Geneva grade schoolers gain geography ground with Flat Earth program
By Charlotte Norgaard For The Beacon-News February 18, 2011 5:52PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
GENEVA — Fifth-graders in Donna Roman’s class at Geneva’s Mill Creek Elementary School this year have had a unique opportunity to see what a day in the life is like for students in schools around the world.
The Flat Earth Program is a pilot effort that involved eight different schools; American School of Mumbai in Mumbai, India; Denton Avenue School in New Hyde Park, New York; The Falcon’s School for Girls in London; International School of Prague in Prague, Czech Republic; The Phoenix School in Salem, Mass.; Yarmouth Elementary School in Yarmouth, Maine,; Yew Chung International School in Beijing, China; and Mill Creek Elementary in Geneva.
The program, which began last fall, concluded last week when Mill Creek students gave a presentation of their experiences to their family and friends.
“The program showed what other schools looked like and how they compare and contrast,” said Roman.
Students communicated with one another through blogging and via Skype so that they were able to see each other’s faces.
“They loved it, and they learned a ton about other cultures,” said Roman.
The youngsters learned that there are real differences around the world, not just in schools, but in housing and transportation.
“Most of the students in other countries use mass transit far more that we do in the United States,” the teacher said.
According to Roman, coordinating the communication sessions at times was challenging due to time differences around the world and differences in school-day time and vacations.
In addition, most Mill Creek students were surprised to learn that every other school around the world spoke English, in addition to two or three other languages.
Since the focus in social studies in fifth grade is on culture and geography, the Flat Earth Project was an ideal fit with what Mill Creek students were studying.
Flat Classroom Projects have been running for the past four years for middle and high schools students. The original project, The Flat Classroom Project, is based on the concepts found in Tom Friedman’s book, “The World is Flat,” and subsequently has been included in the reprint of the book in 2007.
At this point, it is not yet known if Mill Creek students will participate in the Flat Earth program in future school years, but the teachers will consider it moving forward.
“It opened our eyes to a lot of international projects,” said Roman. “They learned a ton. It was a great project.”