The Fall 2012 issue of the KIDS Newsletter, contained the following analysis by Lisa Jobson of the two years that KIDS was a program of iEARN and what

Lisa Jobson

Lisa Jobson

The Fall 2012 issue of the KIDS Newsletter, contained the following analysis by Lisa Jobson of the two years that KIDS was a program of iEARN and what might be expected of this alliance in the years to come.

The iEARN - Kids Can Make a Difference Finding Solutions to Hunger Partnership
By Lisa Jobson

When Kids Can Make a Difference became a program of iEARN in 2010, it was clear from the start that the missions of the two organizations were a fit. As we explored how KIDS' resources like the Finding Solutions to Hunger Guide could be used to enhance iEARN food security and hunger-related projects, excitement about the partnership grew. And, then, as is always the case in iEARN, some creative teachers came along and created the real magic.

In a recent video documentary featuring the Finding Solutions to Hunger Project, filmmakers Austin Haeberle and Wendy Jacques travelled to Trenton, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Long Island, New York to hear directly from teachers and students, and KIDS co-founders Jane and Larry Levine, about how the Finding Solutions to Hunger Project works, and about the impact that global connections can have on how we understanding food security and hunger issues and our own role in finding solutions.

Watching these videos -- Finding Solutions to Hunger Project (Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia, PA, USA) and Finding Solutions to Hunger Project (Long Island, USA) offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about the experience of students and teachers in the project, and its evolution over the past year into an active collaboration among participants from around the world.

Using iEARN's Collaboration Centre, teachers and students in classrooms around the world, including those from UAE, Nigeria, and Trenton, Long Island, and Philadelphia, USA collaborate and learn together online, and then take action locally, extending their learning beyond their classroom walls and into their entire school and local communities.

As one student in Deanne McBeath's class at The Village Charter School in Trenton, New Jersey, describes in the video, "In Trenton, I didn't really think about hunger. But, once I started to understand why, I started to care more." Mary Brownell, a teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, PA, describes a similar impact of the project, explaining, "What it did was create in the minds of the girls an openness- and a question. Where does hunger come from and why are people hungry?"

Combining cross-cultural collaboration and dialogue and concrete action to address real world challenges is key to the equation of iEARN projects. Since 1988, students and teachers have been reaching beyond their classroom walls as active participants in what has grown to become the largest K-12 school network in the world. The Cold War years in which iEARN was born have given way to a new era in which teachers are still faced with the challenge of helping their students to make sense of world events and to understand their own potential to affect change in an increasingly interdependent global environment.

In Austin and Wendy's Finding Solutions to Hunger video series, teachers Deanne McBeath and Mary Brownell are joined by Maria Conte of St Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Long Island, New York, in relating examples of how they tackle this challenge of preparing students for an interdependent world. Utilizing the resources of the Finding Solutions to Hunger Guide to create engaging, hands-on project plans, they offer strategies that others can use and adapt in a range of different contexts.

While there is no single formula for success among the range of collaborative online projects happening between classrooms worldwide, there are some general characteristics among those that are successful, and these elements are evident in the classroom snapshots featured in the videos - curriculum-based, adaptable, culturally responsive, and hands-on. Educators interested in getting involved in global project-based learning activities are encouraged to visit the Finding Solutions to Hunger Project page on the iEARN Collaboration Centre.

Want to learn more about global project-based learning? Here are two more ideas:
• Participate in the 2012 iEARN Conference and Youth Summit, to be held November 12 through Friday, November 16, 2012. In 2012, iEARN will be co-hosting its annual conference virtually for the first time ever with the Global Education Conference as a free week-long online event bringing together educators and innovators from around the world using Blackboard Collaborate. All are welcome and encouraged to participate! Stay tuned for information about the 2013 iEARN Conference and Youth Summit, to be hosted in Doha by iEARN-Qatar!

• Check out the "Exchange 2.0 - Technology-enabled International Interaction" Teachers Guide. This resource was initially prepared by iEARN-USA as part of the US Department of Education's inaugural International Education Week in November 2000 and hosted by the US Department of Education. This third version of the Guide offers great tips, project ideas, and resources for using technology to enable international collaboration.

iEARN's experience over the past 25 years with connecting schools across the world demonstrates the importance of creating interactive learning experiences that provide students with the conceptual, technological and problem-solving tools that will help them to better understand the world and to engage in collaborative action to solve real-life challenges. Marilyn Tinari, Head of Middle School at St Thomas the Apostle Catholic School in Long Island captures this approach well in relating their experience of the Finding Solutions to Hunger Project, "You can be sure kids have strong skills, that the tradition curriculum is there underpinning it, but you can also include a lot of problem solving and creative thinking, so that when they leave, they don't just have a knowledge base, they have a quest."

The Kids Can Make a Difference partnership and the Finding Solutions to Hunger Project are powerful examples of youth engagement, and of transforming learning into a quest. We at iEARN-USA are proud to be part of the journey!

Lisa Jobson is the past Executive Director of iEARN-USA, the U.S. member of iEARN, a non-profit global network that enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world. Prior to joining iEARN in 1997, Lisa was a high school history teacher, first in Providence, Rhode Island, then in Mmabatho, South Africa. She holds an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University, with a focus in International Policy Studies. Lisa may be contacted at

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