TNCS Lower Elementary Goes Around the World in 80 Days

Global studies is always an important theme in Ms. DuPrau's classroom.

Global studies is always an important theme in Ms. DuPrau’s classroom.

All while never leaving the classroom! The New Century School lower elementary teacher Adriana DuPrau designed a project to stimulate her 1st-graders and expand their horizons—passports to circumnavigate the globe! They created passport books to prepare for their global “travel” beginning the first week of the 2014 school year. In less than 3 months, the class visited six of the world’s seven continents, missing only South America. (It really was just about 80 days, just like in the original 1873 Jules Verne adventure novel. No hot air balloons, though.) To launch this fantastic and inspired undertaking, Southwest Air pilot and TNCS dad “Captain Marc” visited the class to talk about air travel, time zones, airplanes in general, and airplane safety. Each child then got a Southwest travel pack with pretzels, activities, and even a pair of wings to pin on their lapels! Ms. DuPrau says, “the kids were so excited and asked Captain Marc lots of very good questions, like ‘how do airplanes fly?'” Captain Marc managed to fly above that one.

Having gotten their passports in order and received their wings, the kids were ready to set out. Oops! One more thing. Before exploring each new country, the students profile a day in the life of a first-grader from that country to compare and contrast it to their own lives. Africa was their first destination, Kenya, to be exact. The students had learned that classrooms in Kenya comprise as many as 60 students—quite a difference from what they are used to!  Two guests spoke about this exotic country. One class mom lived there for a year and brought in lots of pictures and taught the kids to carry things on their heads, just like the Kenyans do. She also talked about climate, geography, culture, cuisine, and the native animals. The other guest spoke about his experience growing up on a giraffe farm, such as awaking in the mornings to see a giraffe poking its head through the window of a bedroom conveniently located on an upper floor. The kids were utterly enchanted!

From Kenya, the class traveled on to Switzerland, escorted by another class dad who once lived there. Before moving on to a new country, however, says Ms. DuPrau, students color the flag of the country they just visited and will compile these in a special flag book. Skiing, chocolate, and watches were the highlights of the iPad presentation on Switzerland. The kids were very interested in Swiss culture, and they especially loved hearing about the extensive rail transportation system. Swiss money was another object of fascination, and from here the kids began collecting currency from each new place.

With Chinese New Year looming, the class went on to China, with presentations by Wen Laoshi and Xie Laoshi as well as by Ms. DuPrau herself. The class had learned that first-graders in China have much longer school days and felt pretty lucky by comparison. They delved into holidays and cooked Chinese dumplings together as part of their cultural exploration of China.

All aboard for India! Next, “Ms. J.” (TNCS aftercare teacher) came in to take the kids to her native India. Ms. J. focused on music, cuisine, religion, and traditional clothing. She also sang a classical Bharatanatyam South Indian song, which is her special talent, and passed out honey and fennel pastries—“the kids loved them!” They washed it all down with mango juice, which was another wonderful new treat.

A quick stop in California represented the class’s North American visit, and a class grandmother came in to present this one. She created an interactive map that the kids could place stickers on after hearing about a particular part of California’s geography (e.g., mountains, desert, beaches, etc.).

From the west coast of the United States, the class returned to Africa with another member of TNCS staff who came to us from Ethiopia. This presentation took a slightly different tack. Ms. Kipnesh first prepared a written overview of her country. We learned that Ethiopia has a very temperate climate, ranging from 50°–70° and that it’s the second most populous country in Africa, after Nigeria, comprising over 80 nationalities within its narrow borders! It has several other important distinctions as well, we learned, being the only African country to resist colonization and having maintained its independence for more than 3,000 years! It’s also where a very early human ancestor was discovered—“Lucy“, an Australopithecus afarensis, is about 3.2 million years old. For the presentation itself, the first-graders trooped down to the TNCS kitchen where they got to watch Ms. Kipnesh in action, preparing an authentic Ethiopian dish, while teaching a few words in her native language and donning Ethiopian fancy dress, called habesha kemis. During the preparation of Ethiopia’s national dish, enjera (also injera) be doro wot, Chef Emma helped out by explaining how Ms. Kipnesh made the dish step by step and providing other useful information about Ethiopian cuisine. This highly nutritious and delicious dish traditionally is made with chicken and eggs, cabbage, and cheese, but TNCS students got a lentil substitute for the chicken and eggs.

Back to Asia! Saudi Arabia was the next stop, which a class mom originally from that country spoke about. She brought in headdresses for the boys to wear and showed traditional women’s garb. She made a big poster detailing the climate, the geography, and the animals living there. Did you know that Saudi Arabia is one of just a few native camel habitats? The fun didn’t stop humped beasts, however—fig cupcakes were next! We have it on good authority (i.e., Ms. DuPrau) that these cupcakes were the best anyone had ever eaten.

Next they headed west back to Europe. (This was a zig-zagging journey of necessity.) A British class dad presented Wales and Scotland to the class. Rugby and biscuits were a big part of this talk, natch. Wales is notable for having one of the world’s longest place names. (Serendipitously, the class was able to visit the place with the longest name before their journey’s end.) Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch and its surrounds were full of interesting facts, even if no one was able to pronounce what sounds those 58 letters combine to produce. If you have given up and the suspense is killing you, click here!

And on back to Asia for a Skype visit to former class assistant teacher Ms. Chae in Korea! This trip wasn’t as strictly educational—the kids were just eager to catch up with their dear friend! However, they did learn about the Korean flag, the cuisine, and traditional Korean clothing in between the flurry of news exchanges!

Veering southeast, the class finished up with a trip to Thailand. The kids learned about Thailand’s tropical monsoon climate, why elephants are immensely important, and that rambutans and mangosteens taste sublime but that durian is extremely off-putting to the foreign nose! They also learned how to properly wai their ajarns. Finally, it is Bangkok that actually has the distinction of having the world’s longest place name. With 163 Thai letters without spaces, “กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์” (or, Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit) translates to “The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (unlike Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.” Who knew? Click here for audio pronunciation.

It goes without saying that our now seasoned world travelers enjoyed themselves tremendously and learned scads of information about each country but also broadened their mental vistas. Volunteer speakers also benefited greatly by sharing their cultures or reliving once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ms. DuPrau, this was a truly wonderful class project, combining the best elements of learning—discovery, interactivity, and real life. Wherever you take TNCS elementary students next along their scholastic journey, the destination will be well worth the visit!

One thought on “TNCS Lower Elementary Goes Around the World in 80 Days

  1. I love how involved our parents are in sharing their cultures with our students! And on a separate note–I love this blog! Where else can y
    ou find “natch” chased by “serendipitously” in a school blog?! Love it!

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