Archive for the 'Sharing the Dream School Newsletters' Category

Sharing the Dream School Newsletter Spring 2012

For a printable version, click here.


With proximity to the “Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees” and 1,300 miles of shoreline, it’s perhaps not surprising that Julie Bloss, principal of Grove Early Childhood Center in Grove, OK, and her staff developed a project around the topic of water. But W.E.L.L. (Water Education for Little Learners) was actually inspired by an African kindergarten student who was adopted by a local family. “The child had worked from the age of two on a fishing boat.  His job was to use a cup to scoop water from the bottom of a boat while the boat owner fished for income and a food source,” Bloss said. The school used a Sharing the Dream grant to purchase science supplies and equipment for pre-K—kindergarten students to learn about fresh and salt water, water life and the water cycle. Speakers were also brought in to talk to the children about the importance of hand washing and hygiene, water safety, and the local water supply. Later this spring, students will conduct water testing experiments at the Grand River Dam. With such an abundant water source nearby, students might not grasp the impact of drought and water pollution on human health, so in February, the school launched a fundraising campaign through The Water Project ( to build a well for an African school where water is scarce. “Our students have come to understand that not all communities can provide residents with clean, safe drinking water,” Bloss said.

The World Health Organization estimates that 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. In sub-Saharan Africa, the epidemic is rampant, with one in four people infected with the virus in some countries. Carey Dahncke, principal of Christal House Academy, in Indianapolis, IN, where he says many students “live in extremely challenging home environments,” came up with a service learning project for 7th graders to support the United Nation’s Millennium Goal 6: combating HIV/AIDS. Partnering with the International HIV/AIDS Alliance and the Indiana State Department of Health, students investigated HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa and Indiana and discovered that the majority of Indiana HIV/AIDS cases are reported in Marion County where they live. A Dream grant provided instructional supplies and transportation for field work. Students used to journal about their findings, and developed materials about preventative and treatment options that will be distributed to Indiana residents and could potentially save lives. Students have not only learned about a critical international issue, but “developed empathy for those suffering from the disease,” said Dahncke.

Do you have an idea for a project that will help students make a difference in the world? Click here to apply for a Sharing the Dream grant.



When children learned that their Kenyan friends kicked around playground balls made of plastic bags, they raised $400 to buy sports equipment for the school.

Schools across the U.S. are using Sharing the Dream grants to send children abroad either “virtually” using technology, or in reality, as in the case of Indian Hills Elementary in rural Gallup, NM. In April, two 5th graders traveled to Burns Lake, British Columbia, Canada, with their parents and principal, Ron Donkersloot, to negotiate a cross-cultural international exchange program with a school there. Despite the distance between the two communities, both are rich in Athabasca Indian culture, and share common language characteristics, beliefs and customs. The delegation from Indian Hills interviewed host families, students, teachers and parents about life in Burns Lake, and documented the trip with a digital camera and camcorder. Back home, they created a video presentation to share with the whole school. “The goal of the pilot trip was to create lasting bonds between the two communities, which will enable similar exchanges in the future,” said Donkersloot, who used a portion of the Dream grant to buy web cams for students to videoconference with their new friends.

At Sandy Hook Elementary in Sandy Hook, CT, “Our primary deficit area is cultural diversity,” acknowledged Principal Dawn Hochsprung, who wanted to broaden students’ “understanding of diversity in America and around the world.” Sandy Hook adopted a sister school in Shanghai, China, but ran into delays in setting up the initial partnership. “We are learning that the wheels of international diplomacy turn slowly,” she said. Meanwhile, 4th graders prepared for interactions with Chinese children by attending twice-weekly classes in conversational Mandarin. They also learned traditional Chinese dances, studied customs like lantern-making, and put on a school-wide Chinese New Year parade. Now that a formal partnership with Jincai Experimental School in Shanghai has been finalized, students from both schools are working together to examine global issues, brainstorm solutions and produce podcasts to share their ideas using equipment purchased with a Dream grant.

Students at Dr. Charles R. Drew Elementary in Silver Spring, MD, learned about the culture of Kenya by making friends with children who lived there. Partnering with Kenya Connect, the school organized a pen pal program for 2nd—5th graders to exchange letters with children attending Ndeini Primary School in Wamunyu, Kenya. When children learned that their Kenyan friends kicked around playground balls made of plastic bags, they raised $400 to buy sports equipment for the school. Principal Gail Scott-Parizer used a Dream grant to engage an artist-in-residence who led workshops on traditional Kanga fabric, cuisine, games, and family life in Kenya, and students gained insight into “how similar the lives of those in other cultures are to our own.” Year-end events include an International Night featuring Kenyan songs and dances, and a field trip to the Smithsonian African Art Museum.

Sharing the Dream is actively seeking proposals for projects that connect students from across the globe. Go to the Apply for a Grant page for information about how to apply for a grant.



Many students arrive at the Florida Keys directly from Cuba…we have actually had a family wash up at school, wet and cold on a raft!

The Sharing the Dream schools profiled here came up with new ways to reach out to parents and increase their involvement. Some ideas worked from the start, some required fine-tuning, but all were steps in the right direction for making families feel welcome.

Studentsattending Dick Scobee Elementary in Auburn, WA, are reminded daily that they can reach for the stars—their school is named after the late Challenger space shuttle astronaut. But with the majority of students living in subsidized housing, and a student mobility rate of over 34 percent, Principal Adam Couch knew he had to recruit parents to help children reach their potential. To do that, the school held five evening workshops to show parents how to reinforce at home what their children were learning in school. A meal was provided along with “childcare so that the parents could concentrate on the sessions,” Couch said. A Sharing the Dream grant covered the cost of lesson supplies and take home materials. “I love having new information to work with at home,” one parent said afterwards.

“For many of our parents, English is not their first language and communicating with teachers and staff is difficult and in some cases very intimidating,” said Dr. Mina Schnitta, principal of HoggMiddle School, in Houston, TX. She used a Dream grant to buy translation devices to be used at Parent Teacher Organization meetings, open house events, and school assemblies. In addition to the translation devices, the school opened a parent center with a language lab featuring Rosetta Stone software. “This is going to open so many doors for our parents and students,” said one teacher. “Now parents will have confidence to get involved in the school.”

Budget cuts have hit Stanley Switlik Elementary in Marathon, FL hard. “We lost our Spanish speaking parent educator, assistant principal, guidance counselor, and media specialist,” Principal Dr. Leslie Salinero said. For now, she and her staff struggle to meet the needs of mostly Hispanic children who speak little or no English. “Many students arrive at the Florida Keys directly from Cuba…we have actually had a family wash up at school, wet and cold on a raft! ” To make up for budget shortfalls, Salinero turned to the Marathon community for help. Volunteers from the Coast Guard now tutor students one-on-one, and a local bank covered expenses for families to attend a regional spelling bee. The school used a Sharing the Dream grant to host a Cultural Night that has succeeded in bringing families and staff together. “These families need to develop a trust and a connection with the school,” Salinero said.

When the Kentucky Department of Education adopted global learning standards for math and language arts, Rosemarie Young, principal of Watson Lane Elementary, in Louisville, KY, saw the step as an opportunity to not only prepare her students to think like world citizens, but to involve their families in the journey. With a Dream grant, she and her team organized a series of workshops designed to introduce parents to the new standards and to provide them with materials to support learning at home. “Most challenging has been to get parents to attend the sessions,” Young admits. She originally planned to offer two evening workshops—in fall and spring—but when fall turnout was less than expected she realized that more sessions scheduled at different times would reach more families. “We are also thinking about sending information home,” she said.

In Valdosta, GA, LowndesMiddle School is reaching out to migrant, low income and homeless families with a Parent Resource Room. A Sharing the Dream grant covered the cost of 2 laptops and printers, software and resources, DVDs and bilingual books, and materials for parents to help their children with math, reading and writing. At an orientation for families, Principal Dr. Derald Jones surveyed parents about what they needed from the school, and based on their responses, he and his team plan to offer parent workshops on a variety of academic topics.

Located on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Polson, MT, Linderman Elementary boasts “a rich tapestry of culture,” Principal Heather Jones, said, “yet like any diverse community, we experience conflicts due to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of traditions and customs that vary from our own.” This past fall, families gathered at Linderman once a week to socialize over dinner and participate in activities and discussions around the topics of culture, family traditions and learning. “We had near perfect attendance,” Jones said. The program was so successful that it was repeated this spring. “We look forward to seeing new families benefiting from this valuable time together.”

Many families whose children attend Denver Center for International Studies at Ford inDenver, CO, are struggling to make ends meet and do not speak English. “Their outlook is often rather bleak,” said Principal Maria Elena Thomas, who made it her mission to combat a “culture of defeat” that she believed was rubbing off on students. All children at DCIS at Ford attend Chinese language classes, and receive instruction in English, and reading and writing instruction in their native language. Thomas used a Sharing the Dream grant to offer matching language classes for their parents, and provided on-site childcare and refreshments to make it easy for them to attend. The classes have encouraged parents not only to learn a new language, but to become “part of the reform and culture change for their children’s achievement.” Thomas’ words express the wish of all educators: “We want parents to see their kids as having a world of opportunity ahead of them for which they are being prepared.”



…the grant helped us expand our repertoire to reach the corners of the world.

In these Sharing the Dream schools, children took part in multidisciplinary projects that not only boosted their academic skills but deepened their understanding of global—and local—culture, issues and challenges.

Sunset Acres Elementary’s year kicked off with a well-attended Literacy Night for families in October 2011. The event at the Shreveport, LA, school featured games and activities, native foods, and books about the customs and daily life in China, Russia and other countries, as well as local Cajun culture. In December 2011, 2nd—3rd graders researched holiday traditions around the world and presented their findings at a school assembly. “Students even sang songs in different languages,” Principal Stacy Jamison said. Teachers attended a training seminar for how to integrate international content across the curriculum, and looked for ways to infuse Native American, Cajun, French and Spanish legends, art, folk dances and history into a variety of disciplines, including reading, social studies and science. “Our faculty and staff are creating fun, innovative ways to raise cultural awareness at our school,” Jamison said.

The Windows and Mirrors: Using Tableau to Improve Literacy project at Green Central Park Community School in Minneapolis, MN, was designed to help English language learners in grades 3—5 express themselves through movement, theater and storytelling. Over six sessions, children read fables, folk tales and myths that reflected their cultures, wrote trickster tales and personal memoirs, and practiced tableaux with artists from a local theater group—in a tableau, children create still poses with their bodies to tell a story. Most challenging was explaining the concept of tableau to students whose first language was not English. “We quickly decided to provide language support in the form of sentence frames that would help them speak. We also showed them a video of students at another Minneapolis school doing tableau. This seemed to spur them on to be bolder while doing it themselves,” Principal Catalina Salas said. In March, families attended a workshop where they had a chance to try tableaux themselves and observe how it benefited students.

StormLake Elementary “does not mirror the typical Iowa school,” Michelle Huntress, reading strategist, said. Families arrive in Storm Lake from all over the world to work at local meat-packing plants. “A majority of our students speak more than one language and celebrate a myriad of cultural traditions and customs.” With a Sharing the Dream grant, the school placed netbooks in kindergarten classrooms to boost technology and English literacy skills. Kindergartners were chosen for the pilot because “for many, this is their first exposure to computers.” The classes used the netbooks to exchange emails with children overseas, research different regions of the world, and write blogs. So far, connections have been made with schools in British Columbia, Canada, and Xiamen, China, and plans are in the works to organize Skype sessions. “Our teachers have embraced technology as a teaching and learning tool, and the grant helped us expand our repertoire to reach the corners of the world,” Huntress said. “Our hope is to ‘share the dream’ building-wide over time, and we are very grateful to NAESP and MetLife Foundation.”

Update: Since receiving the Sharing the Dream grant, the school has leveraged additional funding to cover netbooks for the first grade.



White River Elementary‘s motto is The Journey Begins Here! But its location in rural, sparsely populated White River, SD, meant that few students—85 percent of whom are members of the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Tribe and live in tribal housing communities—had traveled beyond their town or interacted with people from different backgrounds. “Students have a hard time relating to other cultures because of a lack of exposure at school and at home,” said Principal Abi Van Regenmorter. In March 2012, with funding from a Dream grant, 1st—2nd graders went to Rapid City to visit the Journey Museum which tells the story of the Black Hills region from prehistoric times to present day, and then toured the Cultural Expo, hosted by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology where they saw cultural displays from all over the world. Digital cameras captured highlights of the trip that were shown to the White River Indian Education Committee, the White River Board of Education and aired on the local cable channel.

For 2011-2012, teachers and staff at Girls Club and Learning Center in Greenwood, MS, combined facets of world culture in art, history, geography, music and reading. Each quarter, students researched a different culture—African American, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Polish—and created podcast reports, slide show presentations, and used digital storytelling techniques to interpret what they learned. Students also received Polish and Spanish language instruction during the year. The project, supported by a Dream grant, “spread the world” and celebrated “the diverse cultures represented within our community that will allow students to better understand the children with whom they attend school each day,” Principal Mary Williams said.

Located in a richly diverse Chicago, IL, neighborhood—with families originating from West Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East—The Cambridge School is challenged to not only educate students with vastly different backgrounds, but foster an atmosphere of acceptance and kinship. “The second generation of immigrants are now children, with a strong identity to their heritage, but limited identity to America and other cultures,” said Derek M. Barber, principal. This year, with a Dream grant, he and his team encouraged children to share their cultures with one another through an international pen pal program, field trips to local cultural museums, and a World Culture event, featuring detailed exhibits created by the children about their chosen country.

Twenty-four percent of students at Olga Brenner Intermediate School in Shawano, WI, are American Indian. To honor their culture and others around the world, the school held a Showcase of Cultures Learning Fair on March 27, 2012 with a Dream grant. The weeks leading up to the fair were full of excitement and self-discovery, as children researched their own backgrounds, shared details with classmates, and created projects to display at the event. “Children learn to be good citizens in a school where everyone belongs and everyone is equal,” Principal Karen Smith said. The day-long event, open to families and the public, featured a pow-wow, where everyone sang and danced; international exhibitions created by Shawano Community High School students; and a performance by the Menominee Tribal School.

At racially diverse Aveson School of Leaders in Altadena, CA, kindergarteners took daily Spanish lessons, and participated in educational “studios” focused on global visual arts, culinary arts, and cultural studies of Ghana, Korea, Mexico, India, Israel and China. They also visited Olivera Street in Los Angeles, a historic setting for Mexican music and dancing and holiday celebrations, such as Dia De Los Muertos held in the fall. Parents, too, have gotten involved, volunteering as “guest speakers and sharing their customs and traditions,” said Principal Sebastian Cognetta. For the school’s 100th day celebration, “Many students chose a global focus for their 100-day project. One child’s project focused on ‘One Hundred Ways to Say Hello,’ while another identified ‘One Hundred Places to Visit Around the World.’ These examples indicate an emerging awareness and interest in global themes among our kindergartners,” he said. Inspired, teachers at other grade levels are beginning to introduce similar activities in their classrooms.



How do we get children interested in the larger world around them? By letting them explore it!

Principal Linda Marszalak of Pinnacle Charter School in Buffalo, NY, and her team introduced kindergartners to different countries and cultures with excursions to area museums and the Buffalo Zoo as part of a project called Children’s Culture Club. The students, most of whom are African American, visited the Explore and More Children’s Museum in East Aurora, NY, where they learned about South Africa, Vietnam, the Netherlands and Mexico through interactive murals, costumes, and hands-on activities. At the zoo, “We tied-in different cultures and countries with each of the animals we saw. We learned about the animals’ home of origin, and talked about the climate and the people who lived there,” said Sharon Rochelle, Family Services Coordinator at Pinnacle. Families were invited to a Multicultural Night on February 29th featuring cultural displays from different countries, international food and a performance by Irish dancers. A camcorder and digital camera, purchased with a Sharing the Dream grant, were used to document the event and the field trips for a DVD that will be shared with families at the end of the year.

At rural Choctaw County Elementary in Butler, AL, students’ study of local industry became a jumping off point to learn about economic globalization. In November 2011, 4th graders toured the Sweet Water Gin Company to see how cotton is grown, picked and processed. “Students were so engaged and asked many relevant questions during the tour,” Principal A. Wayne Longmire said. In January 2012, 2nd graders toured the Sara Lee Bakery in Meridian, MS to observe the entire process from baking to loading onto the delivery trucks. “The children were fascinated by the machinery that mixed, shaped, baked and packaged the bread,” he said. A tour of the Georgia Pacific paper mill is scheduled for later this spring. Teachers are using the field trips, funded by a Dream grant, to get students thinking not only about the production and distribution of goods in Alabama, and how it contributes to the local economy, but about how local industry—and the work that we do—impacts the global marketplace.



One of the most noticeable changes is the shift from being a receptive learner to a producing learner.

When students are engaged in a project—really, truly engaged—learning seems to happen magically. These Sharing the Dream schools demonstrate that involving children in experiential experiences can bring abstract concepts to life.

At Martin Behrman Charter School in New Orleans, LA, 6th—7th graders studied the Mississippi River and Louisiana wetlands; discussed the consequences of over-development; debated oil drilling; and researched global ecology. In March, they visited A Studio in the Woods, an artists retreat and former sugar plantation to investigate leaf texture, shape and venation, and make rubbings and sketches. Students used Samsung Galaxy Tablets, purchased with a Dream grant, to take pictures, produce videos, conduct research and take notes during the field trips. For the final project they became “citizen journalists” as they researched and wrote about global environmental issues for the school’s newsletter The Behrman Buzz. “Our students are learning that complex issues have complex answers. So they must look at every side of an environmental issue, dig deep and not let someone else do their thinking for them,” said Principal Rene Lewis-Carter.

In 2006, Clarence R. Edwards Middle School was the worst performing Middle School in Boston and slated for closure. Two years later, after expanding the school day to add 300 extra hours of learning time, graduates’ math proficiency had surpassed the state average. Despite the gains, however, the school still ranked in the bottom 20 percent of schools in the state. Principal Leo Flanagan felt strongly that it was “time for us to begin pushing our students outside of their comfort zones to expand their global perspective.” With the help of a Sharing the Dream grant, he implemented a year-long geography and language arts program called Expanding Our World, which incorporated trips for 7th graders to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where they viewed artworks and objects from around the world. In class, students researched and wrote about different countries and cultures, and collected an entire year’s work in a portfolio that was shared with families at an evening event.

Chichester Central School in Chichester, NH, is on the cutting edge of technology education—the school piloted a wildly successful BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program for 8th graders to empower them to responsibly use technology for learning and every day life. This year, Principal Pamela Stiles used a Dream grant to buy eight iPads for a project called Giving Students a Little Latitude. Using Google Maps, 4th graders identified mills around the world, theorized why the mills were built in those areas, and compared the mills with those in New Hampshire. Two students interviewed Helen Duchesne, author of Echoes from the Mills, and live streamed the interview back to the classroom where students could ask questions of the author in real time. Later, they studied the industrial revolution and built a simulated assembly line on the iPad, from which they created an actual product: candy cane reindeers. Meanwhile, 6th graders investigated “What is it that makes a healthy diet?,” and published a blog ( to explore food and nutrition in other countries including Finland, Denmark, Argentina, New Zealand, and the Philippines. “The students love using their iPads in authentic learning situations,” Stiles said. “One of the most noticeable changes is the shift from being a receptive learner to a producing learner.”



The Water Project

Kenya Connect

Moodle Virtual Learning Environment

Buck Institute for Education Project Based Learning for the 21st Century

Asia Society Cultural Lesson Plans


The Sharing the Dream School Newsletter is published twice a year in Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer by the NAESP Foundation.

Sharing the Dream

Grants for pre-K-8 school projects that create global classrooms where children—and families—can safely connect, exchange ideas and learn together.

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