I am thrilled to introduce Jenny Buccos, the Series Creator & Director of the multi-award winning ProjectExplorer.org educational series.
Jenny began her professional career with Credit Suisse First Boston managing global media projects in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and New York. In 2003, before the existence of YouTube, she founded the online video site Project Explorer as a means to educate students about global cultures and histories. To date, she has directed/produced more than 400 incredible short films for students.
Q1) Project Explorer has created a phenomenal selection of online global travel videos and lesson plans. How did you come up with the idea?
The idea really grew out of two different things: one was my own experience working abroad, and the other was the desire to encourage global understanding, especially at a young age.
My own global education began when my work with an investment bank sent me abroad to Hong Kong and Japan in 2000. It was an eye opening experience that challenged my own beliefs and sparked my interest in learning more about diverse cultures and histories. The next year, I found myself back in New York, and in the months following 9/11, I noticed some fellow New Yorkers becoming increasingly fearful of the world outside of America’s borders. I began to think about how an early education in global issues and cultures could make a difference in this type of thinking.
It’s simply not feasible to take every student abroad. But, through the internet, I could bring the world to millions of children and give them a more globally focused education. In early 2003, I began to envision an online series, and after three years of research and fundraising the first Project Explorer series made it’s debut.
Q2. How do you think ProjectExplorer.org will give kids the 21st century skills they will need to be successful and understanding adults?
I believe that now, more than ever, global understanding is a critical skill that students must possess in order to succeed.
Project Explorer recently polled 223 students & young adults (ages 13 to 25) and found some impressive results on this topic. Of the group: 93% believe “jobs are becoming increasingly international in nature,” and 97% are “curious about world events.” [SOURCE: The Students’ Perspectives on Global Education Survey. This online research was conducted among a national sample of 223 individuals between the ages of 13 and 25, and took place from 14 January to 18 March 2013.]
It’s clear that students want to learn about the world around them and recognize the importance of a global education.
Our multimedia content addresses the need for global competency by providing students virtual passports. This is especially beneficial for those who are not financially able to travel. The programming on Project Explorer introduces students to new cultures, cuisines, religions and topics of global concern. Currently, we offer 422 short films, 1,764 images, written content, and dozens of cross-curricular lesson plans. All of our materials are offered at multiple grade levels, allowing us to reach students as young as 8 years old, all the way up to high school — and beyond.
Q3. How do you decide which countries to feature and which countries can we expect in the future?
Project Explorer‘s destinations are largely based on crowd-sourcing. We routinely poll students and educators to understand which topics or regions of the world they would like to learn about most.
For our 2013 series — Project Explorer‘s 10th anniversary year — we are taking on a 10-country world tour. “The Rise and Fall of the British Empire” will be filmed across 5 continents. Think history class meets the “Amazing Race!”
Q4) What have been your favorite places to visit?
London and Johannesburg! London was on of my first international travel experiences and remains a favorite destination for personal travel. In fact, I’m heading there in a few weeks time. From a professional point of view Johannesburg tops my list. I had amazing collaborators for the Project Explorer series including Apartheid Museum Founder Dr. John Kani and Noble Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I have been back six times since production in 2007 and consider several of the people I met there my “family.”
Thank you so much Jenny for this interview, and for your hardwork at making global education accessible for students. I wholeheartedly agree with your objectives and mission to bring global and cultural awareness to children,and truly admire your work. Appeal: ProjectExplorer.org is a free site and a nonprofit venture, please consider an online donation to support their mission of raising global citizens through virtual travel.
In February 2013, Jenny was recognized as one of the National School Board Association’s 20 to Watch- “an emerging leader who will shape the world of EDTech for the next 20 years.” In July 2012, she was named a White House Champion of Change. She is a 2010 recipient of a National Award for Citizen Diplomacy; honored alongside Academy Award winner Robert Redford for her exemplary work as a citizen diplomat. Jenny has spoken at three TEDx conferences and regularly lectures on the importance of global competency in primary and secondary education. Check out the exceptional videos, and accompanying articles, lesson plans, and photos at ProjectExplorer.org. You can also follow Jenny around the world (and learn more about global education) on twitter: @goodglobalcitiz (personal) @projectexplorer (organization).
All images © ProjectExplorer.org