenge.

The Great Global Project Challenge

Right after the Olympics feel-good warmth and right at the beginning of the year, the Great Global Project Challenge (deadline, September 11, 2016) asks teachers to design projects to allow them to connect globally with another school sometime during the year.
Selected projects will be part of an online event for Global Collaboration Day on September 15, 2016, providing a great venue for reaching out and inviting new participants to join your venture. This gives those projects a leg up for one of the greatest difficulties of global project planning — that is, finding partner schools. Don’t worry, if you miss the deadline in September — you can still be part of the Great Global Project Challenge directory if you submit by October 1, 2016.

Two Ideas on the Table

One project might be something along the lines of Poetry with Passion and Performance, now being offered by Christine Trimnell on the Global Education Conference bulletin board. Similarly, Ann Michelson, who teaches in Norway, has proposed a global discussion group based on a number of TED Talks on international issues.

What If…? Three More Ideas for the Taking

Though I don’t have my own classroom at present, I couldn’t help daydreaming a bit about the projects I might do if I had a sandbox full of kids to work with. Please feel free to use them — and I’d love to help and at the very least hear how it goes!

Poetic Voices from Afar

I recently heard Jacqueline Woodson, the “young people’s poet laureate,” talking about her desire to introduce children to “poetic voices from ‘far-off’ places.” What if a teacher reached out to Woodson to create a forum for reading poetry from around the world with kids from all sorts of far-off places? A start could be Woodson’s own poems or her monthly book suggestions at the Poetry Foundation. The students could share their own poems as well via a monthly poetry challenge.

Instagramming for the Global Good

I’ve recently been exploring Instagram, the social media of choice for most of my middle-schoolers (though technically, they are not supposed to join the community until they are 13, many hang out there at a much younger age). Mostly I’ve seen them share silly photos of themselves and their friends, though sometimes there is a darker side to their activity online. What if we inspired and empowered kids to use the social medium they like to make a positive social impact?
I propose the Instagram hashtag #globalkidz4good to empower young Instagrammers to share their voices in ways that can make a positive impact. How can they use photography to celebrate what is good about their world and to share what they want to change to make it better?
Or what if students made and shared digital posters transforming a favorite work of art (and learning more about fair use) to promote a positive change they would like to see in the world? They could add a favorite inspirational quotation and translate it into several languages. And if they are too young for sharing online, they could have their teachers or parents share for them.
Teachers could also create challenges on Instagram (shared through blogs and on Twitter, as I am learning through the inspiring readers of the #bookstagram world). For example, celebrate “my favorite things” and change the theme each week: my favorite food, my favorite quiet place, my favorite game or sport, my favorite song, my favorite part of the day, my favorite teacher or coach or mentor. #Kidzshare might work nicely for that purpose! What about it?

Will Tweet for Food

Food is often a starting place for kids to understand other cultures — or even their own. Martha Payne tapped into this when she started her website about school lunches, Never SecondsPayne made a name for herself by creating a scale for rating her school lunches based on taste, serving size and nutrition. Inspired, kids from around the world started sharing their school lunches with Martha — and contributing to stopping hunger in Malawi while they were at it.
There’s even more we can explore about how food affects our environment and our lives. What about creating a way for kids to dig deeper to understand the social and humane issues related to food, the impact on sustainability or how to grow a healthy garden in an urban community? My recent colleagues and I used Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma (Young Reader’s edition) to explore sustainable local meal menus, write poetry in celebration of tomatoes and become food detectives to educate their parents and friends.
What if we harnessed Twitter (for example, https://twitter.com/OmnivoresD) to build on this kind of work and share with others worldwide? What if we partnered with groups like Real School Gardens or even the scouting organizations to make our learning real by getting our hands dirty as well?

Global Learning Together

Not ready to jump into global education on your own? Feeling the need for support even as you do? Don’t overlook the opportunity to connect with educators who care as passionately about global education as you do.
There’s the Global Education Forum — their conference is on October 13-15 and held in Philadelphia this year. Can’t work this into your schedule? Don’t forget about the Global Education Conference in November — a totally free online opportunity to connect with educators from around the world and build the kinds of projects that can make a difference globally.
The important thing is that we all need to harness that feel-good Olympics buzz and do something about it before it wears off for the next two to four years!
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Lucy Gray

Hi Susan -
Thanks for mentioning the Great Global Project Challenge and Global Collaboration Day. They are actually two separate but related events. To be clear, anyone can submit an event for Global Collaboration Day that demonstrates the power of globally connected teaching and learning. It could be an existing event, Twitter Chat, book club, webinar etc. We have 24 events listed so far on our website and I expect that list to grow. The deadline for submissions is September 11.
We are also running the Great Global Project Challenge and submissions are due for this by October 1. We hope that entrants to this will also do a pitch on Global Collaboration Day (September 15), but it's totally optional. We'll help publicize these projects and they should be scheduled to run anytime between now and April 2017. We're also working on a prize for this, but the legalities involved are a bit tricky to figure out. Cross your fingers that this will happen!
Finally, thank you also for mentioning the Global Education Forum which we are helping to get the word out about and our November conference! I hope some of your readers will join us in all these great global activities!

Susan Davis

Thanks for clarifying the connections among all these great programs, Lucy!

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