It's no secret that one of the hardest-hit areas during this pandemic has been travel. During a typical year, Tabor students would have already taken multiple opportunities to travel, domestically and abroad, and experience new places, people, and things. This year, however, has called for a lot of creativity to deliver a similar experience. Tabor's Chair of Modern & Classical Language and Spanish teacher Jonathan Sirois took this challenge head-on by connecting our students with students worldwide in a project known as Breaking Bread.
"This is an exciting project we launched last November, and it is essentially a global, virtual student exchange," said Mr. Sirois. "Confronting the reality that traditional travel and exchange programs were not going to run this year, we sought creative solutions to provide our students the ability to grow as global citizens, to become more empathetic, and to engage interculturally."
Breaking Bread is a network of schools and organizations worldwide, from New Mexico, U.S. to as far west as Istanbul, Turkey. Currently, the group has about 75 students working together in teams of ten. The idea is that students are engaging in fun, informal activities but also having serious, meaningful conversations.
"Why Breaking Bread? Well, Breaking Bread is a nod to that feeling you get when you bring somebody into your home or when someone welcomes you into their home," commented Mr. Sirois. "It's that feeling of sitting around the dinner table, laughing, sharing stories and connecting deeply and meaningfully with somebody whom you otherwise wouldn't know if you didn't take a chance. We want to provide students those opportunities as much as we can."
The group worked together for three weeks and over that time period they accomplished a lot together. First, they started with an important dialog in which students got to know each other informally while also answering the questions: what does your daily routine reveal about your personality? What does it say about your life? After that, students shared stories about their common pandemic experience and their hopes for the future.
Continuing with the cultural immersion, students were then asked to create videos using Flipgrid on topics ranging from simple introductions to reflections on happiness to tours of their hometowns. Finally, students made videos of themselves breaking bread by creating a dish that is important to them and also culturally relevant to share with the group.
The entire group recently held a virtual Zoom meeting to reconnect with each other and react to their videos and stories. Conversations then touched on the topics of racial justice, climate change, and freedom of speech. Students answered the questions: why does this topic matter to me? Why does this matter to the people around me? Why does this matter to the world?. "As you can imagine having these conversations with students from around the world, the responses ran the gamut and we had a really powerful dialogue."
Moving forward, the Breaking Bread program will expand with the inclusion of 5-7 new schools just in time for the "relaunch" of the program for the new year in January. When the program kicks off again, there will be a four week period between January-February and then another session in the spring. In addition to more opportunities for live dialogue, there will be student-led interest groups such as a book, activism, coding, and cooking clubs, as well as a team-based project of consequence, inspired by authentic global challenges and oriented towards ethical action-taking.
“We are equally inspired and excited by the project so far,” said Mr. Sirois. “We had a great pilot run and are incredibly grateful to the schools and students who took a chance and jumped in with us. We are looking forward to expanding in the coming months and growing in both intentionality and impact.”