We welcome you to the Building Cultural Bridges Program coverage!
Welcome to the inaugural post of the coverage of the Building Cultural Bridges (BCB) Program! What exactly is the BCB program you ask? Well in a brief summary…
The Building Cultural Bridges Program is an international pen pal program created by US Peace Corps Volunteer, Brett Claydon, Educators of America and schools in Namibia, currently where Brett Claydon’s Peace Corps assignment is located. The aim of the program, also falling in line with the Peace Corps’ second and third goals, is to promote a cross-cultural learning experience for American and Namibian students. Along with promoting a cross-cultural exchange, here are some measurable benefits for students having international pen pals:
Reading, writing, and presentation skills improve: Students are able to practice reading and writing as they write out their questions and thoughts onto paper. Not only are they writing for a real purpose but they’re physically writing for a real audience too! Students tend to care more about their grammar, their spelling, and their punctuation because they want to impress and make a good first impression on their pen pals; especially when it’s international.
Students increase their compassion and understanding: When students are writing to other students in an opposite hemisphere or a continent thousands of miles away, they begin to see differences in the world around them. From what they eat to a second language they speak to sports they play. Yet even though there are differences between them, students begin to see the similarities they have with their pen pals because after all, they’re kids! Kids enjoy playing some of the same sports, read some of the same books, and may eat some of the same things.
Promoting patience and delayed gratification: Rather than having the instant gratification of a text message or Snapchat, students develop the understanding that creating anticipation sweetens the ultimate experience of receiving a letter back. Instead of getting the awfully similar text tone when an email comes in, students can physically handle their letter when it arrives and eagerly open it to read what their pen pal has written in response.
Developing social skills and abilities: When students write pen pal letters, they can typically swing two ways. One being that the student will write all about themselves OR students will list out questions that may make it seem like a 60 Minutes interview. So where is the middle ground? Encouraging students to read their letters to their peers allows for constructive criticism and revisions to be made to their letters. Moreover, by letting students write about themselves but also asking questions their pen pals, they begin to discover common bonds that share with one another and a variety of topics that spark interest in learning more.
Curiousity development: Children are naturally curious. However, an international pen pal can ignite a curiosity for the world outside of what they know. Where is the country located that their pen pal is from? What is the language or languages spoken there? What is their history? Many inquisitive questions can come from writing to an international pen pal. As their curiosity increases, the more interest in learning that ultimately develops.
So how will it all work?
Students from each country and respective school will be writing to one another and sending out letters (just like you used to do back in the day, if you remember having a pen pal), and then in January of 2018, Educators of America will be helping install a piece of video technology donated by Cisco that will allow the students to actually meet and greet each other virtually! For more of a detailed description on the program, please visit the BCB page on our website.
The BCB program has taken its first steps!
The schools, grades, and students have been selected along with the staff and facilitators of the program. The introductory letters are currently being written (pictures will be posted later!) and soon enough the students from Namibia will be mailing out their first pen pal letters to the states.
Our first selected school to be participating in the BCB Program is Bob Miller Middle School in Henderson, Nevada. We are beyond excited for them to take part in this first time opportunity. Even more so, the schools participating in Namibia, specifically in the //Karas region, are looking forward to communicating in an international manner.
As the program takes the next steps, we welcome any support and if you are interested (as a school) to join the BCB program, please do not hesitate to contact us!