by Dr. Suzanne Lyons, Lower School Assistant Director
This winter, 4th and 5th Grade students from the Kyonggi School in South Korea returned to the Lower School for our yearly cultural exchange program, marking this as their sixth visit. Each year the Kyonggi students are homeroomed in our 4th and 5th Grade classrooms. However, similar to our buddy program and consistent with our core value of community, our plan is to organize and integrate their visit with our entire Lower School. Therefore, we arranged sharing their time with other grade levels so that all of our students could benefit from this enriching, cultural experience. This year, in addition to their 4th and 5th Grade classes, Kyonggi students visited Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 6th Grade.
In Kindergarten, students shared introductions by singing a song that they learn at the beginning of Kindergarten called "The Name Song." Kindergartners' initial shyness with Kyonggi didn't last long, and soon after introductions, the room was filled with conversations. Students shared things that they had in common, told each other stories, and then bonded as the Kyonggi students helped the Kindergartners complete a giraffe-themed art project. They worked together to fill in the details of their giraffe drawing with watercolors and created some beautiful, colorful designs!
Kyonggi and 1st Grade students spent their time collaborating to create English and Korean translations of common phrases. If you're at the Lower School, check out the translations on the stairway between the 1st and 2nd floors and learn some Korean sayings! It was a wonderful experience for 1st Grade and Kyonggi to get to know each other, and it was one of the highlights of our 1st graders' week.
In 2nd Grade, students spent time with introductions and then broke off into centers around the room, including an art center coloring the American Flag; math games, including Four Way Countdown and Marcy Cook Tiles; and word games, including Headbanz and Scrabble Junior. Second Graders and Kyonggi students paired up and played together while getting to know one another. The energy and excitement in the classrooms were palpable as students quickly bonded through some traditional and modern games.
And if you happened to be a 3rd Grade student, you were involved with Kyonggi in an intense and exciting game of dodgeball in the gym, which had even the teachers ducking and scrambling for the balls.
Additionally, Kyonggi spent a Community of Caring time with the 6th graders, building a structure made of only paper. The challenge was to use only paper and tape to build a support that could withstand the weight of a dictionary. Students quickly and eagerly collaborated and papers were folded, rolled, and twisted, even "origami styled" to create a solid structure. It was a joy for 6th Grade students to partake in this activity and reunite with some of their returning Kyonggi friends, whom they had established strong bonds with during last year's visit.
On the last day as Kyonggi students were gathering their backpacks before their departure and lining up to leave, it was particularly moving to see a group of 6th Grade students stop their volleyball game, lock arms, and turn towards the Kyonggi students. They shouted heartfelt goodbyes and then began singing "Circle of Friends" through tears and smiles. They sang and echoed the main chorus as the Kyonggi students walked towards their bus: "Come join us in the circle of friends, there's always room for one more, a circle that never ends, all you have to do is open up the door."
Their visit lasted only two weeks, but the friendships and connections they made with our entire Lower School Community will be remembered for years to come.