With all the talk of divisiveness, political polarization, and living in bubbles, students at Fisher Middle School stepped out of their comfort zones to talk to other students from around the globe about what they think really matters. For six weeks, Mr. Milecki’s seventh and eighth grade social studies classes conducted a pilot program exploring the PenPal Schools web-based platform. Students chose from over 30 topics, read articles, and prepared to participate in discussions including media literacy, how schools around the world work, race-relations in America, and the COVID-19 crisis. Topics were chosen to reflect the climate that was being faced in the 2020-21 school year, and to increase student cultural competencies.
One of Mr. Milecki’s student’s commented, “I enjoyed engaging with PenPal Schools because they included videos and articles to read before getting involved in discussions so I had some background and knew what to talk about.”
Another student explained, “I connected with kids in Sweden and Russia about race and I realized that there really are problems all over the world. Maybe we should all be working on it together.”
One student also used the platform to compare how other school students are coping with the pandemic. “I started a conversation with kids from Paraguay and Brazil about how their schools are dealing with COVID-19,” he explained.
PenPal Schools connects over 250,000 students from 150 countries to collaborate on topics ranging from human rights and the environment to fake news and immigration. It offers a safe way to connect students with their international peers, while focusing on literacy skills, digital citizenship, and developing empathy through authentic social and emotional learning.
At a time when a global pandemic has created such isolation, Fisher students are creating meaningful global connections.