As a former reading specialist, I have traveled all over the world with my husband and visited many unique places. Thanks to the opportunity to volunteer at Harrisburg Academy during my retirement years (eight years and counting), I am able to share my experiences with Early Childhood (EC) and Lower School (LS) students as part of the Learning Links program — and I love it! Borrowing the mission of the International Baccalaureate Program, the EC and LS Learning Links program encourages global-mindedness in our young students. By pairing each EC and LS grade with a continent, the program allows students to learn about other cultures and ideas while also learning respect and tolerance.
During the past few years, my husband and I have visited all seven continents, absorbing the culture and ideas of each one. When in another country, I try to imagine what students at the Academy would be interested in learning, and that is what I seek to bring back with me. Local guides are always eager to help me collect accurate information because they want American children to learn about their culture. After my husband and I took trips to Australia and New Zealand, and then later Antarctica, I had a yearning to share what we learned with Academy HATS and Kindergarten students, grades that are paired with Australia and Antarctica, respectively.
Since Learning Links became an integral part of the EC and LS curriculum, my reason for traveling has taken on a whole new dimension. I not only learn facts about these countries, I actively absorb the unique culture and ideas they present. My passion for teaching has also been nurtured by the excitement students express in learning about other cultures. I organize weekly presentations for every EC and LS class in addition to holding small reading groups. I share stories, movies, photos, books, stuffed animals, and objects unique to each continent. These items help the children compare and contrast cultures and internalize the information for future discussions at school and at home. I encourage students to make comments and ask questions, because the contributions of each student, even the three-year-olds, are relevant and meaningful. It is my pleasure to interact with our Harrisburg Academy students and see them learn to appreciate the world around them, even cultures thousands of miles away.