We are very excited to announce that our Global Student Program pilot is up and running! Three wonderful students from China have arrived, been welcomed, and are in Explorations classrooms! Last evening we had a very successful welcoming ceremony, attended by all of our Chinese visitors, Explorations staff, and each of the host families, with food provided by Sarah Lane. Brief talks were given by Esther Ren Yan, the Director of the Beijing Academy Charter School, by Daniel Kirkpatrick, Explorations Academy director, and by Kiira Heymann, core faculty at Explorations. For the next three weeks we will have the Chinese students involved in classroom and field experiences at our school, to the enrichment of all!
Anni Kamola, who has worked very hard to coordinate this program, offers the following reflection:
I have had the privilege of working with our Explorations Academy team and Robin Jacobs, our newly hired homestay coordinator, to help build this program. While working on it, I’ve been ruminating on what it will bring to our school.
As I was out walking yesterday, I stumbled on a piece of clarity. I was thinking about how the hills here in Whatcom Country remind me of southern Norway, and these thought meanderings led me down a memory trail of people I met while on my own global travels in these past four years. From swapping travel stories, sharing a few hilarious bicycle rides, and succeeding in challenging mountain climbs, to falling in love over breakfast, standing up for my own safety, and being helped out by the perfect stranger, I was able to transform into a more responsible, aware, and harmonious person.
It is this potential for transformation that is the core of Explorations’ mission and the purpose for the Global Student Program. Our school’s mission is to ignite a passion for learning that inspires participants to collaborate effectively and take responsibility for positive global change. Explorations’ curriculum already focuses on global education, with areas of study such as ‘Arab Spring,’ ‘Geopolitics,’ and ‘Comparative Religion.’ In addition, every year Explorations students travel to countries as diverse as Thailand, Cuba, Kenya, India, Peru, Indonesia, and Guatemala to study the language, history, literature, natural history, and to do service work. These offer students in-depth learning opportunities. The school has also hosted individual students from countries such as Germany, Indonesia, Slovakia, Colombia, and the Czech Republic, which brings an in-person global influence into our classrooms.
Our goal at Explorations Academy is to provide continually improving mission-appropriate experiences for our students. The Global Student Program will do just this. For the past 18 months, we have been working with Wayne Chu, director of the Blue Sea Academy, laying the groundwork for this program. Wayne is an energetic man from China who now lives in Bellingham. His goal is to network as many Chinese and American educational communities together to provide an opportunity for cultural exchange. Wayne has helped connect Explorations Academy with the Beijing Academy Charter School, a small, private school in Beijing with apedagogical approach similar to that of Explorations.
The pilot for this program will welcome three Chinese students into our school for three weeks. They will be a placed in the “Food” cluster, taking part in classes about the food system, working in our school garden, and helping to make a community meal. In addition, the students will join our Chinese class, bringing a wealth of knowledge in regards to pronunciation, vocabulary, and cultural knowledge. Finally, the students will take part in a weeklong field outing in the San Juan Islands, camping for the first time and working with our students on service projects. These three weeks will be a rich experience for everyone involved, and will help our administration to make necessary adjustments for the official launch of the Global Student Program in September. This pilot program and the upcoming Global Student Program will bring people together, offering a new context for personal transformation into more responsible, aware, and harmonious citizens.
Our world is rapidly developing, and it is important to remember that below the growing pains is a core of humanity. We are all humans with the potential to be effective collaborators for our future. I believe that Explorations Academy, and especially the Global Student Program, will provide opportunities for our students to open their minds and hearts to new people. I hope that with this sense of connection our students will go forward into the world—not with trepidation, but with the deep knowledge that there are friends worldwide working toward a common goal of positive global change.