Eighth Graders Discover Another Culture

Jefferson Middle School eighth graders in Casey Leender’s class have the amazing opportunity to talk to fellow students in Namibia, Africa, through traditional letter writing and on-screen technology thanks to an innovative grant called “Building Cultural Bridges” through the non-profit, Educators of America and partner Erie2BOCES.

“I loved the idea of building cultural bridges. A lot of our students may never get the opportunity to travel to another country like Africa,” said Leenders.

“It allows them to not only get to know another part of the world but build relationships with the people there too.”

With the help of JPS Technology Integration Specialist Jason Kathman and Bob Minton, a grant assistant with the program, students are learning more about another culture and will do a project-based learning experience with their Namibian friends.

The Jefferson students will do a project that will help them better understand what it is like to live in Namibia.

“It is really a cool experience so far talking to the students,” said Jefferson eighth grader Alexis Jones. “It just gets us much more involved than just reading from a textbook.”

The project started with Namibian students writing letters to Jefferson students, who then wrote back.

Then, students met and conversed with their pen pals through ZOOM live-streaming from each classroom.

Students had an opportunity to see each other and ask questions. The goal of the program is to have the two classrooms work on a project-based assignment in small groups.

The project-based learning is centered around a challenging problem or question and allows the students in Jamestown and Namibia to have sustained inquiry, a voice and choice in what they study, a time to reflect, critique and review with each other and produce a product such as an e-book, song or poem.

“It has been really interesting to see the culture and how different it is from ours but also how it is similar,” said Jefferson eighth grader Adrianna McSkimming.

“It is such a great way to learn because you are face-to-face with another person from another country learning about them.”


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