First grade students at Richmond Hill Primary are becoming more global thinkers as they widen their circle of friends to include first graders attending St. Mary’s Primary School in Belize, Central America. Mrs. Deidre Ward, a first grade teacher and graduate school student, has succeeded in building a strong bridge of communication between the two groups of students, separated by over 1300 miles of sand and sea. They have been introduced to each other through the exchange of the written word. Mrs. Ward has fostered the exchange of ideas and information between the budding authors of two separate countries. They have learned about each other by sharing their first original literary efforts with a class of boys and girls they once knew little about. Stories, written and illustrated, printed and bound, have traveled with the assistance of a handsome mailman, who bears a strange resemblance to a stuffed orangutan, across the Caribbean Sea to a small school in Belize City, Belize C.A.
A recent exchange included a video of the writing process as it was presented and developed in Mrs. Ward’s and Mrs. Stroebele’s classes. The project was designed to promote the growth of reading and writing skills as they were taught simultaneously through this international writing exchange. The results have far exceeded the expectations. Students have become excited about writing, having been given the motivation and purpose good writing requires. They look forward to reading new stories written just for them, by children who now seem far more similar than different.
Teachers involved in the project, on both sides of the Caribbean Sea, have grown also. Mrs. Ward explains, "I believe in the beginning we had the idea that our goal was to help others, but we have grown as teachers through this experience. Bringing writing to the forefront, and teaching through authentic avenues, has been a rewarding experience."
by Mary Ann Tiedemann
Richmond Hill Primary