This month, students around the world have been participating in Schools Around the World to show off what makes their school special in the Global School Pride Contest.
We’re excited to celebrate five PenPals Stars from Illinois, USA who recently participated in Schools Around the World. Alyssa, Jeremy, Rachel, Andrew, and Autumn are middle school students who compared their school with schools around the world.
Jeremy said, “‘In Peru, many schools have an open campus.’ Our school is different in that aspect. We have a single building that we separate into different areas. In America some schools have that and all colleges have that. They have to walk from each class to be able to learn new subjects. It is kinda like our hour system. We also have to walk from class to class to learn the new subjects. For example, I start out my day with English class, then I go to Social Studies, then Science, every kid has a different schedule and all of them have eight classes. I would enjoy to know more about how their system of school works so I could compare to ours.”
Autumn noticed that, “One element of my school that is different than the ones mentioned in the video could be the fact that my school has a play every year. Every other year the play is a musical. The year in between that is a regular play or drama. My school is similar because I ride a bus to school, and my school serves breakfast everyday before the first bell rings for class.”
Rachel told her PenPals that, “Some schools offer breakfast in the morning as well as our school. Other schools travel by city buses while our schools take public transit. In some schools, classrooms include a lot of students. In other schools, classes are small and include few students. In Central America, students practice technology skills in a computer class. Specific schools get educated in gardens, school ground, and on boats! Our school, specifically, learn on a school ground (inside a school). Some schools begin the day with a morning prayer. Other schools begin the day with morning news and announcements. We do news and morning announcements but one day a year we have a moment of silence.”
When they’re not learning with PenPals, these Stars stay busy! Andrew and Rachel play soccer, and Alyssa plays volleyball. Jeremy like to play video games and watched YouTube. “I find that as my little happy spot” he said. Autumn is on Student Council and likes to spend time with her friends. We caught up with these PenPal Stars to learn more about their experience learning with PenPals!
PENPAL SCHOOLS: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be featured as a PenPal Star?
ANDREW: I was happy and thought by participating in such things I can help other students to become friendly, hard working individuals.
ALYSSA: I was surprised, honored, and happy that I was going to be featured as a Pen Pal Star because last year we did this, nobody got a nomination to be a Pen Pal Star.
JEREMY: I felt very excited! I was happy to be chosen as one of the first people in my school to be able to be featured as a PenPal Star.
RACHEL: I was shocked when I found out I was going to be featured. I thought it wasn't real at first. I had never thought about it but when I earned it I felt accomplished.
Which PenPal Schools project did you participate in?
ANDREW: I participated in the schools around the world project... it was fun!
ALYSSA: I participated in the Schools Around the World and I had to work in a group.
RACHEL: I took part in the "Journalize Your Own School" project for PenPals.
AUTUMN: I participated in the Build Your Dream School. I helped build the 3D model of the school, and helped write about our dream school.
What has been your favorite thing about learning with PenPals?
ANDREW: I like learning more about individuals and [their] cultures and preferences in things like food, learning, and entertainment! I learned that every single school is different no matter where you go.
JEREMY: My favorite thing about learning with PenPals was being able to talk to people from different countries. I thought that just learning what their life was like is very cool. While I may have been to other countries, I've never lived there. So I can’t say what it is like to live there. I learned you have to listen. You have to listen to other people's point of view. Without that, you would never learn to understand.
ALYSSA: My favorite thing I learned about Pen Pals is that I get to learn more about other places around the world, and their schools. I never knew that some schools had kids outside learning, that some kids have to walk outside to get to their other classes, and other children had more that 50 other students in their class. The most important lesson I learned in this project is that I can learn about different cultures, religions, and their languages.
RACHEL: My favorite thing about learning with PenPals is most definitely seeing how other students learn, where they learn, and their transportation. The most important lesson I learned was that no matter where you are, how you get there, or what your learning, you're still learning and that is a privilege.
AUTUMN: My favorite part about learning with PenPals has been talk to everyone from around the world! It's very interesting to learn about situations in other countries, or even other states, that I have never talked about or heard of before. It's also nice to learn about what [their] cultures are like. The most important lesson I learned in this project was even though not everybody's situations in school, or anywhere in general, are the same as mine they can make it work, or can try and help provide for others in the area.
What is the most interesting thing you learned from your PenPals?
AUTUMN: The most interesting thing I've learned from my PenPals is when I was talking about what their schools are like. I thought it was very interesting to learn that some schools had school outside even if it was raining!
JEREMY: I learned that some schools are not even close to as fortunate as ours. Our school has everything and people still complain about it being bad. Some people's schools are just tents and people that don't even completely understand what they are teaching. I believe people from our school are so used to having this level of schools that they just want more, even though they got a great school already.
RACHEL: The most interesting thing I have learned from PenPals is that some kids learn on a boat! I am just imagining how fun that would be.
Tell us about the final project you decided to publish in the showcase! What did you choose to create, and why? How did you come up with that idea?
JEREMY: I decided to tell people about our school. I chose to create a comparison of our schools to others. I believe that would show people more clearly that we have similarities and differences.
ALYSSA: I created a slideshow because I wanted to show my class the differences between our schools in the U.S to other schools around the world. I came up with that idea because I thought the students would really understand the differences, you should use pictures.
RACHEL: I was working with three other students. We had a list of project choices and we chose "Journalize Your Own School" because we all agreed that it would be fun to take photos of the school and some of our favorite teachers.
AUTUMN: For our final project, we decided to create our own school. When we did this it was because we thought we could all make the best school and we were free to go wild! We came up with the idea of doing this because we all thought it would be fun, and we could all have an element we wanted in the school!
How has your project changed the way you think about the world?
ALYSSA: My project has changed what I think about the world because I knew that other countries followed different religions but I didn't know what they really believe in, and other Pen Pal students have shared with me some of their holidays they celebrate, their school books they learn from, and some really cool statues they usual see every day.
AUTUMN: My project has changed the way I have thought about the world. I realised, what if I'm describing some aspects of other schools around the world? What if we could meet people from all over and start to learn from each other. There are so many things people have yet to learn about others.
RACHEL: The project I participated in changed the way I thought about the world by realizing that without connection around the world, you wouldn't be able to learn about different peoples lifestyle and interesting things around the world.
ANDREW: It has changed how I think about the world because it taught me to listen before I speak and it taught me to hear and try to listen to how other people do things. !_! :0 :)
JEREMY: Everybody has their differences, and similarities. They will always be human but they all have different lives. One person may be a millionaire, while the other a poor person, they are both human.
Why do you think it's important to learn with other students from around the world?
ANDREW: I think it's important because I think it teaches us how to interact with different people in the future.
JEREMY: It opens your eyes. Talking to your own people, you do not learn other viewpoints. They normally have at least a similar life in some aspects. With this, you can completely flip that. People's lives can be polar opposite.
ALYSSA: I think it is important to learn from other countries around the world because I can learn and understand what is happening to other Pen Pal students in their countries, not just the United States.
AUTUMN: I think it is important to learn with other students from around the world because I feel like we can all connect in some way. We can also learn about each other and communication is a very important life skill as well. Also, we learn morals together and grow together.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
ANDREW: I would want to go to Japan because my uncle lives there and I love Japanese food!
JEREMY: I would travel to Germany. I believe that the country has a great history and is very interesting.
AUTUMN: If I could go anywhere in the world, I would choose to go to the Bahamas. I would go there because it is warm and has beautiful beaches. Also, it would be a nice place to go to if I went on a vacation.
ALYSSA: I would love to travel to Sweden because that is where some of my family was born at and I would love to learn about how they live and what they do that we don't in the United States.
RACHEL: If I could travel anywhere in the world I would love to see Idaho Falls in Idaho, I have heard that it is breath taking.
In addition to comparing their schools, these PenPal Stars reflected on their global education experience and offered tips and advice for future PenPals!
Rachel said that, “Two highlights from this project were socializing, and learning about new schools. You can see how people get to school, come home from school, how big/small their classes are, where they learn, when they learn, any sports, and what they learn with. For example, some schools learn on a boat, or have one class with several people in one room. And, some, you can socialize and have a conversation with others on what you would like to take out of your schedule, what you would want in your school, and many more. Overall this project was a great one and I would definitely want to do it again and I totally suggest doing it with a group.”
Andrew told his PenPals, “To future students, doing this project is fun! Some major things you should do is ether take pictures or do a video for part of your project. It will help other students around the world see what other schools are like. Also make sure you hit some major key points in your project, like what subjects are in your school, also some will wonder if you switch to classes, and make sure to tell everyone about how many of your classmates get to school. Make sure you hit the three main questions... What different ways do people travel to school? What different subjects do students study in school? What factors influence how a school looks? Then you will have a wonderful presentation! Make sure to also have fun to! Sincerely, Andrew B.”
Autumn shared, “While doing this project, there were many highlights, although I had two favorites. My first favorite thing about this project was coming up with ideas of what we wanted our school to look like. We decided to make our own school. We came up with many ideas but used the key ideas, unless we had extra time to work. My second favorite part of the project was making the 3D school. We built a 3D model of what we wanted our dream school to look like. It was very fun, and we figured a lot of things out along the way as a group.”
Alyssa said, “My [advice] for future students that are going to do this project is put as much detail to your project as possible so it is easy for the readers to paint a picture in their minds as they are reading your project. Another thing you should add in your project is bullet points, so that it flows really easy, and add pictures of your school also. The last thing you or your pen pal group should do for the project is describe things that are different from other schools to your school.”
Jeremy reflected, “I loved walking around the school just photographing the entirety of it. I also loved working with my team to make something that we worked hard on. All of us decided that we were proud of what we made so we turned it in. To this point, I don't believe I could have made it any better. It was very fun decided who can do who because we all talked about what we were good at and when we are open so we can optimize how much we get done. Our team worked very hard on this project on it. I believe it represents our school very well!”
We also asked our PenPal Stars what it takes to be a great PenPal, and they offered great advice!
Andrew said, “My advice on being a great pen pal is to be KIND, CONSIDERATE, and to set a good example for other kids/friends in the world.”
Autumn told us, “Some advice I have about being a great PenPal is to always be kind, to reach out and ask questions, and always have a great conversation about the topic with your pals!”
Jeremy said, “You need to put quality time into it. You can not just rush it and believe that is good enough. If you don't make your project great, other people may not understand so they just wasted their time not learning what the other person truly meant.”
Alyssa told us, “The advise I have to you about being a good Pen Pal to others is enjoy learning about other countries and some of the difference of how they do things that you didn't know about, and being open to other Pen Pals about some of the things you love about your country that people from other countries didn't know.”
Rachel said, “My advice is take your time in what your saying, don't say something just because you think it's the right answer, say what you honestly believe in.”
Congratulations to Andrew, Autumn, Jeremy, Alyssa, and Rachel, and thanks for being such great PenPals! To check out more from their projects or compare your school with schools around the world, sign up for the PenPal Schools project Schools Around the World.