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Published in Print: May 26, 2004, as Ga. Schools Use G-8 Summit As Teaching Tool

Ga. Schools Use G-8 Summit As Teaching Tool

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With eight world leaders gathering on Sea Island, Ga., early next month for the G-8 economic summit—along with the many journalists and demonstrators who will accompany them—educators in the coastal counties of the state have had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach about different cultures and the United States’ role in international affairs.

Using lesson plans devised by the G-8 Host Committee and the Georgia Council on Economic Education, a nonprofit organization that provides resources for teachers, students have been learning parts of the languages of the countries that are represented, studying their monetary systems, and researching facts about British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others who will take part in the June 8-10 meeting.

"We’ve tried to explain what a privilege it is to have the summit in our county," said Lesley Eagle, a teacher of gifted education at Glyndale Elementary School in Brunswick, Ga., part of the 12,000-student Glynn County district.

Children in the lower grades at Glyndale were each given two of the eight countries to study, while 4th and 5th graders were given four. There have also been art projects and daily quiz questions, such as what does the "G" in G-8 stand for? The answer is "group."

Greeting the Dignitaries

Third graders from four Glynn County schools will also be greeting some of the leaders when they arrive at Hunter Army Airfield at Fort Stewart, Ga., presenting them with handmade gifts that depict the scenic region, such as sea turtles.

Also among the greeters will be students from Georgetown Elementary School in Savannah, who have been studying about the summit.

They’ve learned about the languages and customs of the Group of 8 countries—which include the world’s leading industrialized powers—and tasted their foods. The 3rd graders at the 700-student school also had to write essays about the upcoming meeting, which the 4th and 5th graders were to judge.

"You see, [the judges], too, have to do research to make sure the facts are right, so it’s a learning experience for them as well," said Principal Frieda Porzio.

‘What to Expect’

But beyond the academic enrichment that can come with such an event, school officials in the districts near Sea Island are trying to prepare for another type of educational experience—the kind in which children witness tight security procedures and a disruption of their daily lives.

"Our teachers are using this world event at our back door to supplement what they’ve been teaching, but as a community, we don’t know what to expect," said Jim Weidhaas, the director of public information for the Glynn County schools. "I heard there will be Patriot-missile launchers in the grocery store parking lot. I’m not so sure I’d want my kids seeing that level of security deployment."

Some parents asked that their children not participate in any of the greeting ceremonies for security reasons.

School officials feel fortunate that the school year will already be over by the time the summit begins. And the Glynn district has furloughed employees for the week because so many roads and highways will be closed.

In Savannah—where most of the news crews will be stationed—James Harvey, the spokesman for the Savannah- Chatham County school district, said officials were expecting normal business hours, "but that may change."

The children themselves have not been preoccupied with the security preparations, according to Mr. Harvey. Rather, he said, they have been filled with excitement as the event approaches.

Other teachers in districts not far from Sea Island said they would have liked to use the special curriculum materials produced for the occasion, but were too busy preparing for and taking state tests.

"It’s good material, but we got it late," said Andy Preston, the president of the Georgia Council for the Social Studies. "The problem was just getting it to fit."

Reporter-Researcher Marianne D. Hurst and Editorial Intern Tal Barak contributed to this report.

Vol. 23, Issue 38, Page 5

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