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SMES Students Study Literature Alongside Students in Ghana and Gain Global Understanding

7 December 2012 admin 2,224 views One Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Over the course of the last two months, Mr. Peter Clark’s grade 10 English class has taken a state-of-the-art, virtual journey more than 7,500 miles to Cape Coast, Ghana, West Africa. The class has been teleconferencing with Ghanaian students for discussions on the book Things Fall Apart by Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. Book discussions quickly evolved into captivating and eye-opening revelations between the classes about each other and how everyday life differs in each other’s part of the world, says Mr. Clark.

“After Darla Magana (director of library and media center) and Karen Angus (web librarian) notified me about the opportunity, I participated in a teleconference with the Ghanaian teachers in October to discuss our shared reading of Achebe’s Things Fall Apart,” said Mr. Clark. “We created a schedule where students would read and discuss the three parts of the novel utilizing their unique positions as U.S. and Ghanaian students.”

St. Margaret’s has established an academic task force to look at global education opportunities such as this to give a better understanding of the importance of domestic and international diversity. Additionally, the task force aims to pique a need for cross-discipline 21st century curricular projects and exchanges with partner schools and organizations, deepen service learning and sustainability efforts, further enhance the Independent Senior Project program, and strengthen ties with the St. Margaret’s growing alumni and parent body.

During the first classroom meeting, the Ghanaian teachers and students warmly welcomed St. Margaret’s students with songs and introductions before sharing a bit of their country’s rich history and culture. As the students continued to meet each week, they discussed Things Fall Apart, one of the first African novels written in English to receive global critical acclaim. It is a staple book in schools throughout Africa. Conversations would often deviate from the book when either a Ghanaian student or a St. Margaret’s students would ask more personal questions about family, religion or politics in order to better understand each other’s cultures.

“The Things Fall Apart Ghana student exchange was an incredible experience,” said sophomore Gabrielle Axelson. “As a class we were able to connect with students thousands of miles away discussing things from everyday life to characters in the book. It was amazing to see how much we had in common with the students on a whole other continent. I personally felt that I had a really special connection with the students, mainly because I am traveling to Ghana for a service trip next summer. Upon hearing this news, everyone on the other side of the camera was excited, encouraging, and really made me feel like I would be welcomed with open arms. The kindness in their hearts really made the whole excursion less scary, and I plan on following their advice by ‘keeping an open mind, and embracing everything around me.’ From this experience I learned that you should never limit yourself to the people or culture around you. There is so much more of life to discover, if you are open to seeing it.”

Academic Dean Dr. Jeneen Graham said of the class project, “Technology has fundamentally transformed the interconnectedness of humanity across the globe. The power of the interaction between the St. Margaret’s and the Ghana students is an extraordinary example of educating hearts and minds for lives of learning, leadership and service. We will continue to develop and broaden these learning opportunities for all of our students and help them to develop the knowledge and sensitivity that is critical to being a global citizen.”

Founded through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration and facilitated by O’ia-da International Akoma Ntoso Cultural Center in Newark, New Jersey, the Ghana videoconferencing program connects students in the U.S. and Africa in order to break down barriers of stereotyping that contribute to cultural misunderstandings.

“It is essential that sustained relationships between schools are established so that true relationships–the give and take of friendships–takes hold. These students now know each other’s names, discuss their own lives, discuss their country’s politics, and know a bit more about what life is like in Cape Coast, Ghana and Southern California,” added Mr. Clark.



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One Comment »

  • Sr. Soderin said:

    Great job and what a wonderful opportunity for all involved. I enjoyed the video with the song the most!! “He has made me glad” indeed!