A group of Punahou eighth-graders is giving their Social Studies project an international twist, partnering with a Swedish school to learn about each other’s governments and political systems — and making their voices heard on important social issues.
As Grade 8 Social Studies teacher Leah Wood ’94 Anderson explains, it’s an expansion of “We the People: Project Citizen,” a nationally acclaimed program that combines civics instruction with social action, engaging students in the political process as they learn how government works.
“Project Citizen is a fun way to learn about government through an authentic, project-based curriculum. Students learn about problems in their community and the role they can play in monitoring and influencing government to help resolve these problems,” she said. “They also learn about the levels and branches of government that influence their lives.”
Anderson wanted to expand the students’ awareness and looked to Punahou’s Wo International Center for global connections. From there, she got in touch with Viktor Rydberg School in Djursholm, Sweden, which participates in Punahou’s annual Student Global Leadership Institute. Now her classes are collaborating with teacher Monica Ekman’s classes in Sweden. Anderson’s students are using their laptop computers to make music videos that define American citizenship, which they’ll share with their Swedish counterparts. Email, Skype, Google Docs and other technological tools enhance the exchange, and Anderson and her students look forward to a personal visit from Ekman in February.
“Through this international collaboration via the Project Citizen process, partner classes are learning about governments, geography, cultures and community issues in partner nations,” she said. “In tandem, the partner classes will work together towards solving selected problems in their communities through public policy.”
Anderson’s four classes began their Project Citizen unit in October, and will complete their work in the spring semester. “It’s been very interesting so far,” she said. “This definitely adds a whole new level to the students’ understanding of how democracy works.”