Children pointing at globe. Image credit: Frank Noon.
Darren Coyle, Programme Manager for Connecting Classrooms, explains how the British Council’s flagship global education programme brings exciting opportunities to schools worldwide.
Recently, I found myself waiting to meet a headteacher in the reception of a secondary school in Nottingham. On the wall was a large map of the world, with flags marking England and Brazil, a line drawn between the two of them, and lists of class names and numbers. The headteacher explained that his pupils had been set the challenge of covering the 6,000 miles between England and their partner school in Brazil.
‘How will they do that?’ I asked, intrigued.
The headteacher explained that pupils were recording the distances they travelled during their normal day-to-day activities – walking, running, swimming, cycling – and within a month they had been to Brazil and back already!
It’s a simple yet powerful example of how schools involved in international links can inspire and motivate their pupils in any number of creative ways. By giving pupils a real context within which to work and learn about the world, a partnership with an overseas school can add flavour and richness to the curriculum. If pupils are world-aware and instilled with interest and excitement to find out more about other countries and cultures, they will be better prepared to work alongside and compete with young people from around the globe in our fast-changing and truly global society.
That’s the idea behind Connecting Classrooms, an amazing programme full of opportunities for schools around the world to connect with each other and help develop their pupils as global citizens. Between now and the 9 November 2012, we are inviting schools from the UK and around the world to apply for partnership grants of up to £1,500 per participating school, allowing teachers to travel and work together on a project of mutual interest.
What astounded me during my visit to the school in Nottingham was how much the school’s link with Brazil was being used to really bring learning to life for pupils. Teachers across a range of departments – art, geography, sport, science, languages – were working together to design and deliver learning activities in the curriculum using the context of Brazil. Meaning that pupils felt a real life connection and really engaged with their learning. As one teacher put it, ‘Our school partnership has been the kick start to a huge range of exciting activities here – for teachers and pupils alike. Brazil has become part of the school. It has been a fantastic experience.’
Often teachers mention that they can’t find the time or additional resource to cover classes to attend professional development courses. Connecting Classrooms has developed online courses that teachers can take at their own pace. Getting involved in the strands of Connecting Classrooms will also offer schools the opportunity to get accredited for their international work.
Nottingham gave me a first-hand chance to see how opening young people’s minds to a wider world of different societies and cultures can create a more connected classroom. As an introduction to this global perspective, I’d recommend having a look at the ready-made resources available through our Schools World Service partnership with the BBC. Each month, we are producing short-films told through the eyes of children around the world, offering young people’s perspective on major events and topical stories designed to engage and boost understanding of global issues. The accompanying videos from places like Brazil, India, Libya and other countries are proving very powerful.
Connecting Classrooms is co-funded by the British Council and the Department for International Development (DFID). It offers school partnership, professional development courses, school accreditation and the chance to share best practice with international counterparts.