Lecanto Primary School second-graders got to wish seventh-grade students in the Eastern European country Belarus a very Merry Christmas on Friday before heading to break.
Teachers Terry Stoufer and Christine Moyer got their students thinking about the local community while connecting them with students halfway around the world through a program called Gingerbread STEM Community and Makerspace Global Project.
“This is a global project with K through 12 students from all over the world to learn about social studies and science,” Stoufer said. “First students start by learning about their community, including all the goods and services, and then they build on it.”
Students studied what they have around them, such as the Lecanto school complex, then expanded to Publix, Duke Energy, Walmart and Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
In groups of two, students had to design, plan and build local locations with graham crackers and candy.
“They did pretty well, including the different smoke stacks at Duke Energy, the new YMCA and a wonderful manatee,” Stoufer said.
Students then connected to other classes using Skype, and in the last two days they were in contact with youths in the Eastern European country of Belarus and in the snowy suburbs of Rochester, New York.
“The students in Belarus even sang them a Christmas song in Russia,” Stoufer said. “And the second-graders from New York didn’t even know what a Walmart was, or a manatee.”
The students in Belarus are learning the English language, and their teacher loved the interaction with the younger students, prompting them to arrange future Skype calls.
“Those students also didn’t know what ‘dabbing’ is until yesterday, so before signaling off the entire group did a ‘dab,’” Stoufer said. Dabbing is a trend dance students across America are doing, she said.
“Around each class, they gained more understanding about the world they live in and the world outside,” Stoufer said. “We feel we are getting them ready for the future; we want to prepare students to understand their community and the local services, while also knowing we are much alike rather than different.”
Local students Nathan Leathead loved the experience. “It was fun to Skype and share with people in a different country. I couldn’t believe they are learning our language.”
When asked what he learned, he said: “I learned that being the best didn’t matter, as long as we complete our goal and do our best to do it.”