In June 2015, the mayors of Athens, GA and Seodaemun, South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding. This MOU calls for both cities to exchange leadership programs in private and public sectors that promote economic development. That basically means that our cities have a friendship to exchange ideas.
As a part of this collaboration, the 2nd graders at our school are engaging in a collaborative art project with students in Seodaemun. This has been an exciting and challenging undertaking for our students and teachers, but it has been full of rewarding experiences. The classroom teachers, art teacher, and media center all supported the students at Barrow in carrying out the project.
In class, students read the book Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki Shaw. This set the stage for students thinking about how our city of Athens is the same as Seodaemun and how it’s different. My wife, Denise Plemmons, in the Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Department, shared several websites with us to learn more about Seodaemun. I added some additional sites for students to visit that included resources from our state-funded Galileo databases. These were all housed on a Symbaloo page for students.
Teachers paired students within their rooms to research and create art together. Students used a Venn diagram to write brief notes on what was the same and different between our cities. For example, students learned that we have an arch at UGA and Seodaemun has an arch at Independence Park. They saw that we go to school for 7-8 hours per day and Seodaemun may go up to 16 hours per day. Research was done in the library, and prior to letting students search on their own via the Symbaloo, I provided some tangible examples like these to put into the diagram.
The research was a challenge. One reason was just the lack of resources on a 2nd grade level. The other big challenge was that students are 7 and 8 years old. There are currently studying regions of Georgia, so adding in a country on the other side of the world was hard to grasp within that context. We found that some students thought they had been to South Korea when in fact they were thinking of South Carolina. It may seem humorous, but it was valid conversation that we worked to clarify in the library, art room, and classroom.
After an hour-long session of research, students took their work to Ms. Foretich in the art room. They used their Venn diagram to decide what art they would create that would show something that was the same or different between our cities. One of the partners painted the Athens side of the art, and the other partner painted the Seodaemun side.
In classrooms, teachers continued to share maps and facts about our two cities. Mrs. Yawn, the 2nd grade team leader, worked to plan a morning of rotations for all of the 2nd graders. Some of our students are from South Korea, so she invited the parents of those students along with support from UGA to offer rotation topics on culture, games, and food.
Another part of the rotations was for each class to come to the library and record a Flipgrid video explaining what each pair of students learned about Athens and Seodaemun and what they created in their art.
Our goal is to send these Flipgrid links to Seodaemun so that the Korean students can respond back when they create their own art.
To celebrate the end of our portion of the project, the mayor of Seodaemun visited our whole 2nd grade along with members of the Athens Clarke County government.
Dr. Ellen Sabatini, principal, welcomed everyone.
Ms. Yawn, 2nd grade team leader, explained the project to our visitors and families.
Students shared pieces of the project that they worked on.
Commissioner Harry Sims spoke about how the students’ art work would now be a world traveler as it goes across the ocean to South Korea.
Finally, Seok-Jin Mun, the mayor of Seodaemun, spoke to students about how we are all connected to one another because we are all mankind. Even though we have different beliefs or different skin color, we are all connected.
To conclude the visit, Mayor Mun, teachers, and all guests explored the student artwork on display in the 2nd grade collaborative space.
Mayor Mun pointed out his observations of what stood out to our students and clarified some facts from our research.
It was inspiring to think with him and the members of our Clarke County government about how we can continue to build upon this friendship between our two communities.
Now, our artwork is preparing to make its journey, and we look forward to seeing what our new friends in South Korea learn and draw about Athens, Georgia. We thank the Athens Clarke County Economic Development Department for this opportunity to connect our students with our global community.