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Featured Outstanding School: Walter Payton College Prep

Students from Chicago and Osaka participated in the Chicago & Osaka Public Transport Seminar, “Past, Present and Future”.  This seminar was initiated by Walter Payton High School and proposed the study of the train, bus and subway system of each city with the emphasis on the travel experience of the students themselves.  Students from Payton went to Osaka and students from Osaka Senior High School visited Payton as part of this project.

Walter Payton and Schurz High School participated in a partnership with Pegasus Players Young Play Writers Program. This program enables students from each city exchange one act plays written in the language they are studying (English or French) Video Conferencing is used throughout the year for participants to connect with each other.  The final product is when students perform the plays for each other by video conferencing.  In 2008, the foundation was put in place to expand this project into a school in Amman, Jordan.

Zulu Language Seminar:  Walter Payton physics teacher, Sam Dyson taught a Zulu language seminar and accompanied students from Chicago to Durban, South Africa.  In return, the Walter Payton students hosted students from South Africa.  Sam Dyson won the prestigious Golden Apple Award in 2007, recognizing his efforts to support the Sister Schools Abroad Program and develop unique opportunities for Chicago Public School students.

Other examples of past exchanges

Students from Chicago participated in Queen Noor’s Arab Children’s Congress and the Amman summer camp in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

Arabic Language Program: Chicago Public Schools received a grant from the State Department to help position Arabic as a critical language in the Chicago Public School system.  Summer, 2007 young people from the high schools that teach Arabic in the Chicago Public School system applied for a summer language program at DePaul University.  These young people studied Arabic and received a stipend.  Also educators from Chicago and the Chicagoland area participated in classes that will lead to teacher certification to teach Arabic.

Members from the Mexico City Education Committee and staff from Chicago Public Schools visited Mexico City and met with schools selected by the University of Mexico City.  They also met with the Secretary of Education for Mexico.  This was a revitalization of the Mexico City Sister Schools program.  The educators have put in place a pilot program to create a stronger link with Spanish and Mexican culture (especially for those students in Chicago of Mexican decent).

Prosser Career Academy sent their Basketball Team to participate in a cultural/sports exchange.  This exchange provided a basketball clinic to students in Birmingham, United Kingdom.  Along with sports and all of the attributes associated with good sportsmanship the young people were able to share information on their lives in Chicago while learning about another culture.  This has become a model for sports exchanges to be replicated with other committees, but also there is talk about bringing a group from Birmingham, United Kingdom here to Chicago to provide a soccer clinic for our students.

A thirty-eight student performance group called “Theater of the Physical” from Birmingham; United Kingdom visited Chicago and performed for schools in the city and suburbs.  As part of their visit, Chicago Public Schools Office of Theater and Literary Programs set up a theater exchange between the “Theater of the Physical” and their counterparts at the youth program at the Steppenwolf Theater, Free Street Youth Theater Project and the Association House Youth Theater Project. 

National Geographic’s Genographic Project

Perhaps the most ambitious and successful partnership to date has been the Genographic Project, a partnership with the Silk Road Project, National Geographic and IBM’s Genographic Project that offers students from Chicago's Sister Cities International Program the opportunity to explore their personal migratory routes out of Africa, over 60,000 years ago, as part of Silk Road Chicago’s year long initiative.  The National Geographic’s Genographic Project ended in the fall of 2007.  Dr. Spencer Wells met with student representatives and teachers from each of the five participating schools to discuss the results of this project based on studying DNA and human migratory paths.  Each school approached the project from a different subject area.  Chicago Public Radio interviewed one of the schools participating in the project and broadcasted excerpts of the students’ fascinating discoveries. The Genographic Project was a landmark, five-year global study of our migratory history, aiming to answer the oldest questions about humankind’s history; who we are and where did we come from.

In an exceptional program for high school students, National Geographic, IBM and Family Tree DNA generously donated 1,000 public participation kits. This means 150 students at each of five public high schools in Chicago had the opportunity to learn about how their ancient ancestors populated the planet, using DNA as a history study tool.


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