Many do not know where Tajikistan is located, but several Wauwatosa West students will soon be closely acquainted with the country.
Four Wauwatosa West students and two teachers will travel to Dushanbe, Tajikistan to discuss their work with their peers from Tajikistan and Pakistan at the iEARN Photojournalism 2.014: Heritage, Hunger and Food Security from August 12th to August 20th. Over 150 students and teachers will be participating in the conference.
iEARN (International Education And Resource Network) with funding from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs organized the conference to allow participants in the semester long project to meet. iEARN uses the internet and other technologies to bring together students from different countries to engage in project based learning.
“We hope that the students and teachers participating will increase their knowledge about each others’ countries and cultures; build lasting connections, friendships and bonds with their peers from other countries; learn from each others’ experiences with the Photojournalism 2.014: Heritage, Hunger and Food Security project; strengthen their collaborations with each other; and develop a plan to continue the project through alumni activities.” said Nicole Weitzner, the iEARN director of the Photojournalism 2.014 project.
Lazarski applied to the iEARN Photojournalism 2.014 program in January 2014 and was one of several dozen teachers in the United States to participate in the project which included professional development activities. His 6th hour Global Studies course participated in the program throughout the semester and engaged in numerous activities including a field trip to area farms. After completing the course, he submitted an application in April to take four West students and an additional chaperone. Four other students and two teachers are also traveling from Newton, Connecticut.
According to Social Studies teacher Chris Lazarski, “The Photojournalism 2.014 food project allowed me and my students to identify specific skills we needed to learn and tasks to complete in order to talk with and present our research to students in Tajikistan and Pakistan. Students were highly motivated to research food and farming and learn the basics of photojournalism.”
Students gained a new perspective on food and farming as a result of their participation in the project.
“I learned that in order for food to make it to our plates at home, the process has many more steps than some may realize. Farming is hard work and everyone should appreciate the farmers that take the time to grow vegetables and raise produce on their own in order to meet our everyday needs.” said Wauwatosa West junior Brittney Hunt, who participated in the project and will be traveling to Tajikistan.
Two students from the Global Studies class applied to go on the trip, and Lazarski approached two other students about going. Some students in the class were not interested in travelling or their parents were hesitant to allow their child to participate. In any case, Lazarski created the group of four he was allowed to bring with him on the trip.
Students have a wide variety of reasons for participating, but all area looking forward to experiencing another culture.
“It’ll be good to learn new things and move forward in journalism,” said Senior Alexis Hardy.
“You can see pictures and hear about Tajikistan, but just actually being able to first hand see another part of the world, its amazing.” added Senior Alayna Graf.
Students have been busy researching the country and preparing to travel. One of the requirements to travel is to blog about their preparations. Student blogs can be read here.
The students have met at Lazarski’s house numerous times throughout the summer and had their final meeting on August 3rd about a week before their plane takes off from O’Hare. The excitement was palpable.
“I’m excited to learn how they take pictures…what they find beautiful, what they find interesting, how that would differ from myself,” Hardy said.
The West students will be attending the conference and the emphasis is bringing students from different cultures together.
“I like to travel and I’m Mexican, so I come from a different culture so I thought it’d be cool to learn about them as well,” said senior Alayana Graf, who was the other student from Lazarski’s class.
Lazarski has been preparing for the trip, from researching, to paperwork, to handing out phrase books, which he said he didn’t expect them to be fluent by the time they left, but thought it’d be good for students to learn please and thank you.
“I always wanted to bring students to another country and spend time with other studentsmeet with stude. This is exciting,” Lazarski said.
Parent’s are excited as well, though are naturally aware of unrest in the Middle East.
“I try to say, wow what a chance to see people living regular lives…how do teens just live their lives,” Laura Sear said, who’s son, incoming sophomore Rick Sear is also attending the conference with the group.
Sear went on to say that we all know war torn areas from the news, but just regular lives will be really good to see.
Parents have their concerns, but they are also very excited that their kids will have this chance to go out of the country, for many of their kids it will be the first time.
“It’s going to be a culture shock, to see how they live,” Athena Hunt said.
There is no question to anybody that the trip is going to be an extremely interesting, informative, and exciting trip.
“It’s pretty amazing that Tosa West is heading off to Tajikistan,” Sear said.
The kids themselves have given quite positive outlooks on the trip.
“They love bread, I love bread, this is going to go well,” Hardy said among laughs.