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Students travel the world through the Web, a lesson at every port

At Manhattan’s PS 140, students in Tony Paulino’s middle school Spanish classes are exploring the geography, economics, and culture of South America, all without leaving their classroom.

They’re using the Internet to follow the One Road South team of adventurers on a 14-month bicycle trip around the continent. Through a program called Reach The World, kids at 60 of the city’s elementary and middle schools are getting a taste of global citizenship by following the One Road South bikers, a family traveling in Europe, a bike trek in Africa, and a Harlem teacher working with scientists in Antarctica through online videos, journals, and field notes.

Sometimes, students even get to meet the travelers they are following online. Three of the four One Road South bicyclists recently visited Paulino’s classes to present a slide show about the places they plan to visit.

The students jumped in with questions, asking if the travelers were afraid of wild animals, running out of food, or going for 14 months without having a girlfriend.

But Reach the World isn’t just for fun. The program aims to integrate technology into the classroom, to bring subjects like science and social studies to life, and to encourage students to think of themselves as global citizens, according to administrators.

Teachers plan activities that relate the online adventures to state learning standards, thanks to the help of interns from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Reach The World program manager Natasha Anderson said third graders at one school will be creating passports where they record what they learn about each country that their expedition visits.

“What makes this such a powerful tool for teachers is that they can request a certain kind of content, and we can change what we do to fit what they need,” said One Road South’s Dan Wallace, who is in charge of working with teachers from South America.

Evanellys Santos and Michael Rodriguez, both eighth graders in Paulino’s class, said they would be following the journey from PS 140’s computer lab, where they’ll watch videos posted online and correspond with One Road South by e-mail. They expect to learn about the customs, food, and language of the countries visited, they said.

The students told me they didn’t know anyone who had gone on a long trip like One Road South’s. But after watching the slide show, Rodriguez said, “It seems like a really fun trip to go on to experience other people’s lifestyles.”

Their teacher, Tony Paulino, said his students are “beside themselves” with excitement about following the One Road South bikers. “I believe it speaks to the core desire we all share, to dream, to travel and to explore,” he said.

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