Skip to content
Global Education

Nurturing Global Leaders: The Creative Journey of E.M. Yoder Elementary’s Third Graders

At E.M. Yoder Elementary School in Mebane, North Carolina, a group of third-grade students demonstrated the connection between thinking globally and acting locally through an unusual medium: soccer balls. The school’s recent Curriculum Night—an opportunity for all grades and students to showcase their accomplishments—was more than a glorified “show and tell’; it was a vibrant celebration of sustainability, creativity, and the profound impact of educational initiatives, like the Global Leaders framework, that interweave classroom learning with real-world applications.

Exploring global issues through creativity

Inspired by compelling videos that featured students from various African regions crafting soccer balls from recycled materials, the third-grade class embarked on a semester-long adventure. With the encouragement and guidance of specialists Hannah Kucewicz (physical education), Kathryn Cranford (library), and Lisa Baker (art), these young global leaders dove into a project that exemplified responsible consumption while embracing and encouraging their creativity. With donated materials, they fashioned soccer balls of various sizes, from those as small as softballs to others as large as watermelons, embodying the spirit of sustainability through each step of their creation.

But the journey didn’t end there. Collaborating closely with Ms. Kucewicz, students designed original, soccer-inspired games, complete with rules and instructions, an assignment that was seamlessly integrated into their homeroom and art classes. Not only did this project teach them about the importance of sustainability, but it also enabled them to explore their creativity, fostering a hands-on learning experience that spanned multiple aspects of their curriculum.

The heart of this project lay not just in the creation of the soccer balls or the invention of new games but also in the embodiment of crucial global competencies. E.M. Yoder Elementary intentionally focuses on developing self-awareness, communication, empathy, valuing differences, flexibility, critical thinking, and global connections. These competencies, woven into the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) matrix PRIDE, were at the forefront as students navigated the creative and communicative aspects of their projects.

Local action, global impact

The Curriculum Night served as an exciting platform for students to present their innovative work to families and community members. The display of handcrafted soccer balls, personalized jerseys, and informative posters detailing the game rules drew the attention of the attendees. A live demonstration of one of the student-created soccer games underscored the evening’s theme: “local action, global impact,” showcasing the students’ dedication to sustainability and their ability to think critically about global issues.

This event highlighted the seamless integration of cross-curricular planning and the benefits it brings. Through this unique project, students learned valuable lessons in teamwork, creativity, and the importance of community action to effect global change—as did their teachers. Their efforts beautifully illustrated the impact educational initiatives can have when they combine learning with real-world applications, fostering an environment where students are encouraged to explore, create, and make a difference.

E.M. Yoder Elementary’s partnership with Participate Learning has been pivotal in enriching the educational experience with a global perspective since 2016. This collaboration has recently led the school to achieve the “Accomplished” designation through the Global Leaders framework, a testament to its dedication to fostering global awareness and sustainability among its students.

At E.M. Yoder Elementary, the journey of these third graders is a terrific example of how young minds, when nurtured in an environment that values global competencies and creativity, can truly make a difference in the world. This is the essence of what it means to educate not just young students but also conscientious global citizens poised to shape the future.

Share this Post

More on the blog