Spring Mills Middle School sees the world with 'Go Global' program

Each year a nation is chosen from which lessons are given in music, dress and food of that country

March 19, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Students from Spring Mills (W.Va.) Middle School recently made a Go Global presentation to the Berkeley County Board of Education. The school is one of eight in the state to be selected to participate in the program. The students in the picture, from left, are Carlie Watson, Leah Smith, Brennan Amaral, Katie Unger, Gabe Cruz, and Susan Margevich.
By Matthew Umstead, Staff Writer

SPRING MILLS, W.Va. — From Mexico to Japan, Spring Mills Middle School faculty and students have gone "global" in the classroom and beyond in the last two years.

The school is one of eight statewide that is taking part in "Go Global," an interdisciplinary approach to learning through immersion in cultures well beyond "the bubble" of northern Berkeley County.

Wildwood Middle School in Jefferson County also is participating in the initiative being run by West Virginia Center for Professional Development.

"Each one of our subject areas is touched through this," said librarian Cynthia Woods, who is part of the 13-faculty member Go Global team.

Students this year have been engaged in a number of mostly test-free activities focused on Japan, learning about everything from the music, dress and food, to literature and everyday life of the Asian nation.

Since the beginning of the year, for instance, students have started the school day with a three-minute "radio" exercise program from Japan that students there do in class.

Whatever nation they pick next year, Woods, teachers Kim Herman, Rachel Cole and Carol Hamilton laughed after one suggested they may just have to change the music.

"A lot of research says it jump-starts their brain, and it gets them up and running," said Hamilton, who teaches sixth and seventh grade social studies.

"After World War II, the Japanese started the exercise program as a unity-driven initiative," said Woods, who went to Japan in 2006 as part of the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund study tour program for U.S. teachers and administrators. The trip came with a promise that she talk about Japan with her students, Woods said.

Every Friday, if not more days each week, students are engaged in an activity based on a monthly theme. In February, they focused on literature, and everyone in the school read the same Japanese novel.

The book selected is based on a true story about a man and his dog that was set in Japan, Woods said.

Cole said they hope to arrange for a martial-arts demonstration next month.

In the fall, the school had an award-winning Japanese musician from Toyko come to the school to perform at a student assembly.

"He was phenomenal," Woods said.   

A group of student "ambassadors" dressed in kimonos also hosted the Berkeley County Diversity Council for lunch earlier this year and gave a presentation about what they were learning as part of Go Global.

The student group presented the same program to the Berkeley County Board of Education earlier this month.

The school also has been working on launching a "Dream Machine" recycling project, which will fulfill a Go Global program focus on a community-service action project.

"In Japan, recycling is the epitome," Woods said. "They recycle like you wouldn't believe."

The teachers said they feel the program has helped students be more tolerant of people who are different than them and has sparked their curiosity in a positive way.

"I think that its shown them that we are so very similar even though we're different, that kids (from other nations) their age have the same wants and needs, but that they are reached in a different way," Hamilton said.  

Herman said the program appears to help students learn without the pressure of having to be tested on it.

"It is refreshing for all of us," Herman said.

The teachers said they believe they can continue the program with a different nation, regardless of whether grant funding for the initiative continues to come from the state.

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