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Exploring the Dominican Republic with UNC World View

By Dia Crist, First-Grade Teacher

World View is an outreach of UNC-Chapel Hill providing K-12 and community college educators with global knowledge and resources to engage students in our diverse world. Each summer, World View offers an international trip for educators with a goal of providing culture and educational practices of specific countries. Educators in community colleges and K-12 teachers may apply through a school or sponsorship to attend the international summer experience.

This year, I was selected as the recipient for the Dominican Republic Study Visit for Ravenscroft. While there, I traveled across the country and visited a wide range of schools and significant historical sites.

Beginning in Colonial City, the historic district of Santo Domingo, I visited two restored plantations, danced to live music in San Francisco Monastery, explored the National Cathedral and visited three different schools. During our school visits, we met with the heads of school, learned about the schools’ missions and toured classrooms, although, because it was during the school’s vacation season, I was not able to interact with students during our school visits.

After three days of exploring Santo Domingo, we packed small backpacks of essentials and hiked down the Jarabacoa Mountains to stay in the Jarabacoa Women’s Cooperative. The co-op operates a small organic farm and provides economic development and training for the surrounding villages. For me, this was truly the most life-changing experience of the whole trip. The women we met at JWC were incredibly important to their community. They started the co-op with dreams that their children would be able to receive an education and live a full life beyond the village. For three days, we ate, laughed, worked and lived with these families in tiny huts without electricity or properly running water. It was a true immersion of culture and an experience that I am so grateful for. We ended our trip in Santiago and the Puerto Plata province. We visited three more schools and explored the roles of women in education. We marveled at the beautiful Leon Museum, rich in the Dominican culture, and ended our studies at the beaches of Cabarate.

I learned so much history of the beautiful Dominican people but even more about myself as an educator and citizen leader. There is so much we take for granted in our classrooms and everyday life. It is apparent that people in the Dominican Republic do not have as much to live with, but they are so proud of who they are and their history. This trip was a wonderful reminder of the importance of recognizing our children’s backgrounds, traditions and life practices.

This trip has reinforced my desire to expose our students to other countries. Currently, I am working on a new unit for my first-graders that ties into our social studies and technology unit. Students are introduced to a website where they will be able to explore and research families from different parts of the world. They can investigate images of items found around the homes of families who live in another country. This unit will allow students to compare and contrast families and their homes to our own lifestyles in the U.S. I have also added a number of mentor texts to our classroom libraries that show children and families from around the world.

World View provides educators with the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new country, surrounded by people with a common goal: success and inclusion for all children. I was given a gift when Ravenscroft accepted me into the World View program. It was one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, experiences in my adult life. I applied with the hopes that I would be able to appreciate our education system more in the United States, and I left the program with so much gratitude. There are citizen leaders everywhere in the world, and World View reminded me that all children have the potential to change our world.