How does immigration affect your community? Though politics and the news seem filled with nothing else, it can be difficult to see past the rhetoric to the people just beyond our doors. PenPal Schools Global Ambassador Anna Dudich and her students set out to change that by joining the PenPal Schools project Immigration in the 21st Century.
We met up with Anna to learn more about how she fostered global thinking and local action in this project based learning example from Ukraine.
PenPal Schools: Anna, why did you want to take a closer look at immigration with your students?
Anna Dudich: Ukraine used to be a rather homogeneous country in terms of cultural diversity. However, the world has become a global village. More and more foreigners are coming to our country: some of them come to study because education is rather inexpensive, then they start a family and settle down in Ukraine. Others escape from war conflicts or difficult living conditions in their home countries. Some people come to do business here, because they see a lot of possibilities and potential in our economy. All these people bring their culture, religion and traditions with them. During the last years we saw a mosque built in our city, there appeared restaurants of oriental cuisine and quite a lot of females wearing hijabs. Another phenomenon that we face here in Ukraine is internal migration. Because of the war conflict in the eastern part of the country there are a lot of internally displaced persons, who left their homes in the conflict zone and moved to more peaceful areas seeking safety and better living conditions for their families. I and my colleagues think that if we want a better future for our community, it is necessary to teach our children to treat others with empathy, to respect cultural and religious diversity and develop in our students skills of cross-cultural communication.”
We also wanted to help our students develop 21st century skills, such as collaboration and cooperation, critical thinking, digital citizenship, media literacy and leadership qualities.
PPS: Tell us more about your PBL planning process! How did you decide to teach empathy, respect, and cross cultural communication skills to your students?
AD: [The other teachers and I] created a project we called "Immigration in the 21st century: Life of foreigners in Ukraine." The participants were the students of two 8th forms (about 50 students) who were guided by six teachers. It took place during summer school and lasted for three weeks. Some activities were done by all the participants together, while others were done in mini groups. First, the students brainstormed what they already knew about immigrants and immigration. Next, they worked with different sources of information: media, online sources, live interviews with immigrants.
PPS: Community partnerships can have a huge impact on PBL. How did you get your students out into the community in this project based learning example?
AD: While working on the project, the students of our school visited a local pizzeria run by a multi-cultural family of John and Svitlana Saseyi. They interviewed the owners and learned about the challenges that foreigners face when they decide to start a business in a new country. Also they learned about benefits of embracing cultural diversity and participated in a master class of pizza-making.
Next, project participants visited the local medical university, which is famous for its multinational students community. There, children interviewed students from different countries and learned from them about the challenges international students face in Ukraine.
PPS: Besides meeting with local community members, what other ways did your students build knowledge about immigration in Ukraine?
AD: Working in mini groups, students researched information about people who came to our country from abroad and became famous and successful, like two brothers from Great Britain, Robert and Thomas Elvorti, who came to our city and opened the factory manufacturing agricultural equipment at the end of the 19th century. This factory is now one of the biggest enterprises in our city providing work places to thousands of our citizens.
After collecting all this information, the students joined the PenPal Schools project Immigration in the 21st Century and exchanged their ideas about immigration with international pen pals.
The students shared their experiences with PenPals by sharing the interviews they had conducted with immigrants at the pizzeria and university as well as the research the had conducted about the successful Elvorti brothers.
At the end of the project students created Powerpoint and Sway presentations with information that they learned during the project and with their reflections. They shared the presentations with other students of our school on our school social media.
PPS: How did PenPal Schools support your project?
AD: Working with PenPal Schools resources was a big part of the project. The video about Faiza Almontaser, a 17-year old immigrant who moved with her family from Yemen to New York City, provoked a lively class discussion. Reading the text about the reasons of immigration enriched students' knowledge on the topic and led to a better understanding of this phenomenon. Our students and their global PenPal connections agreed that their home countries should accept and welcome immigrants from all over the world because both immigrants and their host country can benefit from this situation. Through cultural exchange we will all become richer.
PPS: What impact did this project have on your students and your community?
AD: While doing the project “Immigration in the 21st century: Life of foreigners in Ukraine" we learned to be more open to diversity, learned a lot of new facts about culture, traditions and way of life of people, who come to live or study in our country. Moreover, we understood that if there is mutual respect, both immigrants and host country can benefit from the process of immigration. The immigrants will find safety, education and better living conditions for their families, and the host country will find new investments in intellectual and economic potential and will discover the whole new world of cultural diversity.
PPS: Thank you for your time Anna, and all the great work you’re doing with students in Ukraine! Before we let you go could you tell us what advice you would give a teacher who is new to project based learning or PenPal Schools?
AD: From my own experience I can tell you that if you are new to project-based learning, you can cooperate with a colleague from your school or another educational institution. Your students can also collaborate. It is always great to have a partner to discuss all the challenges and to plan the project together. If you are new to PenPal Schools, I would advise you to read the PenPal Schools blog and to join the Facebook group. You can find project based learning examples of some successful projects.
If you have not tried project-based learning with your students, go for it! You will not only find exciting ways of teaching your subject, but will also get the opportunity to create a situation of success for every student and develop their life skills.
Learn more about Anna, or connect with her on PenPal Schools. Join Immigration in the 21st Century to explore how immigration affects your community!