Global Development

Subjects: History, Social Studies, Technology
Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12
Source: Cable in the Classroom

Taking high school students from an online class to Panama for a month to help teach computer literacy may sound ambitious, but it became a reality for Lisa Quinn and her students. Quinn created the Millennium Ambassador Program that brings 8-12th-grade students from the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, a state-wide, public K-12 cyber charter school, to Panama for a once-in-a-lifetime cross-cultural exchange. They lived among the indigenous Ngobe Bugle Indians. Before the Millennium Ambassador Program, these tribes, who retain many of their centuries-old customs and practices, had never been exposed to a computer, a camera or even a toothbrush. Because of this exchange program, students from West Chester, Pennsylvania are able to immerse themselves in a very different culture, to learn Spanish and to teach computer skills to the Indian students. because they are able to complete and submit all other school assignments via the internet, they are able to spend a full month studying in Panama and getting to know the Ngobe Bugle Indians.

After an initial student trip in May of 2006, Quinn and her students researched how they might be able to help the indigenous students in Panama. Quinn located a vocational school which had just gotten electricity, secured 17 reconditioned computers and made arrangements to ship the computers to Panama. Her students then set up a computer lab where they could train the Panamanian students. In November, more than 50 Pennsylvania students were nominated for the trip, and 22 were accepted. While on the trip, the students completed high school cyber assignments via the internet, had three hours of Spanish lessons per day, and spent seven days living among the Ngobe Bugle Indians. When the students observed that these children had no shoes, not enough teachers in their school, and no clean drinking water, they formed a plan to create a website which could sell Ngobe crafts. The proceeds from the sales will go toward hiring teachers for these children. While on the trip, the students reported on their own studies, producing weekly blogs and a multimedia classroom chat to keep their family and friends informed about their adventures.

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