Grant allows for the expansion and long-term sustainability of the Senegal BRIDGE Project in local classrooms.
December 16, 2002 GENEVA, N.Y. – Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) have received an unprecedented third year of funding in the amount of $10,000 from the Independent College Fund of New York, in cooperation with the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust, for a collaboration between the West Street School in Geneva, the Colleges, and two “sister schools” in Senegal, West Africa. James MaKinster, assistant professor of education, is directing this project. Other members of the team include Scott Brophy, professor of philosophy, Lilian Sherman, assistant professor of education, and West Street Elementary School teacher Anne Bergstrom.
For the past three years the BRIDGE project (Bringing Relevant Internet Dialogue to Global Education) has enabled elementary students in Geneva to connect with Hobart and William Smith Colleges students studying abroad. The program began by linking HWS students on a term abroad in Senegal with a West Street School third-grade classroom. The participating teachers and HWS faculty designed an inquiry-based curriculum that enabled the elementary students to pose questions and explore answers about Senegalese people, society and culture. In order to answer questions sent to them by Senegalese schoolchildren, the local students conducted research about everyday life and culture in Geneva and the U.S.
Much of the student inquiry throughout the experience revolved around contrasting and comparing American and Senegalese culture. “Because their evolving work was being posted within a (password protected) Web site, accessible to participants and families at home or elsewhere, their investigations engaged their own families and other community members in the learning process,” said Bergstrom. “Community interest in the project spiraled as the third-graders presented it to parents, other classes, teachers, district administrators and the Geneva City School District Board of Education.” The BRIDGE Project expanded in year two by establishing a link between two fourth-grade classes and HWS students in Vietnam, this time focusing on the science curriculum and its connections to social studies, art, and English language arts.
This new award will enable Bergstrom’s third-grade class at West Street Elementary School in Geneva to share in the experiences of three HWS students traveling to Senegal in the spring: Shaun P. Bartley ’04 of Brooklyn, N.Y., Helmi E. Hunin ’05 also of Brooklyn, and Jonis A. Belu-John ’04 of Frederick, Md. The HWS students will send pictures, stories of their adventures, journal entries, and other relevant materials and resources back to the participating elementary students. In addition, they will work with Bergstrom to engage the elementary students in various lines of inquiry that cut across their curriculum. Sherman and Bergstrom with also be traveling to Senegal in the spring to establish more formal and sustained relationships with two “sister schools” in Senegal.
A related program, the Asian Awareness BRIDGE project, recently received significant support from the Freeman Foundation for the next four years as part of a larger grant to the Colleges. That project is currently in five Geneva classrooms and will be growing steadily over time. The goal for these new funds is to “take the next steps towards long-term institutionalization of the BRIDGE Project in Senegal” said Brophy, who began the BRIDGE project three years ago.
Hobart and William Smith Colleges are coordinate, private, liberal arts institutions, located in Geneva, N.Y., the heart of the Finger Lakes region. The Colleges, which have a combined enrollment of 1,800, offer a remarkably broad array of majors and minors, with a cross-disciplinary flavor intended to better inform both professional and intellectual pursuits. The Colleges are noted for an ambitious emphasis on international study, and for their programs in community service. Hobart College for men and William Smith College for women share faculty, facilities and curriculum, but maintain separate deans’ offices, athletic programs, student governments and traditions.