26 Sep 2021
By Mark Richards,
Global school partnerships are an excellent way to enable students to empathise with and gain an insight into the lives of children on the other side of the world.
An example of just how powerful such partnerships can be was shown by a project recently undertaken by pupils at Y Frenni School in the Welsh village of Crymych. Pupils were tasked with the challenge of building a ‘Tippy Tap’ – a contraption made by using an old milk container, string, and sticks. The Tippy Tap allows people to wash their hands without the need for any running water.
On the face of it, this activity seems typical enough – a standard problem-solving/team-building challenge. It’s the sort of activity that kids love and will get a lot out of. However, this particular activity at this Welsh school offered the children so much more. It also gave the pupils a valuable insight into the daily lives of children of their age living thousands of miles away.
At Mount Royal School in Lesotho, Y Frenni School’s partner school, also know a thing or two about Tippy Taps. The contraption became a vital part of the school’s fight against Covid-19. It gave pupils, who were without easy access to running water, the opportunity to wash their hands – a scenario that the children in Wales would never have been able to relate to without the Tippy Tap challenge.
The whole experience was possible by a programme called Connecting Classrooms Global Learning Programme, funded by the British Council.
Connections between schools provides various opportunities to pupils to learn but it is the deeper sense of empathy that is created that is probably the most invaluable aspect of programmes such as these. In a world facing various challenges where humans might look, sound and live very differently, depending on whereabouts in the world we are born, it is always worth reinforcing the fact that there is only one world and that, ultimately, all humans have the same basic needs.
Introducing students to different cultures and giving them a chance to develop a wider appreciation of the world around them can only be a good thing.
Of course, during a period when school trips and holidays have had to be curtailed because of Covid, the Connecting Classrooms Global Learning Programme is also a powerful reminder of how technology can be used to make those connections. WhatsApp messages and videos have been used considerably as the main way of keeping contact between two schools. Teachers thousands of miles apart have also shared schemes of work with each other.
Forging international partnerships is a fantastic way to embed empathy into the curriculum and Covid has had a profound impact as children have been able to see, first-hand, how people on the other side of the world have been facing the challenges of a pandemic
Schools having links with other schools across the globe is nothing new, in itself. However, the speed with which these connections can now be made is the real gamechanger. When the dimensions of reality and connection can be added to learning, it really brings it to life.
Many partnerships are formed to raise pupils’ understanding of issues such as plastic pollution, eco-systems, and climate change.
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