Students as Global Partners

Winter 2016

By Ilana Grady

When The Stanwich School (Connecticut) students started their first 3D-printing class with Level Up Village (LUV) in fall 2014, they sent videos about themselves, their families, pets, and hobbies to their global partners in Mali. Then it was their turn to watch the videos from students in Mali.

The first boy in Mali introduced himself, setting the tone for the semester. “Hello, William. This is my donkey and behind me is the field I’m in charge of.” As the boy spoke, the children at Stanwich could see his classroom had a dirt floor and open walls. When the next girl spoke, she shared there was little electricity where they lived because only three solar panels powered the entire town. Rather than turning on a faucet, she had to fetch water from a well.

As the Stanwich students watched the video letters, they were excited to hear their names said by their global partner and sad to see that someone they knew lived in such conditions. Both emotional responses were expected. Stanwich runs the LUV courses as part of its after-school enrichment program and an expansion of its STEAM offerings. The focus of the LUV curriculum is on how technological tools, in conjunction with critical and creative thinking, can be used to solve problems. But the real-time global connections also help students develop their global values and moral leadership in meaningful, authentic ways.

As part of the LUV program, Stanwich students were paired individually with students taking the same class in one of LUV’s global partner schools in Mali. In subsequent courses, Stanwich students partnered with students in India and Haiti. Through a combination of discussion, hands-on activities, and interactive media, students learned about the daily lives of their partners and worked together to solve a real-world problem with no easy solution. The Stanwich students also learned firsthand about issues in other countries when a LUV class with Liberian students had to be changed because of an Ebola outbreak.

It’s easy for schools to say they educate students with the noncognitive skills for life beyond the classroom, but actually doing so is challenging. Education today demands more than rote memorization of facts. Through the LUV program, Stanwich wants its students to develop a strong moral compass, with an understanding and emphasis on global citizenship. By partnering with LUV, Stanwich students were able to further develop and grow those softer skills necessary to become moral leaders in the 21st century.

Want to bring the world to your students? Consider global service learning professional development travel. Organizations like Nobis Project ( offer trips for K–12 educators looking to build culturally responsive classrooms. As part of these group excursions, teachers immerse themselves in another culture, engage in service learning with a local organization, and learn how to integrate their experience into globally relevant lessons in the classroom.

The Nobis Project asserts that in order to talk about global interconnectedness, shared fate, and social responsibility, you must first look at personal experiences and understandings of power, history, and relationships. It encourages self-discovery to challenge traditional ways of viewing the world and look for sustainable changes that benefit humanity.

Ilana Grady

Ilana Grady is a contributor to Independent School Magazine.