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Bridges to Understanding at Wat Bo School

18 March 2009

Wat Bo School was chosen to participate in the Global Citizens Project through Bridges to Understanding.

The purpose of the project was to introduce digital storytelling to the students at Wat Bo, expose them to other children from all around the world who also participated in the program, improve their computer and English speaking skills and let them have a little fun putting together their video presentation.

The class was led by Jaz Whitney from Jerico, Vermont who came for two months to teach this class at Wat Bo in addition to her English teaching duties at Tchey. The Foundation wishes to express it’s warmest thanks to Jaz for her leadership and the tender way she managed the students in the class, to help them learn something new and have a good time doing it. Working on this project was an experience they will not soon forget.

Here is Jaz’s story about her work with the students:

Over the past six weeks, I had the opportunity to work with nine sixth grade students from Wat Bo School as part of the Global Citizens Program for the Bridges to Understanding website. The goal was to create a video about something important to the kids relating to Cambodia and their lives, in order to raise awareness with other children around the world. In the process, the kids were given the opportunity to watch other students’ videos from multiple different countries and have some conversation with them on the online discussion board. The project served as a great (and much needed) creative outlet for the kids, as well as a chance to practice their English skills with a native English speaker.

Although the language barrier was difficult at times, I was amazed how dedicated these students were to understanding what was being asked, and coming up with some great ideas for the project. The kids were quick to decide what about their country was meaningful to them; understandably, they chose Cambodia ’s national treasure: Angkor Wat. They all commented on its beauty, showed their knowledge of its history, and took pride in all the tourists who visit Cambodia to see it. Although they were not accustomed to the freedom and lack of guidance in a classroom setting, they are clever students who put a great amount of effort into the project, and proved to work productively together. I took the opportunity to teach the students about some of the negative effects tourism has on Angkor Wat, such as the threat tourists cause to its stability, which they had understandably never heard of. We also took the occasion to bring the kids on a field trip to Angkor Wat to take pictures and videos. For a few of them it was their first chance to visit the beautiful temple, and it was a fantastic experience for everyone.

Jaz teaching English at the home.

After a lot of pooling of knowledge, imaginative ideas, tons of pictures, and some editing, our project was complete. The kids loved watching the finished product: seeing their pictures, hearing their voices, knowing that other kids would watch it, and feeling so accomplished in creating something amazing. I was impressed by their efforts, and I could tell they took pride in themselves as well. For weeks after the project was finished, we continued – upon their request – English classes, even into their school vacation week! I am so amazed by their enthusiasm for learning, studying, and taking advantage of every opportunity they can. They are bright children who will go far and do incredible things in their lives.

As I’m not far apart in age with the students, it was easy for me to create a real connection and bond with each and every one of them. I had a blast with them, I’ll miss them terribly, and I will never forget them and their impressive dedication. -Jaz

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