Ann Maria Hourigan
Ann Maria Hourigan works in an International Baccalaureate Pre-K – Grade 8 (IB) school in Manhattan consisting of approximately one-third British, one-third American and one-third international families. She plans annual excursions for New York students to visit the school’s sister city in London. She is also Head of the Science Department and IB Coordinator.
Over the past three years, 2013-16, she successfully planned and implemented a variety of cross-cultural opportunities her students.
There are three significant examples of focus in this report:
1. Cross-cultural exchange (London and New York schools)
2. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative
2. British Science Week
Cross-cultural exchange (London and New York school)
Within weeks of commencing her post in 2013, she was entrusted with the honour of planning a grade 7 student exchange excursion program with the sister school in London.
- To connect with the culture and history associated with England and draw on multiple curriculum links from the classroom
- To promote international-mindedness
- To cultivate a sense of community with the sister school, Abercorn School
This involved close curriculum planning with colleagues in London and communicating with British-based and American-based parents to match up host families. In May 2014, a colleague and she traveled transatlantic to London with eighteen students, where they embarked upon the trip of a lifetime. They spent the weekend, evenings and overnight with their host families. By day, it was my responsibility to guide them through the rich history and culture that London has to offer, connecting with relevant areas of their curriculum experiences in New York e.g. Shakespeare’s Globe, The Museum of Natural History, The Science Museum, The British Museum etc. Her American and international students, some of whom had never visited England before, had a life-changing trip. Their first introduction to Britain was, indeed, a very positive one. Simultaneously, British families enjoyed gaining an insight into American life, culture and experiences through hosting.
Photograph 1: Grade 7 and I at The British Museum
Photograph 2: Grade 7 Abercorn and BIS-NY outside Abercorn school, London (May 2015)
Photograph 3: Grade 7 from both schools playing soccer at Central Park (June 2014)
Photograph 4: Grade 7 from both schools playing soccer in a sunnier Regent’s Park, London (May 2014)
The sister school students visited New York three weeks later, and the New York families hosted the British students. Identifying and co-planning educational activities with the British teachers was an excellent example of how she shared educational knowledge of New York with foreign teachers. A river cruise around New York Harbor, taking in the history of Ellis Island, The Statue of Liberty and 9/11 are just examples of experiences we introduced to the visitors. The American Museum of Natural History was a significant learning experience for the British visitors.
On both sides of the Atlantic, students also took part in a school based day called ‘a day in the life of a London/New York student’. Lifelong friendships were established between parents, students and teachers. This transatlantic, cross-cultural trip was repeated in 2015 and will once again occur in 2016, adding to the different cultural and historical experiences already implemented.
Photograph 5: Both schools enjoying a day in New York Harbor (June 2014)
Photograph 6: Both schools at Columbus Circle, Manhattan
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) initiative
In my role as Head of Science, she identified an opportunity to introduce my students to the interconnectedness of these four disciplines to solving problems in the real world. In the first year of my J-1 program, students in the middle years were challenged to identify an area of STEM that they would be passionate about exploring. The winners of the STEM Fair were entered into the Council of British International Schools (COBIS) Science Film Festival 2014 for international recognition for their work. Hundreds of schools across the world entered the competition in multiple categories. Two grade 7 boys (American and British) were nominated in two categories including Best Physics (11-18 years) and eventually won Best Scientific Investigation overall. Sharing the process and product of their work through their Science lessons with British schools on a global platform is a wonderful example of sharing teaching and learning strategies from New York. One of my students has since transitioned to the prestigious Brighton College in the UK after receiving a scholarship and has been awarded Best International Scholar.
The STEM process was repeated in 2015 where my grade 8 international, ESL student (Brazilian) was nominated for Best Biology for her work on using solar disinfectant (SODIS) on Manhattan’s East River.
The introduction of STEM has opened doors for many students and ignited many skills and talents in all students. It is also allowing for British and American STEM professionals to visit the school. In November 2015, Alex Bennet- Grant travelled from the UK and spoke about the creation of ideas and how working together to compliment talents can lead to great things. Alex explained this through the process of the creation of the world’s first Human Arabesque for the inaugural TEDx Summit in 2012 which incorporated the fusion of Architecture, Maths and Dance- interdisciplinary creation in action. Students also enjoyed hearing about Alex’s work with LEGO™ and NASA.
Photograph 9 & 10: STEM professional Alex Bennett-Grant from the UK speaks to Middle Years students (November 2015)
Taking students on STEM field trips also broadens their exposure to education in America. Places of interest such as the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey to explore the Skyscraper Exhibition and to the Queens Hall of Science for a Forensics workshop are excellent examples of promoting Science education in the US.
Grade 6 Skyscraper Exhibition / Quest Exhibit Queens Hall of Science
Energy at Liberty Science Center Forensics Workshop
British Science Week (March 2016)
Promoting Science to young minds is an intrinsic part of my existence as a professional. British Science Week is an established initiative in the UK and has a place at The British International School of New York in 2016. She is using this as an opportunity to promote British History through Science whilst connecting with the London campus in the process so that all students continue to foster strong links with each other. As an example of the many opportunities American students have to communicate via Internet, we streamed a live Science seminar from British Scientist, Dr. Matthew Pritchard who presented at the sister city in Britain, the Abercorn School, on March 11th. Following on from this, students from both schools took part in a Science quiz.
The theme of ‘My Favorite Scientist’ will be introduced through the lens of literacy. Students can focus on one American or one British Scientist that they admire most and complete a wall hanging on that person – history, invention, how they changed the world. This project involves students from grade 1 – grade 5.
During British Science Week, the school community also looks forward to a newsletter article from my Grade 6 American student who attended a talk at Oxford University in the UK. Professor Ian Shipsey, Head of the Particle Physics Department, spoke about “From Quark to the Cosmos” and impressed the American student so much so that she wants to share her thoughts on the topic. She has also arranged for this impressive STEM professional to visit the school later this academic year.
The purpose of the J-1 teacher exchange program is to allow teachers in foreign countries to develop their professional careers whilst immersed in the culture and society of the United States. Sharing the experiences of American life inside and outside the classroom is a common agreement shared by all who participate. Over the past three years, she has been fortunate in that her curve as an educator and as a person has grown significantly, thanks to the Cordell Hull Foundation J-1 teacher exchange program.
Although, initially accepted onto the program as Head Science Teacher in 2013, she was also appointed IB Co-ordinator in September 2015. This is an excellent example of her professional growth curve. It is in this role that the exchange of teaching methods is explicit. Leading American, British and International Middle School teachers in the teaching of the curriculum is fascinating. Everybody learns and tries new pedagogy, and the school is a richer teaching and learning environment as a result. British teachers returning to the UK take new methods to share back home and leave behind the best of their pedagogy with their American and international counterparts.
She believes that is it not just my role to feedback the wonderful experiences of education in New York. Many of the British and international students often transition back to their home countries. By providing positive educational experiences as outlined in this report, it is my belief that the feedback they provide to their new schools is vibrant, powerful and deepens others’ understanding to what education in America is about. Student voice is a very powerful voice indeed.
Over the next two years, she plans to continue the initiatives that she has implemented since the beginning of her J-1 visa program and make even further improvements. Sustaining the links with the sister school in London is all important to strengthening the bond between these two cultures. It is a mutually beneficial initiative to both teachers and students. Providing global platforms through COBIS (Council of British International Schools) to showcase teachers’ work must continue in order to highlight US classroom successes. Guiding the Middle School curriculum and maximising international opportunities to increase understanding of the world for her students are ongoing commitments.
She received a Blackboard Award in June 2016 at the New York Institute of Technology on Broadway for excellence in education and outstanding contribution to New York City students. See: http://www.newyorkfamily.com/2016-blackboard-award-honoree-ann-marie-hourigan/ and https://www.facebook.com/BritishSchoolNY/
Ann Maria Hourigan, Head Science Teacher/ IB MYP Co-ordinator