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Addressing Students and Youth Groups

Best Practices: Addressing Students and Youth Groups

Whether young people are in school, at a youth group gathering, or at a camp, there are many fun ways to engage and inspire them with your Peace Corps experience. Thousands of returned Volunteers enjoy speaking to students and youths. Following are some suggested activities that can be incorporated into presentations and events for different age groups by the World Wise School program and returned Volunteers.

  • Primary School Age

    • "I read out loud to my young students "Oh the Places You'll Go," by Dr. Seuss, and then I shared with them places I had been. I showed them my albums and artifacts and told them about the Peace Corps and my family in Peru. Then I had my students from India, Tonga, the Philippines, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, and the U.S. share things about their countries."

      Carole Zuloaga, Peru 1964–65

    • "I dressed up in native attire, served native food, and brought all sorts of clothes, toys, etc. that children in Kyrgyzstan have. I tried to show the students what their life would be like if they lived in Kyrgyzstan. We played Kyrgyzstan games. I brought along lots of visuals, and taught them to count to 10 in Kyrgyz. We really had fun, and by the end of the 45 minutes, most of them could spell Kyrgyzstan, as well as pronounce it."

      Jennifer (Allen) Sargent, Kyrgyzstan, 1998-2000

    • "I gave a half-hour presentation in my son's first-grade class with a slide show of the secondary school where I taught in Malawi, as well as of the countryside. I used lots of material culture to emphasize what I was talking about, especially carvings and cloth, which I passed around. Demonstrating how women carried babies (with a doll) was a big hit with the girls. I also read the children's story, "Galimoto," by Karen Lyn Williams, which is a story about a resourceful child in Malawi who creates his own toy. It was lots of fun and very rewarding. I received lots of positive feedback from the children and, later on, their parents."

      Canice (Biwer) Lawler, Malawi 1982-84

  • Elementary School Age

    World Wise School activity recommendation: The Hare and the Water – a folktale.

    • "I went to three different schools and talked to about 200 kids. The breakdown was as follows: two seventh-grade classes of about 25 each; about 50 sixth-graders at one school, and 75 at another; and a third-grade class of about 20. I used this PowerPoint presentation with the seventh-graders and an abridged version with the sixth-graders since there were so many students and not much time. For third-graders we looked at a map of Africa and of Burkina, talked about some very basic country facts, and read a creation folktale that I found at my local library called "The Fire Children." I was amazed by the questions some of the students asked and their genuine interest. They loved the bookmarks and stickers and I think some will really enjoy reading the short stories."

      Kirstin Krudwig, awaiting Burkina Faso Peace Corps trainee 2008

    • "Since I teach at an elementary school with a large African American population, Black History Month is very important. Instead of setting aside just one day to talk about the Peace Corps and my experiences in West Africa, I used Black History Month to talk about African history and my role as a Volunteer. I also shared my experiences with a Sunday school class and a group of college students."

      Becca Carter, The Gambia 1998-2000

    • "Our daughter Vanessa served in the Kingdom of Tonga. My wife and I gave a Peace Corps presentation, complete with artifacts we brought back from visiting our daughter in Tonga to a sixth-grade geography class in Keizer, Oregon. It was great fun and the students had lots of questions about Tonga, the people, customs, etc., and about the role of the Peace Corps there."

      Rich and Valerie Allyn, parents of a returned Tonga Volunteer

    • "The Greater Birmingham RPCVs helped students at an inner-city school called Whatley Elementary paint a world map. This project allowed students to interact with RPCVs and participate in fun geography awareness activities—making flags and posters of animals from other countries, reading books about other cultures and countries, and answering geography quiz questions. We put the finishing touches on the map, and invited school personnel and parents to the dedication ceremony, which included a geography bee with the students and presentations by RPCVs who had helped with the world map project."

      Susan Seay, Eastern Caribbean 1972–1973

    • "Once again, it was my absolute pleasure to talk to an elementary school class (fifth grade) and tell them about my PC experience in Burkina Faso. I shared pictures and had a "fashion show" of the clothes I have from Africa. As always, it was a success. I'd like to continue to do this yearly, as long as I am able to and can find an audience."

      Brunie Chavez, Brazil 1966–68, Burkina Faso 1971–73

    • "I called an old Peace Corps friend whom I hadn’t seen for about 15 years and he timed his visit so we could give a presentation at my daughter’s fifth-grade class in Colorado Springs. The presentation went much better than we expected. We thought we would only have about 15 minutes of material, then realized we could actually talk all day about Guatemala and our experiences. We showed slides, ate black beans and tortillas, and passed around pictures of where I lived as a Volunteer. The kids had so many questions that the teacher finally had to end the presentation after about an hour, in order for them to go to lunch."

      Stacy Sloan, Guatemala 1984–86, and John Mayne, Guatemala 1983–85

    • "I spoke to a third-grade classroom at Erie Elementary school in Erie, Colorado. I used an exercise off of the World Wise Schools website called “First Impressions,” then I showed slides from Fiji and asked students to take notice of what was going on in the slides. I also cooked some Indian Halawa to share with the class."

      Julie Krause-Singh, Fiji 1983-85

  • Middle School Age

    World Wise School activity recommendation: Brief Encounters – cross-cultural activity.

    • "I am the mother of a Peace Corps Volunteer currently serving in Mali. On March 1, I spoke to about 120 junior high school students who have been corresponding with my daughter, Jennifer, who also attended the school. Since my husband and I had recently visited our daughter, we had lots of pictures to share with the class. I wore traditional clothing and still had some henna on my hands and feet. I also brought wood carvings, mudcloth, drums, baskets, and other artifacts."

      Denise Almeda, Parent of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Mali

    • "Here are some of the ideas I used when talking to groups of middle-schoolers:

      1.

      I told them they could take only two bags and they were packing for two years. What would they take? We listed these things. Then I told them they would have no electricity or hot water, it would be very hot, and there would be lots of bugs. We revised the list. Next, I told them what I had packed: a hair dryer, fancy purse, and a tape player. Then I asked them what I should have left home.

      2.

      We talked about and listed the kinds of things we could do to help out in developing countries. We listed teaching, building things, and medical help.

      3.

      We talked about language differences and different cultures, including the nationalities represented in their school. We talked about how language and cultural differences influenced behavior.

      Time went fast; I could have gone on for hours!"

      Kathy Vanegmond Duncan, Eastern Caribbean 1989–1991

    • "I decided to change my classroom into a Peace Corps Staging Conference. I had a welcome banner and put all those photo trading cards on the walls. I made a poster that demystified the Peace Corps sectors and added a new one called “peer helpers.” I started my talk by welcoming them and congratulating them for being so patient with the Peace Corps process (and briefly outlined what that was), then I read them the fact sheet and gave them background information on the Peace Corps. I gave them a testimony of my experience of Jamaica with a few photos and made a list of what they could expect in the Kyrgyz Republic (per my RPCV roommate who served in this country), which was where they would be going. We talked about the rewards of volunteering, the difficulties, the benefits, etc. I did this for all three of my classes. A few of the students even asked that we talk about it the next day."

      Christine Talianis, Jamaica 1996-98

  • High School Age

    World Wise School activity recommendation: Americans – cross-cultural activity.

    Juanita Limas (Nicaragua 2000-02) gave Peace Corps presentations at a local high school, university, and at a local radio station.
    Read more

    • "I spoke to four high school classes with about 90 students. I showed slides and spoke about my experiences in Afghanistan from 1972 to 1974, and about what's happened there since. I also spoke about the tremendous opportunity for them to also serve and have the experience of a lifetime. We finished with a snack of nuqul—sugar-coated almonds with a hint of rose water or cardamom (we had two kinds). My students were enthusiastic and very interested."

      Nancy P. Benson, Afghanistan 1972-74

    • "On March 1, I had a special Peace Corps Day with my Spanish classes. I told them what I took with me to Cote d’Ivoire and showed them what I brought back. They were surprised to see my Peace Corps-issued passport full of visas and me with a full head of hair! I set the mood with some ’60s music played on a small battery-run cassette player like the one I had with me overseas, and stories about the U.S. during that time. I talked about John F. Kennedy’s vision and the Peace Corps mission and about what appropriate and sustainable development mean. I conveyed what I learned from the villagers with whom I lived and worked and what I learned about myself. I continued my presentation the following day with photos and slides. We talked about living and adapting to a different culture and the meaning of “culture.” I used the materials in the (kit) that I received; the map hangs in the front of my room along with an old Peace Corps poster. This is the fifth year that I have celebrated the Peace Corps anniversary with my students."

      Richard Sidy, Cote d’Ivoire 1969–1971

    • "On March 3, ELS Language Centers honored Peace Corps’ 45th anniversary at our center in Santa Monica. Six of the current ELS Santa Monica staff members have served overseas in Peace Corps Malaysia, Moldova, Iran, Guatemala, and Korea. In keeping with the Peace Corps’ mission of promoting friendship and world peace through exchange, these RPCVs discussed their experiences abroad with students who, having come from countries all over the world, can relate to living in a new culture and speaking a foreign language all day. The students nodded their heads in empathy as they listened to stories of linguistic and cultural misunderstandings; of course, they weren’t nodding when we regaled them with stories of poisonous snakes and outhouses. It was fun to watch their faces as they reviewed old photo albums with pictures of their teachers in younger days in varied costumes and settings. We are proud to have shared our experiences in an effort to celebrate and continue to promote the Peace Corps.

      Kathleen Hylen, Moldova 2003–05, ELS Language Centers director

  • Youth Groups and Camps

    Karen Unger (Liberia 1976-78) shared her Peace Corps experience with a youth group.
    Read more

    Diane Szcepanowski and Lisa Lis, Girl Scout troop leaders: We are Girl Scout Troop No. 1245 from Lancaster, New York. We want to tell you about the wonderful experience we have shared with a Peace Corps Volunteer and a South African school.
    Read more

  • More Suggestions from Returned Volunteers and Friends of the Peace Corps

    Riley Graebner (China 2002-03, Romania 2003-05) and Vivian Nguyen (Niger 2003-05) present tech savvy ways to upgrade your Peace Corps Week presentation.
    Read more

    • "The Milwaukee Peace Corps Association had 25 Volunteers from 22 different countries, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Betty Brinn Children's BBC Museum in Milwaukee, providing crafts, face painting, storytelling, language learning, folk singing, slide shows, and cultural demonstrations, and exhibits. All in all, we had 270 parents and children attend our events, and the BBC Museum was so happy that they invited us back for next year."

      Allegra Troiano, Senegal 1980–1982

    • "In conjunction with the Kentucky RPCV Association's annual winter gathering, we coordinated a children's Peace Corps story hour at four branches of the local public library. RPCVs told and read stories, talked about their Peace Corps experience, and led crafts and other activities."

      Kay Roberts, Ecuador 1982–1984

    • "The idea on the Peace Corps World Wise Schools website about packing two suitcases was excellent. It went over really well and the kids really connected to the things I would need and things they thought I would bring back."

      Maria Royston, Cameroon 1993–1995

  • Downloadable Presentation and Activity Resources for All Ages

    Consider using Slide Shows, Videos, and Story Podcasts provided by the World Wise Schools program. To search all available resources, including multimedia materials, stories, and cross-cultural activities, visit Savvy Downloadable Resources and the Peace Corps Website Treasure Trove.

Last updated Jan 22 2014

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