Global project based learning allows students to make connections with peers around the world as they explore issues that are relevant to their lives. These connections promote international mindedness, an important skill for success in the 21st century. Jane Drake, Head of Curriculum Innovation and Alignment at International Baccalaureate (IB), defines international-mindedness as “a world view in which people see themselves connected to the global community and assume a sense of responsibility to its members (humans, other living things and the planet).” By learning with peers from around the world, students are exposed to diverse cultures, experiences, and perspectives. These learning experiences promote respect and understanding of other cultures, which are important skills for students’ future success.
This week, we’re excited to feature a group of international-minded PenPal Stars from Lakewood Catholic Academy in Ohio! These students are participating in Flags of the World, which encourages students to research flags and how they represent different countries’ cultures, values, and people.
“My students were able to learn about the various flags throughout the world and their uses, whether they represented countries, sports teams, or schools. We are an International Baccalaureate World School, so it has been helpful to bring other cultural icons and voices into the classroom in such an interactive and engaging way.”
These Lakewood Catholic Academy 7th graders not only had fun learning about other cultures, but also developed strong digital citizenship and writing skills through the process. To showcase their learning, they created their own flag designs! These PenPal Stars researched flag symbolism, collected images from a variety of sources, and used technology skills to bring their ideas to life! Their detailed descriptions allow their audience to learn more about the inspiration for their designs and what they symbolize. Check out their awesome work in this project based learning example:
"My flag represents Immigration to America. This is something that I am very passionate about. Someone could put it up if they support immigration or if they are immigrants themselves. One half of my flag is representing a person's life before immigration and the other side after. The colors on my flag represent that there is light at the end of every tunnel by yellow and orange. The black mountain represents that the process is very long, and might sometimes seem impossible, in the end, it is worth all of the trouble. The grey clouds represent that life is hard in America, but harder before you immigrate. The yellow shape represents the Statue of Liberty's head. I incorporated this into my flag because past immigrants would sail in through the harbor and see the statue.
I purposely designed my flag open-ended. This is because immigration is a very personal experience for most people. Although I am not an immigrant myself, I know that everyone's experience is very different. I did not want to describe anyone’s experience wrong."
Eleanor, Annie, Sofia, Finley
Our flag represents traveling. It represent the moving of people, ideas, and cultures. The purpose of this flag is showing the connections between cultures. The suitcases on our flag represents bringing your culture into others. The passport represents something that every person has in common when traveling internationally. The airplane represents the transportation of people and things, and the monuments represent the things we see and learn while traveling. Finally, the blue background represents the sky and sea that we experience during and between traveling.
Our group chose to do this flag because of the international learning that has been provided for us. We wanted to share our curiosity and love for other cultures and places. Most of the designs on our flag are iconic traveling symbols, such as the airplane, passports, and suitcases. Although, the thing that made it special in our flag is the meaning of each object. Each object was carefully picked and had meaning, some, representing the phases of traveling. During this flag designing project, I learned and realized how many things on flags have great meaning and are not just random symbols. Flags are used to show something that the area, nation, or group is proud of and their beginning of that group. No flag has something on it that is random. Each symbol has a meaning."
Grace, Emilie, Kalina
"Our flag represents our love of movies and books. It has the Deathly Hallows symbol to represent Harry Potter, and that symbol is made by using lightsabers,the V.F.D. symbol, and Harry Potter’s wand. Our background is white, green, blue, and purple.The things that we have on our flag represent something from movies of books.
The Deathly Hallows symbol in the center represents that we like Harry Potter. The Deathly Hallows symbol is made up of lightsabers. We chose these lightsaber colors because the red stands for Darth Vader; an important character in Star Wars, Yoda’s green lightsaber because it represents the opposite of Darth Vader, and Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber because it is unique. In the center is an eye. The V.F.D. symbol represent our love of the Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket. The symbol represents an important organiziion; V.F.D. To close off the Deathly Hallows symbol is Harry Potter’s wand; the main character in the Harry Potter series. The Colors that we chose represented something about the movies that we chose. White stands for the purity of the Jedi Knights in Star Wars, the blue stands for the intelligence of the Baudelaires in a Series of Unfortunate Events,the purple stands for the magic of the Harry Potter world, and the green stands for the roots of the movies or books that we chose.
In our group we all like the same movies and books so we wanted to design a flag that represents our love of movies and books. We wanted the symbols or objects on our flag to be important or significant to the book or movie. The lightsabers are an important weapon in Star Wars, the V.F.D. symbol the most mysterious, but important in the Series of Unfortunate Events, the Deathly Hallows symbol and Harry Potter’s wand are important things in the world
I have learned that flags represent things and that you have to be aware of what you put on your flag because it should represent something. Flags are used to symbolize something, to show people something. Flags are significant because they help people get to know other people and their culture and way of life."
These artifacts are a great way to assess student work. Not only did students acquire new knowledge throughout the project, but they also applied it to create something new! We reached out to Ms. Warrell’s class to find out more about their experiences with PenPal Schools:
PENPAL SCHOOLS: What has been your favorite thing about learning with PenPals?
Grace: I liked learning about other people's cultures and the different flags and what they represent.
Sophia: The chance to communicate with people from other places and get an understanding about how they see the projects we do.
Abby: I really enjoy seeing different people's points of view. Though we have the same directions, many students interpret the directions different from me, ending up with completely different projects than what I came up with. It is so cool to see all of the different end results!
"I feel that it is important to connect students with others around the world to broaden their perspectives and help students understand that the world is more than just the city they live in. Students are able to create real life meaning from the lessons they learn about in school."
What was the most important lesson you learned in this project?
Grace: The most important lesson I learned in this project was that different people come from different places and they use flags and other things to represent where they come from.
Joey: The most important lesson I learned while doing this project was learning more in depth about what a flag truly represents. Their significance is that they basically speak for a specific body of people or things through their own symbols.
Abby: I learned that different cultures have different ways of interpreting things. Though we might have the same prompt or direction, we can come up with completely original and creative products. Before I completed this project, I never thought about how much time and work it takes to design a symbolistic and creative flag. Now, when I see flags, I recognize what all the different parts represent and see how much time and effort the artists put into creating them.
What is the most interesting thing you learned from your PenPals?
Sophia: What their perspectives are about different things and what their ideas are based on the flags that they made. I learned about another PenPal's life and it was so cool to hear about how other people learn and what they do during school.
Abby: Even though many people may have the same project, the possibilities are endless when coming up with a unique design! Culture can really influence the way people interpret and create things, making each end result original and distinctive.
What advice do you have about being a great PenPal?
Grace: Some advice I would give on being a great PenPal would be that you should always be open to new people and cultures.
Sophia: All I think is that you should try your hardest to communicate with your PenPal and try to really connect with someone who you don't know much about or their culture.
Joey: To be a great PenPal, you have to be open to new ideas and listen to others and appreciate their ideas and the different diversity in the world.
Abby: Don't hesitate to put your own spin on your project! Though it might seem different, it can be really interesting to others and you might even become a PenPal Star!
Congratulations, Ms. Warrell’s class! Your projects are great examples of how to apply what you learn to create an original product! Students around the world will learn more about flags, culture, and symbolism from your fantastic designs.
Join Flags of the World today to start making global connections with students like Ms. Warrell’s class!