New York Teacher Creates Global Connections with CAP Distance Learning Scholarship

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By Therese Perlowski, CAP Program Manager

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Kelly Grimaldi

Kelly Grimaldi, a third-grade teacher at Eden Elementary School in Eden, New York, is passionate about sharing a global perspective with her students. “I feel a strong personal obligation to connect my students to the world around them. I am proud to have grown up in a rural community and now teach in a rural community, but I also understand and appreciate the importance of global citizenship.”

As a recipient of the Internet2 Community Anchor Program Distance Learning Scholarship and through her school’s connection to her state’s research and education network, NYSERNet, she was able to bring that global connection to life for her students through the Talk with an Aussie program from Australian science education provider Fizzics Education.

The Talk With an Aussie program provides a discussion-based experience for students to interact and ask questions about how Australian culture, geography, and history differ from that of the United States. Grimaldi explains: 

“The program broke down the four walls of my classroom and flew us across oceans and borders so that my students learned about Australia, as a world community, from someone who actually lives in Australia. While he did have a lot of content prepared (maps, photographs, videos), he really allowed the students to take the wheel for the entire hour. Rather than sitting through a video lecture, he fielded questions from the students.”

Program is Platform for ‘Endless Supply of Questions’

The open Q&A format was highly engaging for Grimaldi’s class. “This format was perfect for my third graders, who have an endless supply of questions! Because the content was based solely on their personal interests, the students were definitely more engaged compared to the instruction I could have provided with a textbook or database.”

On top of the excitement her students experienced, Grimaldi explains how valuable the experience was to enrich her curriculum: 

“The third-grade social studies curriculum focuses heavily on global communities, culture, and geographic reasoning. Like many educators, I’m constantly looking for ways to bring the core curriculum to life for my students. The more connections they can make to their world and the more engaged they are in lessons, and the learning standard(s) have a better chance of being retained over time.

“The CILC program allowed my students to interact with someone from a foreign country, which alone is super engaging. Rather than reading to them about a global community/culture, they asked their own questions, which directly drew on their interests and personal lives. Ben was able to answer their questions in real-time and follow up with photographs and videos. On top of expanding their geographic knowledge, the students benefited by simply facilitating an hour-long conversation via Zoom! Developing questions, carrying on conversations, and utilizing technology are all skills young students will need in their futures.”

Connection to NYSERNet Makes Participation Possible

As a distance learning scholarship recipient, Grimaldi was able to utilize her school’s connection to NYSERNet to participate in the program free of charge. 

“This provided us a rare and incredibly unique opportunity for the students and even the adults in the classroom! First, Australia ranges between 11 – 15 hours ahead of our time zone – so just communicating live with someone who lives there is impressive. Also, learning about a faraway community and culture from an individual who lives is an uncommon form of instruction that certainly trumps most else. I want to empower my students to become leaders and the program really helped to expand their understanding of the world.”

Grimaldi shares that she would absolutely recommend this program in the future, “What classroom wouldn’t benefit from a field trip that brings the curriculum to life for students? I wish I could provide such a highly engaging and personalized lesson for each country I taught.” And adds, “My students talked about this interaction for quite some time, they even convinced me to find Vegemite, a popular Australian spread, for us to try as a class!”

The program broke down the four walls of my classroom and flew us across oceans and borders so that my students learned about Australia, as a world community, from someone who actually lives in Australia.

–Kelly Grimaldi, 3rd grade teacher at Eden Elementary School in Eden, New York

Offered annually, the Internet2 Community Anchor Program’s scholarship program supported 38 K-12 teachers in seven states to implement free, one-on-one distance learning programs for their class through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC). All recipients connect to the Internet2 network via their state or regional research and education network, which provides the robust internet connection needed for live, interactive virtual programs.

About NYSERnet:  

NYSERNet is a non-profit organization whose mission is to advance the research and educational missions of its members by delivering a full range of customized, progressive, and affordable end-to-end data and networking technology solutions.