Just last August, Avenues opened its second campus in São Paulo, Brazil. With this opening, we’ve set the stage for our vision of one school, many campuses. This is a big reason I joined Avenues – connecting students around the world so they can tackle global-scale problems, engage in different perspectives and explore new opportunities not available anywhere else.
Many of you might recall the group of Os Primeiros 9th graders who spent a month in New York City last spring. They, along with some select teachers, have begun to implant the Avenues culture into a new site – see a quick tour of the São Paulo campus. Additionally, five Avenues New York 12th grade students last year helped the Os Primeiros students by mentoring the Brazilian students, co-teaching classes and serving as peer ambassadors. Since then, many more New York students have visited Brazil to investigate issues pertaining to environmental sustainability with their Brazilian counterparts. These types of exchanges will continue as a new cohort of NYC peer ambassadors will be headed to Brazil this February to assist and present with Sao Paulo peers at the AASSA international conference.
Our collaboration with teachers and students in Brazil, however, shouldn’t be restricted to face-to-face visits. This past December, Avenues New York launched Winter Seminar, a weeklong opportunity for middle grades students to investigate academic topics from a fresh perspective in half-day courses. I had a chance to offer a course that week that intentionally connected New York and São Paulo students to address social and cultural issues in our communities. My partner was Cayo Candido, a World Course teacher at São Paulo, who cleverly involved the São Paulo middle graders who are planning to visit New York in April during Minimester. We communicated by video conference, using one-to-one, small group and whole class forums for discussion.
Our journey together during the week revealed untold stories related to challenging global issues – topics included women’s rights, discrimination and prejudice, immigration and refugees, and the environment and sustainability. Brazilian and American students shared perspectives they had discovered through their World Course and interdisciplinary projects. Together, we began a policy simulation that investigated how to reduce waste in our cities and on campus. Students conducted an empathy interview in order to understand multiple viewpoints and the impact of their decisions.
They worked in teams to propose an original solution for our cities and for our campuses. Examples included assessing fees at stores for plastic bags, offering rebates for recycled bags, including different recycling bins at street corners, composting at Avenues, ramping up our education efforts and more. Their proposed solutions were reviewed by experts, both in New York and São Paulo, followed by feedback to make revisions. Because portions of the class were run through video conference, we found it necessary to make the final presentation available electronically so that parents and educators could participate remotely.
In addition to our investigation of global-scale issues, students got to know each other personally by discussing cultural and personal interests. Each day a face-to-face class visitor touched on different perspectives from Brazil, whether it was learning about government, people, food or speaking a little Portuguese. It was a great way to form friendships and look forward to bonding together in the future.