It's a Small World After All

Education

BY JENNIFER VIGNE SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUN 2, 2018

Do you remember your summer vacations when you were a child?

For many of us GenXers or Baby Boomers, a summer vacation was piling in the family station wagon and driving across the state to visit Grandma or Aunt Sally.  Cousins would play outside together until darkness crept in while parents sat around telling embellished stories from their own childhood memories. Taking a trip to Disney World was a big deal so families planned and saved to make that trip, which seemed like it was to the other side of the world, when in fact, it was only a 2-hour drive from home.

A lot has changed since then. Our world that once seemed so big is now interconnected in ways that have made it quite small—or as Thomas Friedman described, flat. In this 21st century world in which we live, global events are watched in real time by millions of people (Meghan and Harry), world currency has become digitized, and the balance of international relations demand our understanding of world cultures.

The Education Foundation, through its innovative initiatives, is among a growing number of forward-thinking leaders and institutions modeling the 21st century skills that we want our students to emulate:

 •               forming new collaborative partnerships; 

•                taking calculated risks by putting ambitious, untried plans into motion; 

•                unlocking creative capacities to solve problems in unconventional ways; 

•                communicating across disciplines, sectors and cultures; and 

•                sharing and analyzing the impact of initiatives.

For these reasons and more, we are excited to send three Sarasota County educators on an all-expenses paid global professional development experience this summer. Our inaugural team, who hail from Phillippi Shores Elementary, an International Baccalaureate school, will be traveling to South Africa as part of our Ignite Education program in support of our mission to enhance the potential of students, promote excellence in teaching and inspire innovation in education.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County has partnered with Good Work Foundation, a non-governmental association in South Africa, for this unique teaching and learning opportunity. Since its founding in 2006, GWF has worked to provide digital learning centers and access to world-class education to rural African learners where mining, agriculture and tourism (home to Kruger National Park) drive its’ local economy.

While these two organizations are oceans apart, we share a passionate commitment to build relations with and amongst teachers, students and communities.

The Sarasota County educators will spend three weeks in South Africa, working alongside teachers in one of the digital learning campuses created by GWF to experience firsthand how 21st-century skills are transforming a rural, South African village. Our educators will also serve as master teachers and mentors, providing the GWF “facilitators” compulsory skills such as designing lesson plans, providing differentiated instruction and teaching English as a second language in addition to sharing proven classroom management techniques. Our educators will be both student and teacher. As they empower these facilitators with effective skills, they will also witness the joy of learning through the eyes of young village students who highly value the gift of an education. Upon returning from South Africa, these teachers will apply this newfound perspective and better understanding of global cultures with the Phillippi Shores school community.

We believe this global professional development opportunity is a worthwhile investment that will strengthen our teachers’ capacities and in ways we don’t yet realize. We anticipate these two schools, while worlds apart, will create lasting relationships that will ignite education for both communities of students and teachers.

A lot has changed since the summer vacations when I was a child. I guess Disney had it right all along, “it’s a small world after all.”

Jennifer Vigne is president of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County.

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