Harrisburg Academy strives to expose students to the interconnectedness of people and cultures. In Kindergarten, we use our Learning Links with Australia to increase the children’s global awareness. We compare and contrast time, weather, lifestyle, limestone caverns, native people, and animals. Our goal has been to make a connection with a school in Australia and exchange information through the use of Skype. However, the problem with trying to establish a relationship with a school or classroom “down under” was always that they were sleeping when we wanted to visit!
Three years ago we tried a different course of action: Hawaii! We were able to establish a connection with an International Baccalaureate World School in Kapolei, Hawaii. The Island Pacific Academy is a Junior Kindergarten through 12th grade college preparatory school with many similarities to ours. Our connection is with the JK classroom and teachers Donja Morton and Celeste Jeffrey. We discuss theme units and how we can supplement their classroom learning. During their study of living and nonliving things our Kindergarten students compiled a list of animals and things common in Pennsylvania, such as whitetail deer, turkeys, trains, and apple orchards. This lead to many oohs and aahs by the Hawaiian students, because most of the items on our list are not present in Hawaii! During our unit on holiday traditions, our students are just as amazed to hear that they go to the ocean, swim, and eat holiday dinners on the beach. We then discuss the many things that are the same…lights, presents, food, and time with family and friends.
Our relationship continues, three years after it started. In fact, Mrs. Oberman, a reading specialist who volunteers at Harrisburg Academy, visited our Hawaiian friends last school year while she was on a family vacation! Along the way, we have discovered that Hawaii has many similarities to Australia. Our Hawaiian friends are able to help us with information about tropical climates, rain forests, and coral reefs. Ms. Jeffrey enjoys telling the children about her experiences going out her back door, walking into the ocean, and snorkeling in the coral reef. We live in a world that is becoming more and more connected. Our experiences with the Island Pacific Academy have allowed us to teach the children about diversity and the lesson that as different as we all can be, we still have many similarities.