Yokosuka Middle School thinks local, reads global
Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan Students at Yokosuka Middle School (YMS) on board Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) are taking part in an international reading project with schools in Costa Rica and Massachusetts. Students from all three schools read popular books about socially relevant and globally controversial issues that engage students by forcing them to confront world issues and perspectives far removed from their daily experiences. After reading the books, the classes post their reflections in a shared blog, share documents with Google Docs, answer questions on video, and respond to each other’s statements and videos.
The teachers involved in the project; Andrea Greer, Gina Kahler, Kate Carew, and Chrissy Nixon credit the global audience for elevating the level of engagement their students bring to discussions. Greer states, “I have never seen my students so excited about reading and connecting with others. They are also outraged as they learn about inequality in the world today.” The students are also developing 21st century skills as well as deepening awareness of global issues beyond their own experience. Kahler shared, “I have seen students make connections to reading like never before. Their perspective of the world and how they fit into it is emerging and compassion and concern for others is growing. Not to mention they are developing writing and communication skills vital for the 21st century." Occasionally, the YMS teachers would come to school as early as 6:00 AM, so they could collaborate with technology and speak live with their peers around the world using a password protected web-based platform.
The classes at YMS are on Teams Fitzgerald and Team Blue Ridge. The classes they share with are Team Falcon from the American International School in Costa Rica and Sky View Middle School in Leominster, MA. Gabriella Nedelman, a YMS Student, observed about the world she learned from reading books related to the project, “I love this project because of how you can learn. People are really suffering! It’s real! It’s not like OMG I haven’t had food in two hours. Some people go weeks or months without food.”
The students have already read books about and discussed many heartrending issues like girls fighting for an education in Pakistan, genocide in Rwanda, clean drinking water in Sudan, poverty and education in Haiti, and war in Vietnam. What does the future hold for the students? According to Greer, in the next phase of the project, “Students will research a global issue and come up with a solution.”
The first organized schools for the children of U.S. military personnel serving in the Pacific were established in 1946 during post-World War II reconstruction. Throughout the decades, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDea) schools evolved to become a comprehensive and high-performing K-12 school system solely dedicated to educating the children of America's heroes. Today, DoDEA Pacific's 48schools serve nearly 23,000 military-connected children of U.S. Service members and civilian support personnel stationed throughout the Pacific theater. The DoDEA Pacific teaching, administrative and school support team includes more than 3,000 full-time professionals. The schools are geographically organized into four districts: Guam, Japan, Okinawa and South Korea. Yokosuka Middle School is one of the schools in the Yokosuka Complex of Schools in CFAY which include Nile C. Kinnick High School, Yokosuka Middle School, The Sullivans School and Ikego Elementary School.