What grows in a garden in Johannesburg in February? What is a hero? How does a class of 4th graders in Beijing define "home"? What do students in Costa Rica do to ensure the sustainability of their rich ecosystem? Our global partnerships provide a way for us to get direct answers to such questions, but more important, they support learning and connecting outside of our own cultural context.
Since 2000, we have been developing long-term relationships with schools and organizations that are diverse in their locations and resources, but with which we share the common goals of broadening horizons and deepening the educational experience by using a global lens. We have welcomed many faculty and students from our partner organizations to engage with our faculty, administration, and students and to serve an artists in residence. Our whole community is enriched by these experiences, and we continue to grow the opportunities for this type of learning.
Since 2008, we have arranged for faculty exchanges with Beijing Experimental Primary School #2. Teachers and administrators from both schools have had an opportunity to closely observe teaching and learning in a different context, and our Mandarin program has benefited from having native speakers in addition to our teachers visit the classroom. In spring 2014, the first group of Mark Day students visited our Beijing partners.
The Pan-American School (PAS) in Heredia, Costa Rica, accepted our invitation to partner in 2013. In PAS, we have found a school with values similar to ours and another avenue for linguistic and cultural discovery. Our first delegation of students and teachers visited PAS in February 2014, enjoying home stays and immersing themselves in the language and culture of our hosts. September 2014 marked the first delegation visit from PAS. Exchange students are in 7th and 8th grade, and each delegation spends time with students in the lower grades, so the whole community shares in the experience.
In 2000, Director of Global and Special Programs Jenny Getz met with a few teachers and administrators from eSibonisweni Primary School, which serves a large area in rural northeast South Africa (KwaZulu province), about five hours from Durban. Their conversation that day explored the idea of a relationship between our two schools that, while partly philanthropic in nature, could grow into an educational partnership, with joint curriculum units and teachers at the two schools serving as resources for each other.
We have realized these goals and more. We have also organized delegations to South Africa every other year since 2004, and in January 2012, we welcomed a group of five teachers and six learners from eSibonisweni. Through the years of visiting South Africa, members of our community had come to know the Kliptown Youth Program, which serves as a resource for many children and young adults in the Kliptown neighborhood of Soweto, outside of Johannesburg. In January 2012, we joined forces with KYP and have welcomed several of their tutors here--in February 2013, we hosted a group for three weeks of classroom work and gumboot dance workshops, which culminated in two rousing all-school performances that we will not soon forget.
We also saw the potential for a three-way partnership linking Mark Day School, the urban KYP, and rural eSibonisweni. We are happy to note that tutors from KYP now serve as mentors for teachers at eSibonisweni. KYP's location in Johannesburg and its hard-won international recognition have meant access to greater educational and technology resources, which they are in turn sharing with eSibonisweni.
Click here to view photos and read stories from our delegation to South Africa during Summer 2016