Building Cultural Bridges Across the Pacific

Educators of America is excited to announce its inaugural connection between Hawaii and Tonga. During the past year, as Educators of America expanded into the Pacific region, specifically Polynesia, we have had the opportunity to partner with extraordinary schools who are home to awe-inspiring students and motivating teachers.

Students in Ronda Barker’s leadership class pose for a photo with her and Educators of America staff following the initial video connection to the Kingdom of Tonga.

Representing Kealakehe Intermediate School in Hawaii is Ronda Barker with her leadership class and representing Tonga is Carolyn Corson at Tupou College with her 7th grade learners. During the Building Cultural Bridges program, students began to exchange letters and Ronda’s students were shocked to learn that Tupou College was an all-boys boarding school. This revelation created some very interesting dynamics during the video connection, you could see the excitement, as well as bashfulness, from each classroom as most initial encounters are with the youth. Technical challenges were present because audio on the Hawaii side was not working efficiently but the students quickly adapted and started conversing in the chat box and students in Tonga would write their responses on their white board. Initial surface level questions were asked such as “how tall are you?”, “do you go to the beach often?”; however, as they soon became more comfortable and familiar, more in depth questions became apparent such as “what’s it like living on campus at an all boys school?” or “what genres of music do you listen to and why?” The students started to realize that even though they were thousands of miles apart, there were stark similarities and differences that gave valuable insight to all that were present. This collaboration is just the first stepping stone towards Educators of America’s initiative to connect Polynesian islands with the U.S. Educators of America’s next phase is the Republic of Marshall Islands. Team members are journeying to Majuro and Kwajalein in July to observe SPARTAN Camp which is a summer STEM program that incorporates cultural teachings. Stay tuned for our next blog to read about the amazing things that students and teachers are accomplishing together in the Marshall Islands.

Students in the Kingdom of Tonga pose with their teacher, Carolyn Corsen, after a successful video connection to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Building Cultural Bridges is a cultural exchange program facilitated by Educators of America and our faculty colleagues around the world. The exchange begins with letter writing between students and culminates with a live video connection where students meet their pen pals. The most successful implementations include a mutually beneficial project that is developed and worked on by students on both sides of the connection. Teachers leverage the Project Based Learning pedagogy to ensure rigor, authenticity, student voice, and sustained inquiry are all included in the lesson.

For more information on the Building Cultural Bridges Program, visit:

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