Lakefield Adventures Abroad! Preparing our Outgoing “Explorers” for the Exchange Experience

Posted: 14 December 2020

IDEALS:

Discoveries:

Age Range:

Secondary

Curriculum Area:

Global Learning

Overview

Lakefield College School (LCS) offers students the opportunity to take part in two types of exchanges, through either the full-term, Grade 10 Exchange Program or the three-week, March Break Language Exchange Program. Our membership in Round Square makes it possible for our Grade 10 students to participate in – typically 6 to 10 weeks – exchanges with students from over two-hundred potential partner schools in more than fifty countries around the world.

In preparation for the experience, this year’s Grade 10 Exchange Program participants have been working to complete a newly-developed, LCS Global Learning Curriculum, which is based on the Round Square IDEALS and Discoveries.

Planning

Increasingly, in recent years, we’ve felt that our students were embarking on their exchanges lacking a clear understanding of what the goals of the program were or how to derive the most benefit – in terms of learning outcomes and personal growth – from the experience. The Pre-Exploration Learning Modules, which are now completed by all of our outgoing exchange students, RS Conference delegates, and in the future, RSIS Project participants, was an attempt to address this need.

The Round Square IDEALS are introduced in Pre-Ex 1: What the Heck is a Round Square? and revisited in Pre-Ex 3: Traveling as an Explorer, Not a Tourist. (See attached files). In the last activity, students are presented with a number of scenarios, based on real-life experiences they are likely to encounter while participating in an RS exchange, conference, or project and they are asked to identify which Discovery(ies) they are likely to require or draw on when exhibiting the desired behaviour.

They are then asked to complete a Self-Assessment Table in which they identify the Discoveries they feel they have a reasonably adequate master of versus those that they feel they most need or want to focus on during their Round Square journey. Students are then invited to share and explain the results of their self-assessment exercise with each other. As I already had a fairly good idea of what I wanted to accomplish with the learning modules – and, for example, the various scenarios presented in Pre-Ex 3 are mostly real-life examples that students and I have experienced while participating in our school’s Global Learning trips in recent years – the development of the three Pre-Exploration Round Square Learning Modules did not take as long as I might have expected. In total, they probably required about ten hours to complete.

A trial run of the modules was completed in October of 2019 with our delegation to the RSIC in India (October 2019) and then, after a few slight modifications, they were also completed in December of 2019, by the ten outgoing exchange students who were scheduled to travel abroad in the New Year – although ultimately, only seven of them were able to complete their exchanges due to the Corona-virus outbreak.

As our school’s Round Square Rep, I developed the three RS Pre-Exploration Learning Modules. However, in preparation for our school’s other international service learning trips and expeditions, which take place over March Break and during summer vacation, our Director of Global Learning, Tim Rollwagen, also hosts a pre-trip, preparation weekend with participants and leaders (trollwagen@lcs.on.ca)

Details

Grade 9 students who attain an overall academic average of at least 85% on their February 2020 report card are eligible to apply to go on exchange the following year in Grade 10. Grade 9’s who achieve an overall average of 82 – 84% on their February report may also apply, but acceptance for the program will be conditional upon their meeting the minimum 85% standard on their June 2020 report card. If a student falls short of the required 85% on the June report, but their final average is 83 – 84%, s/he may still be approved for exchange on the recommendation of the Grade Team leader, in consultation with the Grade 9 Faculty Team. In particular, they will take into account a student’s physical and emotional health, ambassadorial qualities, personal growth shown over the course of their Grade 9 year, and whether or not there are any extenuating circumstances affecting their overall average that may warrant special consideration.

The recommended length of an exchange visit is one academic term or about 8 to 10 weeks. Traditionally, LCS students have opted to go abroad during the winter term (January to March) but exchange visits at other times of the year are also possible – although please note that applicants must attain a minimum 90% overall average at the conclusion of their Grade 9 year in order to be considered for a Spring Term exchange the following year, in Grade 10. In addition, all spring term exchanges must be approved by the Assistant Head: Academics, since they require a student to miss final exams.

Students may also choose to go abroad during the LCS summer vacation (June to August), e.g. if they wish to visit schools in southern hemisphere countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or Argentina, and this may be a great option for students who are keen to participate in an exchange but are concerned about missing academic time at LCS.

Shorter exchange visits of 4 to 6 weeks are sometimes possible, although it should be noted that almost all of the participants who have chosen this length of exchange in the past, have afterwards reported feeling regret at not having opted for a longer visit.
We believe that a student’s intellectual abilities are best developed through encouraging curiosity, promoting collaborative problem solving and instilling an enduring passion for life-long learning and as such we recognised the importance of properly preparing our students for international travel and life as a global citizen. As part of the preparation process for their travels, students are asked to participate in our Global Learning Curriculum.

In the RS Discovery Framework, the students – or “Explorers” as they are referred to by Round Square – are at the centre of the experience and the twelve Discoveries represent skills or attributes that they are encouraged to acquire and develop proficiency in over theOur school’s newly-developed Round Square curriculum consists of three Global Learning Pre-Exploration Modules, which outgoing exchange students and RS Conference delegates now complete prior to departure, as follows: course of their exchange experience.

Our school’s newly-developed Round Square curriculum consists of three Global Learning Pre-Exploration Modules, which outgoing exchange students and RS Conference delegates now complete prior to departure, as follows:

The curriculum is designed to instil a Spirit of Internationalism in the students prior to travelling to their destination, allowing them to take responsibility for their learning journey and create a sense of inquisitiveness around the culture that they will be immersing themselves in.

Pre-Exploration Lessons 1 & 2 are administered individually and students are able to work on their own time and submit their responses via Google Classroom. The third learning module, “Travelling as an Explorer, Not a Tourist” was first administered to our school’s student delegates to the RSIC during an airport layover en route to India in September of 2019. After a few slight modifications, the revised Learning Modules were also completed by our ten outgoing exchange students in December, 2019.
As mentioned above, Pre-Ex 1 and 2 are completed individually on a student’s own time and are submitted for marking via Google Classroom. Pre-Ex 3 involves both individual and group work.

It is recommended that the Pre-Exploration Learning Modules be completed within about 4 – 6 weeks of departure, although for group ventures – such as a school delegation traveling to a Round Square Conference – I’ve found that Pre-Ex 3: Travelling as an Explorer, Not a Tourist – works well as a group activity if completed just prior to departure or during an airport layover, while en route to the conference.

As it now stands, our Global Learning: Round Square Curriculum only includes the three pre-trip activities, although the plan is to eventually develop a post-trip, debrief module as well. Part of this will likely include the exchange reflection article and photos, which returning students are now required to complete for our school’s weekly E-Newsletter, just before they return home from exchange. In addition to letting our community members know what students have been up to for the past few months, these informal exchange reports have also proven to be extremely useful for sharing with LCS students who may be considering a particular host school to visit on exchange in the future, along with their parents. In their E-News article, each student is asked to address the following questions:

Challenges

As is often the case, carving out the time in the midst of my other responsibilities was initially a challenge, but as the pre-exploration curriculum began to take shape, completing it became more of a priority. As mentioned above, it was finished – and initially tested – in September of 2019 with our RSIC delegation and then repeated, with only slight modifications, with our outgoing exchange students in December of 2019. We are already working with other school’s Round Square Reps to tentatively plan our 2021 exchanges – which we hope will be able to take place, covid permitting – in which case, we will again require students to complete the Pre-Exploration Learning Modules, prior to their departure. Even if students are learning remotely, from wherever they are in the world, they should be able to complete the activities via Google Classroom.

Impact

I found that the students who have completed Pre-Ex 1 and 2 are much more knowledgeable and aware of both the history and philosophy behind Round Square and have benefited from acquiring relevant background information about their destination country in advance of their visit. By being better prepared for international travel, our students are more confident, self-aware and responsible global citizens who are more prepared to immerse themselves in a culture rather than simply viewing it through the eyes of a tourist.

Even more useful, I think, was Pre-Ex 3, in which students were introduced to the RS Discoveries, discussed possible, realistic scenarios in which they may well be required to demonstrate each Discovery, and then to self-assess their own proficiency with the RS Discovery Framework and identy areas for potential growth. This proved to be something we could revisit during and after our trip to the RSIC 2019. In fact, for the presentation we made to our school community in Chapel, following our return from India, each student gave an account of their learning outcomes based on the one or two Discoveries they chose to focus on, and how they feel they improved their proficiency in that area over the course of the trip.

Long term outcomes

We plan to continue administering the Preparing our Explorers programme in the years ahead and also hope to develop at least one post-trip Learning Module which will provide students the opportunity for further reflection, personal growth, and global learning.

Advice

Just Do It! Increasingly in recent years I’ve felt the need for this sort of pre-trip preparation for both our Round Square student delegates and outgoing exchange students, but finally got around to creating these resources this past year. They’ve already proven effective in the RSIC trial run, but I’ve already identified a few improvements and possible additional Pre-Exploration Lessons that I think will enhance both the learning and personal growth that students will acquire as a result of these experiences.

Author: Gerry Bird, Director of International Programs, Lakefield College 

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