George Lucas Educational Foundation

Project Connections

Project Connections

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In honor of Connected Educator Month, let's hear from educators who are connecting students by designing projects that extend beyond the school walls or even across time zones. What tips and tools can you share with others who are considering their first networked projects? Anyone looking for a potential partner school for this fall? Let's start connecting here! (To learn more about Connected Educator Month events, go to

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Grant Lichtman's picture
Grant Lichtman
Chief Operating Officer, Francis Parker School, San Diego

The following is an excerpt from my blog of May 25, 2012 at I invite people to watch our movie ( and reflect on how true immersion with partner/friends in other countries is very different from normal service learning or overseas tour programs. Since we have established our program we have set up our own NGO through which we can participate in sustainable assistance through and with our partners in the Philippines with no red tape. A great learning experience, and one I would be happy to help others develop and leverage. Here is the extract from my blog post:

A decade ago a couple of teachers and I wanted to start a global program at our school. It did not get legs until about five years ago. At that point we looked at several models for how to create overseas experiences for your students. We asked a lot of questions about the essential outcomes we wanted to create. We tested, probed, experimented, tweaked. We decided these would not be tourist trips. We want to engage with foreign cultures as much as possible, and you do that by getting close to people. We decided we would incorporate a component of service, of giving back, but that the main take-away for our students should be "we received more than we could possibly give, just by being here and sharing with you."

I pushed the envelope the furthest. Long story short: every year I lead a two-week trip to the Philippines. The students stay in villages where the shower is a bucket of water and bed may be the floor. We go back to the same villages each year and have created long-term sustainable partnerships. We have established our own NGO in support of schools, day care centers, an orphanage, and a home for abused girls. We sent immediate relief supplies when the area was hit by a typhoon last year. Demand for the trip is huge every year.

Last year I had two teachers with a combined 40+ years experience with me. Both said the trip was the single most authentic educational experience of their careers.

Guess what is talked about at every one of our admissions events now? Our global trips, and how they really differentiate us from other schools. Guess which trip is used as the model of what we can accomplish in terms of student experience? Our Philippines trip. We created value that has translated into admissions demand for the school, and admissions demand is our lifeblood. We did it by taking risks, pushing at the margins, creating a relationship that never existed.

I am really proud of what we have done; we created something with real value out of nothing but an idea. Real innovation takes time and involves risk, but the payout is worth it. If you want to spend 30 minutes sharing this experience with our students and some great Filipino educators and village folks, watch the movie I made. It's a little long because listening to students talk about this "most authentic educational experience" takes a bit of time. Enjoy!

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