“Tell me about yourself” is often the first question recruiters ask in job interviews, soon followed by “Tell me about how well you work with others.” Social and emotional learning is a priority in many classrooms since students will eventually work in very collaborative, cross-functional careers. Self-awareness is crucial to understanding oneself and other people. By sharing about their own communities, customs, and daily lives, PenPals are challenged to think about themselves from an outside perspective.
Avery O. from Springfield, Missouri did this when she recently participated in World Explorer. She was matched with four other PenPals and learned about food, art, daily life, history, and pop culture from communities around the world.
Avery did a fantastic job of introducing herself and her hometown. Even in her profile, she thoughtfully describes her experiences and favorite hobbies for her new PenPals.
Avery then gave her PenPals a comprehensive tour of Springfield, describing the landscape and community life that makes Springfield a great place to live.
“The terrain our city lays on is very grassy and hilly. We have lots of wildlife surrounding Springfield and everyone here is very pet friendly.
Avery also taught her PenPals that several American treasures have their origins in Springfield.
“When I'm not in school I am always very occupied because Springfield has great entertainment and lots of shops and restaurants to go to. In fact the very first Bass Pro shop was started here in Springfield and now has become a very popular place.”
“One of my very favorite things to do in Springfield is to get out of my house and eat at a restaurant. One of the reasons Chinese food is so popular in our community is because the dish Cashew Chicken started in Springfield, and is the one of the most popular dishes here in our city and in the country.”
Avery also took a moment to reflect on the other side of Springfield history that is still visible to this day.
“One historical event that took place in Springfield was the Trail of Tears. The Trail of Tears started when the United States government removed more than 16,000 Cherokee Indians from their homes in the states of Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. They were sent to the west, to other Indian territory that is now in Oklahoma. A big part of the trip was in the state of Missouri and almost all in the city of Springfield. Today, you can see the exact trails that the Cherokee Indians walked, died, and made history on.”
Avery appreciates that all aspects of Springfield’s history and culture are well represented in the community by artists, business owners, and everyday citizens.
“Springfield is a very friendly and busy city. One thing we are great at is expressing how we feel through our art. All around the city and especially downtown there are beautiful murals and spray painted walls everywhere. Every one of them describes our city because they are always beautiful and weird. We have a lot of great local art shops all dealing in different types of art. One of these shops my aunt and uncle own. It’s called Springfield Pottery and they have gorgeous ceramic pieces that are all so different. I love there shop because they teach classes to many people from different ages and teach a lot of the students from the colleges nearby. It is such a great way to share art with people in the city and they also share their art with people out of the state when they go to shows and fairs.”
Avery realized that by describing her own hometown and daily life, she had the chance to see her own community from an outsider’s perspective. As her project came to an end, her curiosity about the states around her started to grow.
“Before PenPal schools I did not really have much interest in the different states. I like to travel, but I have not had much interest in traveling around the USA. Now, I am more curious about what the states have to offer and I would like to travel more in the states.”
Thank you for showing us around Springfield, Avery! We can’t wait to see where the rest of your learning and travels take you.
Want your students to develop self-awareness and awareness of other communities? Enroll your class in World Explorer.
Read more from other students who have participated in World Explorer:
PBL Example: Marija Loves Exploring the World with PenPals
Students Explore the World with PenPals
PBL Example: Student in Argentina Discovers a World of Similarities
Meet our PenPal of the Week from Bulgaria
Meet our PenPal of the Week from Iraq