From flat permafrost tundra to glowing active volcanos and massive icy glaciers, Iceland is unlike anything you would experience in the Shenandoah Valley. It could almost feel like a world away from the rolling hills and red brick buildings of Winchester, Virginia. This new environment was the perfect location for a Global Citizenship Project trip, March 2 through March 11, 2018.
Shenandoah University Child Care Center teacher Rachel Carter-Conklin spends her days educating a classroom full of 4-year-olds, but over spring break, Carter-Conklin left for an adventure of a lifetime, traveling with a GCP group to Iceland. When she returned, she couldn’t wait to share her stories with her curious, young students, turning her journey into a teaching opportunity for them.
The GCP group spent five days in the countryside, where they visited a high school and an elementary school. She found that visiting schools and interacting with Icelandic students were highlights of the trip. “We saw how their style of teaching is different from ours.”
She also enjoyed Iceland’s breathtaking landscape, dramatic waterfalls and cultural delights.
Every place I went, I was thinking, ‘Oh, the kids would love this.’”
Not all of the GCP trip was spent in the rural regions of Iceland. The group wrapped up its time in the country with excursions to Parliament and Thingvellir, where tectonic plates meet. They also visited museums and walked around the harbor in Reykjavik. “It’s such a beautiful city,” said Carter-Conklin, who couldn’t wait to bring her stories back to her students.
“In the mornings, the Shenandoah daycare is a preschool, and in the afternoon, it is for playtime and child care,” said Carter-Conklin. “We create an educational environment in the morning. There is a curriculum, and part of the curriculum is global studies.”
She worked her GCP Iceland experiences into the global studies curriculum.
The kids were very excited to be learning about Iceland. I brought back some wool from the sheep over there and volcanic rocks from one of the waterfalls we visited. I also told the kids a story about the volcanoes to go along with the rocks. I brought back some Icelandic money, or Krona, and compared it to the U.S. dollar. The Krona have some fish and sharks on them. We have a couple of kids who love sharks, so I knew they would enjoy it. I brought back some baby pine cones and some black sand from Black Sand Beach. When students can touch and see what we are talking about, it really helps with their ability to understand.”
As part of the Shenandoah University Child Care global studies curriculum, the students have learned about Poland, Italy, Germany and Canada. Carter-Conklin said, “I hope to keep Iceland in the curriculum because it is definitely worth talking about. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I was very fortunate to go.”
Shenandoah University’s Child Care Center provides a safe, nurturing environment for children whose parents (or legal guardians) are employed, enrolled as a university student, or who are alumni. We believe well-rounded children develop through a variety of experiences and stimuli. Each child is encouraged to participate in teacher-initiated activities, as well as self-initiated activities, that are conducive to achieving a well-rounded experience. Most importantly, we feel it is essential that each child develops a positive self-concept, feels loved, secure, and safe while in our care.
By Elise O’Neill-Eckman ’19