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Travel Broadens Students’ Perspective

Sep 08, 2015 02:24PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Julie Slama

Draper - This fall, Jessica Sudman won’t be returning to her Channing Hall classroom where she has taught English the past couple years. Instead, she will be coordinating the school’s international baccalaureate program.

“I’ll be helping teachers incorporate the IB criteria into their classrooms, making sure the common core fits with the IB and providing feedback,” Sudman said. “The whole reason I love teaching is because I love IB. It’s what I’m passionate about.”

The IB program is an international educational program offered to students in about 150 countries for primary years, middle years and, for high school students, an IB diploma or career-related certificate. The program encourages students to become creative, critical and reflective thinkers and to make connections between their studies in traditional subjects and  the real world, which helps not only their academics, but in the development of the whole student: intellectually, emotionally, physically, and ethically in lifelong and life skills.

Much of the learning is student driven, so if students have questions, they are encouraged to investigate, research, analyze, communicate, create school projects and figure out answers, Sudman said.

“They become more well-rounded and develop a thirst for knowledge. Students learn that issues not only affect them but all around them in the world, and they connect to others through education and service,” she said.

There are 10 IB profiles students learn through their course of study, such as being open-minded, communicative and reflective. However, they also are told to be caring, risk-taking or courageous and to be global-minded, Sudman said.

Assignments, such as what kinds of food do other people eat in a certain country and why do they eat it, and asking questions like is it because of climate for the crops, trade — or how do kids get to school in another country and studying transportation — will lead students to explore subjects and ask questions. When students travel internationally, they’ll learn more about the world and other countries’ traditions and culture, she said.

“It helps broaden their perspective so when they come back to the classroom and share with their peers, it becomes impactful. It brings them a better understanding of the world,” Sudman said.

For example, this summer, Channing Hall’s Sophie Hoecherl spent about a month visiting her grandparents in Japan.

“They live differently than we do here,” said the fourth grader. “Their beds are different; they don’t sit in chairs; they have different foods, like octopus; they dress in kimonos and have different dances. So when I was there I needed to remember to be open-minded and courageous to try new foods.”

That helped Sophie, who is fluent in Japanese, learn to love some new foods such as a seafood wrap and strawberry Kit Kats. She also visited some places unique to Japan, such as Bunnyland on Okunoshima Island, where she ran around with rabbits, and Deer Island on Miyajima Island, where she enjoyed petting and feeding the animals. 

Fourth grader Georgia Barrett had the opportunity to be close up with tigers as visitors fed them raw meat in Russia. Georgia and her family traveled through China and Russia for several weeks this summer.

“When we travel in different countries than America, we eat differently, we live differently, we appreciate different customs,” she said. “We got to see cool stuff, like walking to the top of the stairs at the Great Wall of China and collecting sea glass at Lake Baikal. We saw a lot of different foods like pear and peach drinks, yogurt chips, lobster chips, cabbage rolls, green tea or melon ice cream, and hot dog and mashed potato rolls.”

At one point of their vacation, Georgia and her family stayed in a home in a neighborhood where she would play hide-and-seek with neighbor kids, watch them play soccer and pet kittens.

“Some things are different, but we found a lot of things we enjoyed are the same,” she said.

Georgia’s classmate, Brynn Frohman, and her second-grade sister, Paige, traveled to Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Denmark this summer.

Paige’s favorite country was Denmark.

“There are some nice kids; we made friends and we played on the swings. They’re pretty much the same as us,” she said.

Brynn appreciated Slovenia where they stayed in a home so they could learn about the country’s culture. They also hiked and visited a couple of lakes. 

Brynn brought home a few souvenirs, such as a hat she loves from Slovenia, and a bookmark of The Steadfast Tin Soldier statue from a tale by Hans Christian Andersen in Odense, Denmark. However, she also appreciates the things they have done as a family, such as paint each country’s flag on a rock from the country and placing Danish krones, coins that have a hole in the center, on a necklace she can wear.

  A fun tradition Brynn and Paige’s family does is have a scavenger hunt where they may look for a gelato stand, a cat or a castle ruin.

“We have lots and lots of photos. We picked some of our favorites and created a photo gallery on a wall in our dining room from our trip last summer and now, we’ll have to add to it this summer,” Brynn said.

Before their trip, they had a family party where they would learn about the food, facts, music and language of the countries they visited. This was followed up with a party upon their return, so they could bring in recipes they gathered, photos they took and customs they learned to appreciate. She would also read experiences she wrote about in her journal.

Brynn has used information from what she studied for school reports. For example, after her travels last summer, her favorite hero was the chancellor of Germany and her favorite national park was in Iceland. 

“When we travel, we kept an open mind so we could learn to appreciate what we were seeing, and we were courageous to try new things and learn about other people’s culture,” Brynn said. “I’ve learned so much.”

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