A Cultural Exchange Notebook
Angela Houdyshell, teacher at Clayton Elementary in Austin, Texas has been really invested in the projects that were happening in Africa. She was intent on including her students in the process in some way. Ms. Houdyshell proved how important it is to go above and beyond to enrich her students learning experiences by integrating ideas and visions from people in multiple cultures. She started telling her students of my travels and my plans for the trip to Uganda. Her second grade students were immediately consumed with questions and thoughts about how students in Uganda live and what they do on a day-to-day basis.
According to Angela the students became extremely interested in the trip and wanted to become involved in any way they could. Together the students brainstormed and decided as a class to create a notebook full of letters, drawings of daily activities, and depictions of life in America. The students really hoped to make connections between their life and the lives of the children in Africa.
Ms. Houdyshell’s class also decided to send a disposable camera with me to Uganda to have a student take photographs of his daily life. I took this notebook and camera with me to the schools in Masaka. The students there were excited to look through the notebook and add their own thoughts to the pages which I would soon return to Clayton Elementary. While at Kasota Primary School in Masaka, Uganda I gave a fourteen-year-old boy the assignment to photograph his life, friends, and surroundings with a disposable camera. He was thrilled that the pictures would be shown to many students in Texas and couldn’t wait to use the camera.
After the film was developed it was taken to Ms. Houdyshell to show her students. When commenting about her students’ experience she said, “I already know that they are making some significant connections. I hope though that they will see that even though our world is so large and diverse there are many ways that they are like the students in Uganda.”
This was a great teaching moment for Angela. She was able to introduce the students to a cultural group they had not been exposed to before. It was also a great experience for me to interact with students who really valued these cultural connections. Though so many things about both of these communities are different, the children were able to learn about each other and actually find common interests. I was excited when one of the students from Uganda said to me “They like futball too?!”. This really made his day.
As educators we need to take every opportunity that we can to introduce our students to worlds, or people they may be unfamiliar with. This will help in the ongoing pursuit of creating one large, united global village.