Educator Spotlight: Finding Similarities Across Cultures

A’ndrea Fisher facilitated a video call with a class in Canada to help her first-grade students in Texas gain diverse perspectives. Students shared state and national symbols during the call as well as symbols they created to represent their class.

A’ndrea Fisher is a middle school gifted and talented teacher. Previously, she taught first grade at Freiheit Elementary School in New Braunfels, Texas. Photo by Robert Estes

What were your goals for your National Geographic Educator Certification project?

While the underlying goal of the project was to meet the standard of identifying and recalling state and national symbols, my mission was to expose my students to other cultures. My first-grade students were attending a Title I school. Many of them had never left the area around our town of New Braunfels, Texas. They hadn’t thought about what is beyond our state, let alone the country.

I wanted them to realize that while there are some differences between us and other cultures, it’s amazing how similar we are. To achieve this, I set up a video call with a class in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada and tied it in with our unit on symbols.

How did video chatting with a class in Canada impact students and influence their perspectives?

I didn’t give students much background information before the call because I wanted the experience to spark their curiosity so they were engaged in asking authentic questions. A realization hit the kids right away: “Hey, those kids are just like us.” During the call, it became apparent that kids naturally want to include and discover similarities. Differences just don’t matter as much to kids.

During the call, my students even found similarities within apparent differences. For example, while there is a lot of influence from Mexican culture in Texas, our town was originally founded by Germans. The students in British Columbia spoke about the influence of indigenous people where they live. Instead of focusing on differences, the students noted that both areas have a variety of cultural influences, and this diversity makes them similar.

The students were, however, fascinated by some differences. For example, my students explained that armadillos are our state animal, while the students in British Columbia have moose in their province. My students were also fascinated to learn that Canada has a prime minister rather than a president. This came up organically in the conversation, and it generated more interest than it would have if I had just told them this information.

As part of their unit on symbols, students in A’ndrea’s first-grade class created a mission statement. Photo by A’ndrea Fisher

You mentioned that you were amazed by the breadth and depth of your students’ questions during the video call with the students in Canada. Could you elaborate on this?

It struck me that students brought up the topic of elections on their own. They wanted to know how people in Canada pick their leaders. This was interesting because our main focus for the call was on things that represent us, our state or province, and country.

Another point that truly awed my students was learning that rodeo is also popular in British Columbia. Students were very interested to learn about the different styles of rodeo in Texas and British Columbia.

A’ndrea’s students created a flag to represent their class. Photo by A’ndrea Fisher

How did you structure the video call?

We began with each group introducing themselves. Then we alternated which group spoke. For my class, students took turns presenting symbols they had created in small groups to represent our class. Some students created a flag to represent our class. We even made up a song to act as our class anthem, which we sang to the Canadian class.

What is the main takeaway you hope students gleaned from this experience?

As an educator, everything I teach connects to standards. However, I think the biggest impact on my students was the sense of connection they created with other kids. I hope that my students gained the ability to recognize that although there are some differences, in the end, we are all very similar.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Interested in joining A’ndrea as a National Geographic Certified Educator? Learn more at NatGeoEd.org/Certification.

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