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- First year projects
- Establishing Base Groups and Interest Groups

First year projects

The first year of the Institute for Democratic Exchange aimed to build a good foundation for the future years of the cooperation. Projects primarily focused on the preparation of participating schoolteachers from Hungary, Ukraine and Ohio, who identified the key areas of cooperation among classrooms, regularly sharing their progress at the teacher's level.

Although student-to-student communication was not a particular project goal for the first year, some schools established contact with each other and their students started to communicate. For faster communication, most students prefer e-mail pen-pal contact with friends around the world. However, students also understood the difficulties some countries have with e-mail communication, sending their mail to their peers by surface mail, too. It was amazing to see that some Ukrainian and Hungarian students wrote their letters with excellent English and beautiful handwriting, which also inspired Ohio students and their teachers to put an extra effort into the letters sent to their foreign partners. For faster information exchange, we are exploring new ways of classroom to classroom communication.

Each participating country received a "traveling suitcase" from the Consortium, containing general information about the partnering countries of this project. In the future, every school will contribute with additional materials to the information package, covering special interest areas such as national holidays. Many participating schools have created an ‘international corner’ in their classrooms, or launched a cultural center in their schools, exhibiting folk and other items from foreign countries. Students are also encouraged to make presentations and research different customs and traditions, while their work is compared with the partner schools’ results from a selected country.

Topics and programs for the teachers’ cooperation varied mainly based on school curricula and on classroom’s interest. However, there have been a few interest areas shared by most participating schools.

The "Holidays" project gave numberless opportunities for teachers and students to learn about their friend’s customs living in different parts of the world. Students learned how American, Hungarian and Ukrainian people celebrate Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Easter and other holidays. In the spirit of the holidays, students sent greeting cards and small art works made by themselves.

OneDay of My Life is a joint project of the three cooperating countries to be launched in Spring 2000. Through this project, presenting the lives of children in Ohio, Ukraine and Hungary, students will share their life stories with each other and tell about their usual day in school and at home. They will use different techniques of self-expression, such as written essays, poems, books, and own poster designs, photo albums or drawn pictures. The results of this project will be presented at a community event in the original countries as well as in a joint publication and a video, which will be prepared by the Consortium.

"With the global society we now live in, it is even more important that young children be exposed to the developing world they are a part of. Through this Democratic Exchange program students are encouraged to not only develop international ties, but learn more about community and government."

(Patricia Ujvági, Eastlake Middle School teacher, Willoughby)

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Establishing Base Groups and Interest Groups

The pilot year of the Institute began with the establishment of base-groups, matching Ukrainian, Hungarian, and Ohio schools and teachers with each other for "sister-school" cooperation. As the project moved on, participating teachers from Eastern Europe realized that many of their students’ interests can not be met within the original base-group and therefore sought additional partnerships. Teachers from Ohio, on the other hand, were more restricted in their curriculum and were looking for teachers and classrooms with special interest, related to their subjects. Flexible interest groups have been created between partnering schools in this way to provide many benefits to the students. The Consortium encourages participants to establish new interest groups, so that each school will have the chance to cooperate with all the other schools in a specific area. In the first year of the Institute, the following interest groups have been formed:

1. Environmental projects: Ecology Club; cleaning the environment; recycling; animal protection; March 22 Day of Water, April 22 Earth Day; organizing different events and competitions around environmental topics; visiting the Zoo in three countries.

2. Debate Club: teaching students to solve problems and make responsible decisions using critical and creative thinking; communicating effectively using the Internet; acting in a way that reflects justice, democratic values, and respect for human dignity.

3. Politics and Government: visiting local historical and ethnic sites.

The Institute for Democratic Exchange received media attention in all three countries. Participating teachers and professors were invited to several conferences and special events and have made presentations at the Board of Education, the Parents’ Board, and professional associations.

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© 2000. - Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development
P.O. Box 48, Bowling Green, OH 43402-0048