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Newfane Elementary School: Level Up Village and Kenya Connect

I have been an educator for over 20 years. Participating in Level Up Village in 2022 was the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had with my students.

The course takes students beyond the curriculum and makes cross-cultural connections with students in a rural village in Kenya about 40 miles southeast of Nairobi. Through a series of videos, the students learn how one community in Kenya is similar to and different from their own community with the focus on an environmental issue in each community.

I collaborated with Rich Meyers, our High School AP Environmental Science teacher, and Nick Kiser, our Tech Instructor. My 4th grade students were paired with the AP Environmental High School students to guide and mentor their research on Lake Ontario. After their initial meeting, as the 4th graders had questions for the AP students, they were able to stream on Google Meet to communicate further. Mr. Kiser produced the videos for each group. Students learned about presenting in front of a green screen and doing more than one take on their videos. The most challenging part of our videos was to get my students to talk slower because English is the second language for the students in Kenya.

At the conclusion of Level Up Village, we learned that the students in Kenya were in the process of building a library, and we saw an opportunity to help. This led us to Kenya Connect. Newfane Elementary grades K-4 raised $1,000 overall for the new library. One of the 53 steps in the LRC Annex was painted with the spine of a book of our choosing. We chose “Read! Read! Read!” by a local Western New York author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Mrs. VanDerwater also signed and donated a copy of her book for their new library.

Through Level Up Village and Kenya Connect, my students learned that when they share information, they can raise awareness of problems in the world. When people know there is a problem they can improve things—in their own backyard or across the globe!

About Nancy Simmons

Nancy Simmons is a 4th grade teacher at Newfane Elementary School in New York.