Minimal background knowledge.
Unsure of the world.
I teach in a rural community where students have limited exposure to many opportunities. Each year, I make it a personal mission to expose them to the community around them as well as the rest of the world. However, it is not always as easy as one would think.
We are constantly caught up with instant communication (i.e., e-mail, text messages, social media posts) that sometimes we lose the personal touch of a handwritten letter or message. The touch of knowing someone took that extra time to write you something or personalize it to you.
Cultural Box Exchange was my answer. Similar to the old Flat Stanley project, scholars brainstormed all the pieces of their communities and researched pamphlets from area tourism locations to see what they were missing. Over a two-week window, students visited local attractions with their parents or spoke with teachers about these places; in addition, scholars asked about the importance these places meant to our community. Unleashing the knowledge about home to these scholars was very special.
Receiving Your Box
A group of individuals signed up and joined a four-month rotation where we would ship our boxes from place to place. My groups consisted of schools in New Jersey, California, Kansas, and Italy. Wow, to hear students explore cultures different than ours — yes, cultures across the country are quite different. It is breath taking to see them connect common shopping items with these new areas. They never knew where or how these foods were produced.
It might sound simple, but it is going a long way.
We are learning beyond the curriculum!
After our initial exploration, students classified each item into a category (ex–food, tourism, history). We spent a day exploring via the Internet those items. Each students wrote a short reflection on their findings. These simplistic tasks caused a lot of inferencing and collegial conversations among peers.