From Manila to Garston – Connecting Kids

In Cathedrals and Connections I wrote:

Building connections between people young and old —  between countries, cultures and religions — is vital. It’s the way that we will move the people of our world towards peaceful acceptance of each other. It’s the way to build trust.

Today I have another story – this time about connecting children and cultures to share.

Overseas Travel: The New Norm

When I was young very few children travelled overseas. Certainly I didn’t know anyone who had even set foot on a plane, let alone travelled to another country.

How different it is today. Even from faraway New Zealand, families regularly head overseas for holidays and adventures. In tiny Garston School all of the staff and 65% of the students have travelled abroad — many more than once. Some have family in England and Australia and travel to connect with friends and relatives there, and to learn something of their history and culture. Others return with tales of theme parks, shops and sandy shores.

Destination Garston

Garston School: A small rural school in the heart of Southern New Zealand.

But some lucky youngsters get to move out of their comfort zone and experience cultures that are very different from their own. And that was certainly the case for the group of Chinese-Filipino teenagers who visited Garston School recently. Their visit opened a gateway between the Philippines and New Zealand and created connections on a very personal level. It’s a visit that the students in my class will long remember.

The seven teenagers and their teacher were in NZ to learn about our culture, but also to learn about themselves.

One of the many reasons schools at all levels organise Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) is to give their students the chance to be independent. From day outings to school camps; Duke of Edinburgh tramps to overseas sporting or cultural trips, a key purpose is always to foster growth and self reliance. This sort of trip gives youngsters a chance to gain skills and confidence in their own abilities, while still enjoying the support and safety that traveling with a group brings.   

Laugh, Learn, Love.

So Joseph, Nicole, Christine, Joanna, Jim, Cheska and Haslie came to Garston School. (Their only visit to a NZ primary school, in fact.)

It was a chance to discover part of our culture and to share a little of theirs. The teens wanted to interact with children, and that’s exactly what happened when they joined a technology lesson about buildings with my 5 – 7 year olds.

My students loved the chance to work in a small group with their chosen teen. They talked about their own homes and found out about the houses of their new friends. What a contrast – from tiny Southland villages to Manila, one of the most densely populated cities on Earth.

Of course there was a practical task too, as they experimented with blocks to build towers which would stand up in an earthquake. The room was buzzing with conversation and the occasional groan as another tower bit the dust.

I’m Longing to Visit the Philippines Now

All too soon it was morning tea time, and our newfound friends disappeared to visit another class. But that afternoon they returned to give a presentation about the Philippines to the whole school.

El Nido Island, Philippines
El Nido, Philippines. Photo by Cris Tagupa on Unsplash

I was impressed by the care they’d taken to introduce their culture to younger students, connecting with meaningful images, songs and games. We loved the slideshow pictures of beautiful islands, and animals so different from those found here. Every pause for questions brought a host of hands waving in the air, as the children begged to know more.

When a Chevrotain — or mouse deer — appeared on screen, Alex’s hand shot up in the air. I knew immediately the delighted connection he had made because I’d made the same one: on separate trips, we had each been amazed to see the tiny mouse-deer in the Singapore Zoo.

All too soon the special day had finished. My children rushed to exchange goodbye hugs and selfies.

Our new friends were heading to Invercargill for the weekend and then to Blue Mountain College. We hope they had a lovely time there too.

21st Century Education: Knowledge…

A vital facet of 21st-century education is learning to make connections. We teach this from the very earliest days in school.

We want our children to see the patterns… connect the dots… make links between what they know and whatever they’re learning about. Nowadays we don’t just teach facts. Instead our emphasis is on:

  • How to find out what you need to know … and
  • How to apply that knowledge to solve future problems.

These are essential skills needed to function in the modern world.

… and Communication.

But we also need to understand where other people are coming from. Why their ideas might be different and how differences can enhance rather than threaten.

We live in a global society where communication skills are rated as the top priority in many jobs. Therefore social and cultural connections are just as important as knowledge.

Student exchanges and visits like this are one way to foster understanding. My children have fond memories of this visit and the lovely people they met. I’m sure that Christina, Joseph, Jim, Haslie, Cheska, Joanna, Nicole and their teacher do too.

Who knows what may come of this brief connection?

4 Replies to “From Manila to Garston – Connecting Kids”

  1. Lynn,
    Great story. As a child I remember one of our class mates went to Australia for a holiday. When she returned she spoke to the whole school at assembly, that was how big the event was for a small West Coast school. I remember thinking to myself at the time ” I will never ride on a plane or see another country. Fortunately I have experienced other countries and cultures and feel so privileged, I have learnt about them, and my pre-conceived beliefs challenged , I have grown from the encounters. It is awesome that you and your school can have the opportunity to expand their horizons. The opportunity to make the world safer through respect, openness, honesty and a willingness to accept others. Good on Garston School for allowing the meeting to happen.

    1. Thanks, Darryl. My children were not the only ones to enjoy the day. I certainly got a lot out of it too. Now it’s my job to keep referencing the things we learned that day, to keep it fresh. For example at our last school assembly we played Kahoot, an online, team quiz game that the teacher (or students) can set the questions for. I threw a number of Philippines-based questions into it and even the youngest children got them right.🙂

  2. What a wonderful experience for the young students on both sides – and the teachers, too. Like you, I also am from a generation that did not grow up traveling to other countries. In my small town, the trip to celebrate high school graduation was to a nearby lake, and a really special event was a two-hour drive to the nearest large city to attend a major league baseball game. Travel to another country was never even considered.

    Glad to read about your personal efforts to make the world a safer, more hospitable, and more enlightened place for our kids and future generations through such connections between young people. Hope that some of them will use the wonders of the internet to stay in touch.

    Good on you for publicizing this event. Hope it will promote further explorations of international personal connections. That’s the kind of world we want for our children!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.