Few projects leave me with this feeling of accomplishment as the Scrapbook did. I have Reinhard Marx to thank for it. He, along with a colleague, came up with the idea of creating a book that would travel the world – literally. After visiting 19 schools in different continents, visiting hundreds of children of all ages and traveling 75000 kilometers round the globe (yes, you read that number right) it finally arrived back where it started, in Sundern, Germany. Where had it been to? Well, Canada, the USA, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Ireland, Sweden, Japan, Pakistan, Taiwan, Austria, The Netherlands, Australia, Germany, and Argentina. See for yourself.
How did this international school project come to be? Well, just like most ideas – with a pinch of crazy and a group of people willing to follow. In a nutshell, Reinhard spread the word around through his PLN through social media, teachers signed up using a Google Sheet, a schedule was created and the book, an A4 ring binder filled with empty sheets, set sail to more than a dozen different schools with one aim: it was to be filled out by students following the premise “The way we are”. That single sentence sparked completely different interpretations. Some kids wrote about their school, others about national birds, sports, clothes or food. It did not matter. They were all collaborating to create a single product: a book. Stop for a second and think the implications of it all. In the age of all things digital, we are using technology to connect, to do research, but we are creating an analog product, something tangible. And what I also liked about the project was what it covertly taught: identity, collaboration, empathy, community. All through a few A4 pages in a ring binder. Who knew.
My 6th graders back in Buenos Aires working on the book
The binder when we got it. It had already traveled a bit as you can see in the stickers.
I surprised my students with the project with a Mystery Hangout that featured the teacher who had sent the book from Brazil, Renata. Once they guessed where she was from I told them we were collaborating with her and her students and voilà, I unveiled the book. The girls worked hard on it and I’m proud of what they came up with. When they were done, we sent the book off to its next destination, Australia.
I presented the project at the Interfaces Congress of the University of Palermo in Buenos Aires. It was awarded a special mention in its category, the highest recognition it could get. The paper will be published in February 2018 in the academic journal Reflexión Académica en Diseño y Comunicación [1668-1673] You can read the full paper here (in Spanish) The project also got coverage in German media. The article (in German, of course) can be found here.
There will be another Scrapbook in the school year 2017-2018. If you feel like taking part, just send me a message and we’ll count you in.
What is my take away from taking part in this project?
Empathy. Small word, huge concept. We live in a time when global awareness, social responsibility, and empathy are crucial to the development of a well-balanced society. Our students are bombarded day after day with news of promises of walls being built between countries, people being beaten by the color of their skin or the religion they profess, or whole families being sent back to the same country they almost died trying to escape from. Empathy is not a luxury, it is rather a vital trait we need to develop. Most of the fears that arise from being in contact with those who are different arises from sheer ignorance. If we tackle ignorance, we weed out that fear. Cultural and religious diversity is enriching, not something to be scared of.
A simple activity like the making of the Scrapbook generates this virtuous cycle. It forces self-reflection by making students think about their identity. It confronts them with someone else who is different and introduces them to different cultures, points of view and values. And in this asynchronous dialogue through a couple of A4 sheets of paper in a sticker-covered binder, we learn about others by learning about ourselves.
And together we build.
When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence. –Unknown.