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Building 'Friendship Through Education'

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Curriculum Center

As a response to the attacks of September 11th, a consortium called Friendship Through Education has been established to promote communication among students across the globe. As children engage in its online projects, the collaboration fosters sharing, and -- it is hoped -- a greater understanding of people and cultures. Included: Learn about five free online projects your students can join today!


"I'm here to announce a new initiative called Friendship Through Education. And we're going to ask schools all across the country to join with schools in other countries to spread the message that we care for each other, that we want to understand each other better."

With those words to students and faculty members of Thurgood Marshall Extended Elementary School in Washington, D.C., President George W. Bush established a coalition to promote cultural sharing among American students and children in other parts of the world.

He continued, "I think the best way to handle the attacks of September the 11th is to fight fear with friendship; is to fight fear with hope; is to remind people all around the world we have much more in common than people might think; that we share basic values -- the importance of family, and the importance of faith, and the importance of friendship."

Five Free Collaborative Projects

As part of Friendship Through Education, iEARN has opened five of its projects to any school, free of charge, regardless of membership in iEARN. All of the projects listed below can be accessed through the organization's Activities page.

Comfort Quilts
In this project, participating schools, classes, or organizations make quilts out of fabric squares on which they have drawn smiley faces. These are distributed to children who are receiving medical care, suffering the effects of natural disasters, are in crisis, or have been displaced from their homes. Some schools are creating quilts for victims of recent terrorist attacks.

Global Art
Through Global Art, participating students create and exchange artwork and writing with other schools around the theme "A Sense of Caring."

Laws of Life
The result of a three-year collaboration between iEARN and the John Templeton Foundation, Laws of Life has participants submit essays in which they describe the rules, ideals, and principles by which they live. The students respond to each other's essays and interact electronically.

Lewinfr In the Lewin project, students submit writing in any format and about any topic and it becomes a part of an anthology coordinated and published by classes in Australia and Pakistan. The participants read and respond to the writing through an online forum.

Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger
In an effort spur students to engage in activities to combat hunger, this iEARN project invites participants to discuss and understand issues of hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and food security.

FOSTERING FRIENDSHIPS

One of those charged with making this cross-cultural friendship a reality is Lisa Jobson of the International Education and Resource Network (iEARN). As the organizational body of the Friendship Through Education Consortium, iEARN is committed to building an expanded network of resources for schools and youth organizations to engage in global dialogue and project collaboration as part of teaching and learning.

"Friendship Through Education brings together a group of organizations with long histories of support for cross-cultural exchange among young people worldwide," Jobson explained. "Since the events surrounding September 11th, we have received an outpouring of interest among teachers and students in the U.S. who would like to communicate with schools in Islamic countries. By partnering together, we are able to respond to this interest with a greater breadth and depth of resources."

iEARN is a network of 95 countries and 400,000 students working together via the Internet to make a positive impact on the world. Through iEARN, students aged 5-19 go beyond simply being "pen-pals" to use telecommunications in joint educational projects. These collaborative online educational projects employ the Internet and other new technologies to enhance learning, meet local and state standards, encourage civic participation, and address critical issues that face the world.

"iEARN considers the power of the Internet to be its ability to connect people and create global learning communities," said Jobson. "When given an opportunity to connect classroom learning with real world issues in partnership with real global peers, students develop literacy skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving in areas such as science and social studies, civic education, language acquisition, research skills, and cultural awareness."

FRIENDS AND FEELINGS

"In the process of doing their iEARN projects, the children learn to meaningfully use new technologies -- email, digital imaging, Web site publishing, video production, and videoconferencing -- in developmentally appropriate ways as they interact with local to global peers and publish their work to share with one another, their community, and their families," Kristi Rennebohm Franz told Education World.

Franz is a multiage primary classroom teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School in Pullman, Washington, and an iEARN lead teacher. She coordinates projects for iEARN, and her students are involved with many collaborative online activities.

"In every collaborative project, the children are highly motivated to work on their reading and writing skills so that they can send written email messages and read received email messages on the topics of the projects," Franz stated. "Every project brings forth opportunities for children to build local to global understandings of their world through online conversations with children and teachers around the world and to make a positive difference with what they are learning."

As an example, Franz cites the Global Art project, one of the iEARN endeavors that she coordinates. Through it, students create and exchange artwork and writing around the theme "A Sense of Caring." Franz says that the participants learn about the commonalities and diversities of caring across cultures, and their work brings inspiration to people of all ages across many countries and continents.

Franz feels that cross-cultural projects such as those offered by Friendship Through Education provide children with a real-world application that encourages literacy skills. She explained, "Most importantly, children, youth, teachers, and families are building friendships through learning to value what local to global peers have to say, while also realizing that each child and youth has important ideas and understandings to contribute."

MAKING NEW FRIENDS

"Friendship through Education will be a sustained initiative to build a network of resources for teachers and students to develop global partnerships," reported Jobson. "Our hope is to make opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue and ongoing project collaboration as widely available as possible."

Teachers who are interested in participating in Friendship Through Education projects can visit the Web site to register.

Friendship Through Education Partners

  • United Nations Cyberschoolbus
    This resource provides information about international affairs and brings together students and educators from around the world. Projects and teaching materials are available.
  • ePALS Classroom Exchange
    A virtual meeting room for students and teachers, ePALS connects over 3.8 million users worldwide.
  • Global SchoolNet Foundation
    By partnering with schools, communities, and businesses, Global SchoolNet offers online learning activities that help students learn to make appropriate and effective use of the Internet.
  • iEARN
    iEARN is a non-profit organization that sponsors collaborative educational projects for students and teachers.
  • NetAid
    This organization gathers individuals, companies, and other groups together in support of specific development projects among the world's poorest communities.
  • World Wise Schools
    Created by the Peace Corps, World Wise Schools helps students broaden their perspectives by putting them in touch with volunteers across the world.
  • People to People International
    Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, People to People International seeks to enhance international understanding and friendship through the exchange of ideas and experiences.
  • Schools Online
    This public benefit organization helps schools gain access to the resources of the Internet by providing computer equipment.
  • Sister Cities International
    A non-profit diplomacy network, Sister Cities promotes cultural understanding by establishing partnerships among international communities.
  • United States Fund for UNICEF
    This committee raises money for UNICEF, an organization that provides health care, clean water, better nutrition, and education to millions of children.