By Audrey White
When Mackenzie Lamb is touring Europe this summer, she probably won’t be thinking about China. But her connection to a Friday Institute for Educational Innovation program that helped develop Suzhou North America (SNA) High School in Suzhou, China, opened the door to a travel scholarship for Lamb’s upcoming trip.
Dr. Hiller Spires, senior research fellow at the Friday Institute and professor at NC State University, facilitated a partnership between SNA and Wake STEM Early College High School (ECHS), where Lamb is currently a junior, through the Project-Based Inquiry (PBI) Global program. PBI Global is a collaborative, inquiry-based instructional strategy that connects international students through interdisciplinary inquiry projects. Many students dream of traveling and exploring the world’s cultures and differences, and because of PBI Global, this dream has come true for many high school students without even having to leave their schools.
“Our PBI Global work has connected teachers and students from around the globe and created a dynamic cross-cultural experience as well as a rich academic exchange. Mackenzie has provided bold leadership to add a new, more personal dimension to the relationships we have established with students in China,” Spires said.
Because of PBI, Lamb was inspired to find a way for the students at her school to form friendships with the students at SNA. With the help of her English teacher, Friday Institute staff, and SNA teachers, Lamb formed the International Club. The International Club connects 50 students from each school with a partner at the other school and fosters friendship development using communication technology. Using WeChat, a messaging and video app, partners virtually meet and get to know one another. In a monthly large group meeting via Skype, the group gathers to discuss their different cultures, celebrate holidays, and further friendships.
“A year ago, I never thought I would find myself excited to wake up at 4:30 a.m., but the days we have International Club meetings before school are always my favorite days of the month. This club has allowed me to form friendships with incredible kids halfway around the world, something I will forever be grateful for. In addition, it has united students across all grades at my school, creating a more positive school environment overall,” Lamb said.
As president of the International Club, Lamb runs most of the day-to-day operations. Her Chinese partner, Sheldon, is a 10th-grade student and the president of SNA’s sister International Club. They collaborate to plan upcoming meetings and events.
When Lamb saw that the American Council for International Studies (ACIS) had an essay contest for their Travel Scholarship: “The World in Your World,” she hoped that her experiences with the International Club would win her the $1,000 prize – and they did. In her essay entitled “Connecting Hearts, Minds, and Cultures,” Lamb describes the International Club’s transforming effect on both schools, and how it has personally changed her life and global perspective. (Click here to access all the winning essays.)
“We live in an increasingly interconnected world in which the effects of globalization are around every corner. It is imperative that all people are aware and appreciative of this interconnectedness as it is an instrumental part of nearly all nations, cultures, and lives,” Lamb said.
Lamb plans to travel to Germany, France, and Belgium this summer with a group of students and teachers from ECHS. Through the International Club and the Travel Scholarship, Lamb now has the chance to become a more dedicated global citizen and has been inspired to travel and meet diverse groups of people. The Friday Institute’s hope for all students is that through the influence of programs like PBI Global they will be able to experience and appreciate new languages, cultures, and countries.
Watch the video below to learn more about PBI Global, and visit newlit.org to learn more about all of Spires’ work.