Calling All Teachers: Classroom Connections

Pen pal letters from both U.S. and Mali students often include great drawings.

Pen pal letters from both U.S. and Mali students often include great drawings.

By Merritt Frey, Executive Director

This school year Mali Rising has piloted a new project -- Classroom Connections -- and now we're ready to take it live to teachers and students around the country. We hope you'll join us!

Classroom Connections is designed to educate students in the U.S. about students and culture in Mali, provide meaningful service projects for U.S. students to build relationships with their peers in Mali, and create a feedback loop that encourages U.S. students to better understand their world and how they can play a helpful role in the world. 

Classroom Connections currently offers two core pieces: 1) a fun presentation with learning materials and 2) an optional, but recommended, service component that connects classrooms in the U.S. with classrooms in Mali.

Mali Rising has created a fun and colorful presentation for U.S. students that uses “a day in the life of a Mali student” to teach students here about life in Mali, and the power of education to change lives. For schools in Utah, this presentation can be given by staff. For schools elsewhere, we can help teachers give the presentation or we're happy to explore online options. The presentation can be adjusted to suit 4th through 12th graders.

A central idea of the Classroom Connections project is that students can learn about each other while helping each other. When students learn about our schools in Mali, their first instinct is often to ask how they can help. 

Kids in Mali test run our first batch of flashcards, created by high school students in Eugene, Oregon.

Kids in Mali test run our first batch of flashcards, created by high school students in Eugene, Oregon.

We can channel that instinct to help by working with students to create useful learning tools that are needed and easy to transport to Mali. Mali Rising is dedicated to make sure that service projects are tied to what the Mali students really need to succeed in their classroom, so we work closely with our Mali teachers to make sure service projects generate useful learning tools. Service projects can be designed to be appropriate for 4th through 12th grade. Service project options currently include:

  • English language flashcards. Using a list created by teachers in Mali, Utah students will create colorful, laminated flashcards to help Mali students learn English. Utah students learn a little French (used on the picture side of the flash cards) and strengthen their artistic skills.
  • English or French pen pal letters. To make language learning more fun and tangible, Utah students will write short letters to students in Mali. Students in Mali will reply. This project promotes language skills, but also encourages cultural sharing.
  • Maps. Mali geography teachers struggle to teach geography without maps for students to study (teachers draw amazing maps on the chalkboard, but those disappear at the end of the day!). Utah students will label, color, and laminate copied maps of the world, West Africa, and Mali. This project will help students in both Utah and Mali with their geography skills. 
  • Other project ideas as generated by U.S. or Mali students and teachers.  In piloting this program, we found that good service project ideas often come from the classroom. We will be open to new ideas from Utah classrooms, although before implementing any new ideas we will work with our teachers in Mali to be sure the proposed learning tools will be useful for actual classroom learning.

Want to know more? Contact Merritt to learn more about Classroom Connections and your students!