Kindergarteners Discover Uruguay – Without Ever Leaving ISB!

Library · December 12, 2019

A Cultural Exchange Between Two IB Schools Across the Globe

By Eli Hetko, Associate Librarian
Over the summer, Head Librarian Maria Falgoust traveled to Uruguay on a Fulbright-Hays scholarship to study the country’s education system, history, and culture. As a part of the program, she designed a curriculum for our Kindergarteners centered around the Uruguayan education system and  involving a partnership with fellow IB school, Saint Brendan’s School, located in Montevideo. This exchange was intended to increase cultural awareness, build global competencies, and give our students a better understanding of Uruguayan culture.

“What an incredible experience the Fulbright-Hays Uruguay program granted me! After spending a month in Uruguay, it was exciting to return to ISB full of inspiration. I wanted to create an educational and fun project that would broaden our students’ perception of the world and give them a better understanding of how geography and culture influence our daily lives.”
-Maria Falgoust, Head Librarian

All of the Kindergarten teachers, including Maureen, Nuria, Neva, Estelle, Claudia, and Amanda as well as Maria and Associate Librarian Eli, contributed to this project by helping our students gather and organize information about their lives here in New York. Spanish Visual Arts Teacher Carolina Bermudez also lended her creative skills to helping to direct the books’ illustrations.  In music class, Melanie taught both Kindergarten groups how to sing the Uruguayan song “El Gallo Pinto,” which can the Kindergarteners can now often be found singing! 

The project kicked off in late October in Kindergarten Library class. Maria gave students an introduction to Uruguayan culture by sharing photos from her travels, as well as artifacts and ephemera. These included a lab coat-like teacher’s uniform, soccer balls, children’s books, flags, and a colorful puzzle of the map of Uruguay. Next, Maria read the thought-provoking book “Same Same, but Different” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw to continue the conversation about cultural similarities and differences. 

“I recall hearing the cheers of excitement from students the first time the Uruguay floor puzzle was completed. It is visible that students acquired an abundance of knowledge and truly memorable experiences through the project.”
-Maureen Donohue, Kindergarten English Teacher

Parent volunteers and Library Committee members Sabina and Pauline were kind enough to combine the illustrations, text, and photographs together into beautiful books. ISB parents Mariana and Majo also made a sweet contribution to the project: they led students in a hands-on alfajores-making workshop. Alfajores are much-loved South American dessert, made with dulce de leche, cookies, and coconut. They are popular in Uruguay and also in Mariana and Majo’s home country, Argentina.  

“Supporting this project has been amazing! In Spanish Kindergarten, kids were excited to share their knowledge of Uruguay, as we found out that we have some connections in our class through relatives who still live there. All of the kids were curious about their new friends’ lives in Montevideo; I heard so many great questions! But the best part for me was the alfajores workshop. Everyone enjoyed making and eating them! Some kids in our class went experimental and created towers of alfajores: dulce de leche was truly celebrated. I found the project a fun and engaging way for our kids to reflect on their own routines and to discover about kids around the world’s routines. Maria and Eli have been wonderful to make this happen.”
-Sabina, Spanish Kindergarten Parent & Library Committee Member

Pages from the E-Book

In late November, our Kindergartners participated in a video conference with their partner class at St. Brendan’s. After saying hello, the ISB group sang ‘El Gallo Pinto,’ and the St. Brendan’s students performed a condombe dance. Next came a Q&A period. The student groups were very curious about one another and asked many questions. ISB students wondered why the St. Brendan’s group wore uniforms, and they asked us if we have a swimming pool. We found many similarities between our IB schools, as well as a few differences.

In early December, the Kindergarteners presented their project during a Lower School Assembly. All in all, this project was a great success and students enjoyed the opportunity to connect with peers on another continent!

“This was a wonderful project! It was great to see the collaboration across Kindergarten with students, parents, teachers and staff members of ISB. The kindergarteners break into big smiles every time they hear the word “Uruguay” because they feel that they understand many aspects of the country, it’s culture, traditions, clothes, food, and music. This experience has definitely reinforced their open-mindedness.”

-Nuria Montero, Spanish Kindergarten Head Teacher