I had the pleasure of interviewing Paige Badgett, People to People International’s Director of their School and Classroom Program, a free service that links teachers and their students with classrooms in other countries for pen pal exchanges and projects that improve cultural understanding and encourage friendship. I first asked her to share the goals and mission People to People International (PTPI):
We connect people of all countries and cultures because we believe that understanding one another is the best way to create peace. PTPI was founded by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower who believed that people could do a lot more to promote peace than governments. He once said, “Indeed, I think that people want peace so bad that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”
PTPI was founded in 1956 and we today serve individuals in more than 160 countries through a variety of programming with one goal – to promote Peace through Understanding.
Why do you feel it is important to teach kids global awareness starting when they are young?
I think if we can motivate children to think about respect, understanding differences, peaceful relations, and global concerns when they are young, we are helping them become the type of thinkers and leaders we need when they are adults. When you have a friend in another country, you gain new perspective on cultural differences. From a teacher’s standpoint, the project is great because the collaboration gives students an authentic audience for their work, which is both a motivator and a source of engagement.
What projects or programs area available for elementary school teachers?
The School & Classroom Program serves K-12 classrooms (ages 4-19), worldwide. We have served more than 250,000 students and 3,500 teachers in 127 countries. The most popular project is the Global Youth Murals art contact. Each year we invite students to think about peace and their own communities.
The deadline for this year’s project is October 28. More information on the School & Classroom Program and the mural project can be found here.
Other student-related programs:
PTPI’s other student programs begin at age 13. We have more than 2,000 students ages 13-18 in 25 countries involved in our Student Chapter program. These devoted students work to promote Peace through Understanding in their schools and communities. This video is perfect to show to students to help them understand the opportunities PTPI Student Chapters provide:
We also have travel opportunities for student members – the Global Youth Forum, which is an annual conference held in the United States, that brings together young people from around the global, and our EXPERIENCE program, which travels outside the U.S. so that students can learn firsthand about culture through service and forming friendships.
Connect your classroom to another class to start encouraging international understanding while building friendships that cross borders! Thank you so much Paige- it’s a fascinating program and I’m so excited that it is available for elementary schools along with the older kids.