Middle School “Strangers” Become Friends in Global Exchange

November is a particularly busy time at Asia Pacific International School (APIS), whose mission is to educate “students who are able to bridge the gap between the East and the West, and are ready to welcome the challenges of the New Pacific Century.” That’s when their co-ed boarding school campus in Hauula, Hawaii, joyfully welcomes an additional 60-70 middle schoolers from their Seoul, Korea, campus for a three-week, intensive Project-Based Learning Academy.

“The students live together, eat together, learn together, and—even in this short time—make invaluable global connections,” says Andy Ris, Dean of Residential Life at the Hawaii campus. “There are also great opportunities to develop leadership and teamwork skills while diving into their unique subject content.”

Right from the start, students are drawn into team-building challenges with new peers who are relative strangers. By the end, they’re taking turns presenting information they’ve gathered and sharing completed projects. Sixth graders learn all about Hawaiian culture and, more generally, how culture can define us. Seventh graders look at the long global history of innovation, transportation, communication, and globalization. Eighth graders get their hands dirty while learning about farming and agricultural practices, as well as environmental threats and concerns.

“I learned a lot about flight and the science of airplanes,” says seventh grader Hannah Todd. “That was my favorite part. I made new friends too!”

“This is a program that asks students to mix their languages, cultures, and prior knowledge,” says Mr. Ris, “fostering understanding and undoubtedly enhancing each other’s lives in the process.”

Does your school do something similar?

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