CANTON—What do sixth graders at Ingersoll Middle School in Canton, high school students from the Ukraine and a young Pakistani woman shot by the Taliban have in common?

CANTON—What do sixth graders at Ingersoll Middle School in Canton, high school students from the Ukraine and a young Pakistani woman shot by the Taliban have in common?

Thanks to a partnership with Level Up Village, a chance to interact, learn about the world beyond their front door and break down the distances and barriers that divide the world into “us and them.”

Students in Mike Emery’s sixth grade English class have been reading the book “I Am Malala” by Malala Yousafzai and sharing their insights with students in Ukraine. This is a one-on-one partnership between the students who share videos and ideas through their computers and collaborate with each other on projects.

“We chose to partner with LUV for this experience to help us develop 21st century skills such as collaboration and innovation,” said Emery. “This course has led us to the forefront of global collaboration and ties in well with Ingersoll’s global citizenship goals.”

Because of the differences in time zones the students are not able to speak with each other directly, but will be able to Skype with each other in the near future.

In addition, the videos are monitored before they are sent, making sure they meet safety and security requirements.

According to a number of young ladies in the class, along with two young men who demanded there was a male perspective to the story, the experience has been positive.

So far the biggest challenge has been understanding their Ukrainian partners because of their accents and the fact English is their second language. But with captions running through the videos, the language barrier is somewhat eased.

At the same time, the difference in language was also one of the more interesting aspects of the partnerships.

“They call things by different names,” observed one girl.

For example, a shower in the U.S. is called a wash in the Ukraine. And Ukrainians call spring break spring holiday.

Language was not the only differences noted, however. For example, Valentine’s Day is more popular with some students than Christmas. They don’t have baseball in the Ukraine. And there is no hot water in Ukrainian schools.

As for the two young men, what surprised them most was the age difference.

“I thought they were going to be around our age,” one said, “but they’re high school students. But that doesn’t bother me.”

Students were also surprised at the amount of time between classes, but were divided on whether or not that was a good thing.

On the one hand, longer times between class periods would help alleviate stress, but, as one student reflected, it could also increase the amount of bullying that would go on when students were on their own.

But most of all, the students were surprised by how similar students in different parts of the world could be.

What solidified that idea was the book, “I Am Malala,” which all the students read. And that book opened their eyes to things they had been taking for granted all their lives, as well as to the heroism of the girl from Pakistan.

“She risked her life for something others don’t have,” one girl said. “She’s very brave and independent. She stood up for all girls everywhere.”

“This has taught me how important education is,” added one of the boys. “If I didn’t have a good education I wouldn’t get the job I want.”
The students also cited an idea from the book about the importance of education: “One teacher and one book in one classroom could change the world.”

When asked if they could have done what Malala did, the universal reaction was “No.”

But they also found themselves realizing what they could do even though they were young. They noted Malala was just one student who is now world famous, even winning a Nobel Prize for standing up for what was right. And they noted how Malala did not want to be singled out for what she did, preferring to stay in the background even though she was pushed out front.

“The Taliban thought they silenced her when they shot her, but they made her voice stronger,” one student said.

According to Emery, the class is about half way through the unit. The students recently answered questions on leadership and their abilities, shared them with their partners and are beginning to come up with ways to use their leadership skills for the betterment of the community.
Along with the community service, students in the program also worked on projects dealing with other real word issues.

The two young men, for example, were focusing on how changes in the environment were affecting life in the ocean. One said he learned that fish, for example, would be much better off if humans were not around to pollute their habitat and continue practices which hurt them.
“If we don’t stop fishing so much, a lot of fish will become extinct,” he explained.

What stood out most to the Canton students, however, was how much they took for granted.

Learning about another culture helped open their eyes to what was going on in the rest of the world, one of the boys said.
“We have so much more technology than they do,” one girl said. “I never realized how privileged we are.”