Buncee is proud to present an interview straight from Dr. Rod Berger’s DownTheHall, as well as support our amazing ambassador, Amber McCormick. For the original post on Scholastic, click here.
Amber McCormick, Global Studies Teacher K-5, at Ridgeview Global Studies Academy in Davenport, FL,
sat down with Rod Berger to discuss her unique approach to teaching cultural diversity in the classroom. McCormick shares how in an almost “trickle up” approach, the students in her class bring home cultural awareness to parents lacking knowledge based on a generational divide. McCormick shares how the use of Buncee products, in particular, have helped her immensely in disseminating information to her students.
Rod Berger: – We had a chance to meet each other at ISTE 2016 in Denver which feels like a long time ago. I think it’s just this time of year. (laugh). I’m very curious about global studies, and K5, so tell me about cultural diversity and working with students within that age bracket. How do they see the world that you and I as adults take for granted? We’re too busy in our daily lives to think about how it impacts the ways in which they navigate a very crazy world.
Amber McCormick: Yes. That’s a really good point. Almost everybody I talk to assumes that I teach high school or a collegiate level because I’m teaching a diversity class. That’s the one thing that I love – the shock and the awe when they find out that I do have kindergarteners. I can share a little anecdote where we had a new student move into our school, and I think it sums it up best. The student started making fun of one of our Moroccan students. One of our students who has been here since kindergarten through 6th grade justified it saying,
“Well, you know, we can understand that because that student hasn’t been taught all of the different cultures of the world like we have. They don’t understand that we have more things in common than we have that are different.”
To have that come out of the mouths of my students was living proof of everything. Some days you feel like you’re not doing a great job, that was the most amazing experience, and a parent emailed that to me.
AM: That was cool to hear that back, and feel like, yes, we have our share of, “We don’t like your shoes, we don’t like your shirt.” We don’t have the “Oh, your family speaks a different language.” Our school has a very diverse learning population. We have a lot of Arabic speaking students. We have a very large Hispanic population and within our Hispanic population, not all the kids speak the same version of Spanish.
It’s neat to see how accepting they are of each other. The class that I teach focuses on four countries every year. Throughout the five years that they have had global studies, they have encountered 20 different cultures. That’s a really big thing, and we’re not pushing for fluency in languages. It’s more about recognizing the culture. You can understand the similarities. I want them to see that we have so much more in common than we have different.
RB: I love that. I mean, when you think about the world where we’re often categorized by our differences. As a parent of young children, we use that all the time even with neighbors trying to find a way that the children can play nicely together and saying, “They’re doing something similar.” I think it’s a natural transition for kids to experience that at home, and it’s nice that they can do it with someone like you in school.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up technology. How does technology assist in the experience these students have, even for kindergarteners, in understanding different cultures, and communicating with them? I’m certain you have your thoughts. But what is their interpretation? The “Wait a minute; this is a first grader that’s reading about understanding this culture and then voila, here’s their interpretation.” How does technology play a role?
AM: Well, we have to diversify it by grade level. We have to differentiate to make sure my kindergarteners are not getting the same content knowledge that my 5th graders are receiving. The 5th graders delve more into the culture whereas my little kids, are picking up basics like learning, “hello, goodbye, please, thank you.” The things that are common courtesies in different countries. Things that are customary whereas Americans, we would run and hug people, or shake hands. A greeting can be an entirely different thing depending on the culture that you’re entering.
So regarding technology, I have used a multitude of online platforms. The difficult thing is, there is not a curriculum out there. It’s not like I have the luxury of pulling up a math book that has everything already done for me. It is something that during the summer, I typically sit down and lay out my structure. A lot of times that means I have to do research on my own because I am not a master at knowing all of these things. I think I have grown and learned just as much as the kids.
Regarding technology, we use a lot of Nearpod. I will create my lessons, put it into a Nearpod and then share that information out with my students. We have iPads, and they’re able to access the material. It’s a very interactive format. For example, we started our study of Nepal today. You can see behind me; Nepal is up there.
RB: Yeah, look at that in real time.
AM: See prayer flags up on the ceiling. It’s crazy. We started Nepal today, and it was kind of interesting. I put up a map of the world, and the kids were given the task on the iPad, circling the continent that they thought it was in. It was a fantastic way to rationalize with them why it wouldn’t be certain continents. A lot of the kindergarten and 1st-grade kids, assumed Nepal with its mountains and snow, was in Antarctica. They knew it wasn’t in North America because they’ve never seen it here. So it was a cool way to get them thinking.
That was all caused by Nearpod. I create the slides in Buncee because I love the Buncee format. I’ve said it repeatedly that it gives me the ability to be a graphic designer because I don’t have that background.
RB: You do now.
AM: Well, I wish I had that mad skill where I could just create my clipart, but they have been so incredibly helpful. Obviously, the countries that I study, they are very, very willing to help me out. I sent a message to Marie Arturi the owner of Buncee, the other day, and I said, “Listen, I’d like to do the Legend of the Yeti with my kids. Is there a way that you guys could make me a Yeti clipart?” I’m not joking, within 20 minutes, I had a Yeti clipart up in Buncee. It is amazing.
They listen to the customers which I appreciate. I feel like they know their audience. It’s not a purely profit-making situation for them. I feel like they genuinely care about education. They’re always there to help me out. I use a lot of the YouTube videos, and I use a lot of my student experience. For example, some of my kids from India speak the language similar to the language
spoken in Nepal. Some of my kids have recorded themselves, counting, and we used those videos to teach the other children how to count.
RB: Oh, that’s great.
AM: Yes, we do interactive notebooks. It’s a lap-booking situation where the little ones take a book home so that they can teach their parents. They take books home which is augmented and when they scan the books, videos pop up, so their parents can see how to count. These kids go home, and their parents are from a generation that doesn’t have the diversity. It’s my hope that there’s a little “trickle up” effect going on. “Well, hey mom, we’re learning about this culture. And, did you know that they also eat fruit like we do?
RB: With a wonder of a child, right?
AM: Yes, oh, yes.
RB: It’s very different for a parent to experience. The child’s excited and it forces all parents to think for a second. It removes our preconceived notions or our lack of information.
RB: – And interact with them in that regard. I think it’s fabulous the way you incorporated the parental experience. I was going to ask you about the parent piece because I believe that it is a secondary benefit for these kids. In a lot of ways, they are almost acting as a parent would. If I were going to put together something and try to help my kids understand diversity, I would probably be in the same boat, but that’s your job. You’re developing it “on-the-go” every year, which I think is fascinating.
Where can people go if they want to follow and learn more about you? I would imagine on social media, you have a presence, and like to communicate out different things from your classroom. I think it’s unique what you’re doing, where can I go?
AM: My twitter handle is @EdTechAmber. And our school website, I teach at a global studies school. So our school’s focus is global studies. I teach the charter class. My students come to me once every four days in the lower grades. They’re getting to come in here quite a bit which is great. My older kids, I see once every six days. It is something that is part of their routine. They’re used to coming in here. They’re used to learning about these countries. They get excited when they see a new flag come up because they know we’re going to a new country.
AM: It’s cool. My school website at Ridgeview Global Studies Academy is another excellent resource. It is www.rgsa.com, and you can check out what we’re all about. Our big thing is to let kids know they live in a multicultural world. They need to learn how to live, how to thrive when it comes to people who are of different cultural backgrounds.
RB: Well, I think it’s a fantastic example. You’re building the culture within the school and then expanding out and sharing all of these great resources. Well, continued success. It was great fun catching up with you.
AM: Thank you.