Florida school becomes part of a Global Family

Students develop global awareness through involvement in MCC program

Apr 28, 2014 by and

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SARASOTA, Fla. — No more water bottles in class, Bible teacher Don Fry told the 10th-graders in his classroom at Sarasota Christian School.

Sarasota Christian School Bible teacher Don Fry displays water bottles with dirty water and water he said contained high amounts of arsenic (it didn’t) that he used to demonstrate the choice of drinking water that some people in Bangladesh face. — Silas Crews/MCC

Sarasota Christian School Bible teacher Don Fry displays water bottles with dirty water and water he said contained high amounts of arsenic (it didn’t) that he used to demonstrate the choice of drinking water that some people in Bangladesh face. — Silas Crews/MCC

Looking confused, students pulled water bottles from their backpacks and put them on the table.

School administrators, Fry said, had decided water bottles were too disruptive. From now on students could use the water fountain in the gym between classes and drink at lunch.

But the gym isn’t always open, students objected, and it’s out of the way.

Anticipating their reaction, Fry pulled three water bottles from under his desk that he said they could drink from.

One held brown river water. Another looked clear, but Fry said it had 50 times the amount of arsenic acceptable in drinking water. The third had clean water.

The students realized they had been duped.

“You were mad at me because you believe it is a human right to have water,” Fry said as students reclaimed their water bottles. And yet, he said, in Bangladesh, some people only have access to river water or water with arsenic. In the lesson that followed, the class explored the problem and discussed possible solutions, including education.

Fry’s lesson was one of many at Sarasota Christian School this year designed to stretch the global awareness of its 425 students in kindergarten through grade 12.

To focus the teaching, school administrators have been working with Mennonite Central Committee’s Global Family education program. Each grade is connected to a school in another country that is supported in part by Global Family.

The Sarasota students not only learn about the school, children and culture. They also raise $3,900 each year to support 13 schools on four continents. Schools use the funds in various ways, from student tuition and teacher education to extracurricular programs and food.

“We want our students to graduate with a global perspective,” said superintendent Jeffrey Shank.

“Part of loving our neighbors means that we understand them, get to know them and engage in conversation with them and really work at just helping our students understand people from around the world.”

Understanding can be as simple as kindergartners praying for the Zimbabwean children they see on their teacher’s electronic tablet or second-graders drawing designs like those on kangas, a traditional women’s dress in Kenya. Fifth-graders read Palestinian folk tales and turned one into a play they performed for the other students in a chapel.

On the other end of the age spectrum, seniors in Spanish class who are connecting with a school in Palestine were introduced to Arabic. Juniors worked with Spanish because their school is in Nicaragua, and sophomores learned some Bengali.

“They are learning to be aware that there are other people, that there are other languages, and English is not the only language in this world,” said Spanish teacher Alma Ovalle.

As students meet people who speak other languages, she hopes their exposure to Global Family will help students to respond with humility and love.

“This whole Global Family thing really gets students our age who are so focused on me, me, me to realize there are really big problems around the world,” said junior Nicole Litwiller. “Doing little things that don’t seem like a big deal to us can really help.”

Litwiller is part of a student committee that helps to coordinate fundraisers for Global Family. They sold tacos in a bag during the fall festival, let students pay $5 to wear jeans instead of their school uniform and collected clothing to sell to a recycler. Students also bring offerings throughout the year.

“They love it,” said parent Melinda Voigt of her three daughters’ interest in Global Family. “They ask for chores at home in order to make money for their fundraising.”


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