GP Launches Virtual Playground

Monday, March 21, 2011 | posted by Jon Heifetz |
Joy George is an eighth-grade language arts teacher at Beverley Manor Middle School, which serves more than 800 students in rural Augusta County, Virginia. Through GP's new Virtual Playground, Mrs. George's students, as well as students in Connecticut and in Missouri, have gained the unprecedented ability to learn about other cultures through direct communication with other students half-a-world away.

So far Mrs. George's students have shared stories about their own lives with students at Global Playground's Huay Puung Mai School in Thailand. Since Global Playground's founding in 2006, its leadership has always had a vision that went beyond merely building schools in the developing world -- they envisioned a world, for example, where students in New York City and rural Uganda could share stories of their lives with each other. The Virtual Playground is Global Playground's newest initiative that utilizes Internet technology to allow for cross-cultural exchanges between students around the world.

Much of the early conversation on the Virtual Playground has centered on food. Mrs. George's students saw pictures of students at Huay Puung Mai preparing their own food and images of the types of food the Thai students eat. "The faces of the students as I showed them photos of raw water buffalo and how the students cooked their own food was hysterical. I wish I had a video camera!," commented Mrs. George.

Mrs. George's students responded to the Thai students, writing a description of their own surroundings, the subjects they study in school, and the foods they eat.

Mrs. George's students described how food is prepared for them, either by parents or cafeteria workers and delved into details about what is typically eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also described "special occasions," such as summer carnivals and fairs in Augusta County where fried chicken and funnel cakes are served. Christmas in Augusta County consists of lasagna, macaroni and cheese, green beans, ham, and peanut butter pie.

"The students ask nearly every day if Thailand has responded and when we are going to post again," said Mrs. George. "The thing about kids is, they are so willing to be friends. I am not sure when that changes as we grow up, and how we very subtly allow prejudices to take over our lives," commented Mrs. George.

Any educators who would like to have their students participate in the Virtual Playground, please e-mail