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New York Middle School Students Participate in Online Cultural Exchange Program

Middle school students in New York's White Plains Public Schools are participating in a virtual cultural exchange program.

Fifty-seven students in grades 6-8, from the Eastview and Highlands campuses of White Plains Middle School, are taking part in the Schoolwires Greenleaf Virtual Cultural Exchange Program.

They have been communicating with students at Suzhou Lida Middle School and working on group projects through a variety of multimedia and social media platforms, including videos, chats, and blogs. The participating students volunteered for the program, which they attend during study hall or after school.

"The Greenleaf program provides technology tools that allow students from different cultures to communicate with each other in way that is meaningful to adolescents," said Christopher Clouet, superintendent at White Plains. "Our district embraces opportunities like these to provide a global-oriented education to our students and help them understand and participate in today's global society."

The Greenleaf program includes a curriculum guide, so students in the United States and overseas can collaborate on the same lessons, which are aligned to core standards. The curriculum includes six main topics: team building and digital citizenship; the communities we live in; our futures in school and career; global citizenship; landmark places; and iconic images.

Other features of the Schoolwires Greenleaf Virtual Cultural Exchange Program include:

  • An online learning system, through which teachers and students will send information and communicate;
  • A consulting service, which pairs up classes in the United States and China;
  • Online tutorials for teachers to learn about the online learning system;
  • A moderator and cultural and language consultant for the virtual classroom, which can show teachers best practices for both the curriculum and technology; and
  • A virtual community for Greenleaf teachers, which provides a portal for instructors to share experiences.

"The curriculum and guided topics allow students to build their knowledge of another culture over a longer period, and this makes it more impactful," said Jody Kennedy, program teacher in White Plains. "The depth of the program also helps students collaborate more effectively online. I stress 'effectively' because students often think they are communicating well when they are not. With the Greenleaf program, they get continual feedback and opportunities to develop the 21st century skills that will be critical to them in the workplace."
 
White Plains Middle School has two campuses for students in grades 6-8, Eastview and Highlands. The entire school district has almost 7,000 students enrolled in elementary through high school.

For more information about the Schoolwires Greenleaf Cultural Exchange program, visit schoolwires.com. For more information about the school district, visit wpcsd.k12.ny.us.

About the Author

Tim Sohn is a 10-year veteran of the news business, having served in capacities from reporter to editor-in-chief of a variety of publications including Web sites, daily and weekly newspapers, consumer and trade magazines, and wire services. He can be reached at timothyjsohn@gmail.com and followed on Twitter @editortim.

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