An unlikely partnership in New Canaan
Editor’s note: As a matter of policy, Country School does not release the last names of its students for publication.
NEW CANAAN — Weeks after the last class had ended, in a darkened classroom of the Stevens building, 13-year-old Henry delivered a presentation on solar power.
Reading from the “About Me” page of the website he spent the last week co-creating, Henry gave a generous description of himself: “Recognized boy-genius. One of the most influential leaders on climate change,” he said to laughter.
“My partner was Rahil. He lives with his mom, two sisters and one brother. He enjoys playing Kabod in his free time and his favorite foods include chicken tandoori and carrot juice.”
Henry, who just completed the seventh grade, is one of 200 Country School students participating in the school’s Summer Fun program, which runs for a week every June and offers a broad range of classes.
A much smaller subset of those 200 students chose to enroll in a week of STEAM (STEM plus Art), offered by Level Up Village, a social enterprise that offers courses for kids in kindergarten through ninth grade around the world.
During its week in New Canaan, Level Up Village offered three paid courses, proceeds from which will help fund similar programs run by partner organizations in less-fortunate areas of the world.
The Global Video Game Designers in grades five through eight partnered with Ric-Net in Uganda. Global Video Game Designers Jr. in kindergarten through second grade partnered with Muchoc Waraqi in Peru. Global Web Designers in grades five through eight partnered with Masoom in India.
“The global component is the most fulfilling. For the children and their pair students, there’s a connectivity,” Level Up Village instructor Trish Williams said. “There’s a cultural awareness gained which I think is the most important because, although they’re in a different country, they get to see similarities.
“They talked about recess. They found out their favorite drink was lemonade,” said Williams, before attempting to corral a class of junior video game designers into the range of the webcam to send a message to their partner class.
The level of communication between classrooms varies based on age, Andrea Sherman, a representative of Level Up Village, said via email.
Students in the younger group engage in group video exchanges, whereas the older students exchange personal videos with only one global partner. Either way, the global partners are encouraged not only to assist each other on their respective projects, but to share aspects of their respective cultures.
“His name is Rahul and he’s 14. He works in the days, and then he goes to school at night. It’s pretty crazy how he does that,” 13-year-old James said as he showed off his website on solar energy. “We talked about if he were visiting America, where I would take him? I said probably New York City. He said he’d take me to the Elephanta Caves.”
Nick, an 8-year-old junior game designer, breathlessly explained the give-and-take with the Peruvian partner class.
“They gave us tips and we gave them tips, and we asked them questions and they answered them and they asked us questions and we answered them,” Nick said, eyes glued to the game he designed about a flying cat.
Nick was not alone in his absorption with his work.
Emma, 6, who said she’s not allowed to play video games at home, was equally entranced with her many creations from the past week. Her favorite, she said, is a graphic where a ghost spins around the screen at varying speeds, according to her command.
Nicholas, 8, said he had Scratch, the programming software used to build the games, loaded on his computer at home. But before taking the Level Up Village course, he said he didn’t know how to use it.
“With the usual academic curriculum, sometimes you get away from what the student’s passion is,” Williams said. “So if you expose them to many things at an early age, it gives them a chance to grow and be creative. It allows them to grow into their own creativity.”
The students’ response to that freedom of creative STEAM exploration was, on that day, unanimously positive.
“Rahul and I both agreed that technology and websites ... are the future for our generation,” James said.