While most New York City kids went to school on June 12, Downtown Elementary School (DTES) students “traveled” to South Korea.
Anytime, Anywhere is a DTES tradition that began in 2016 in which the school’s spaces are transformed into another country (and, at moments, into another time).
In years past, Prospectors from DTES have traveled to Israel, Ecuador, Iran, Japan, Nigeria, and the Dominican Republic.
Developed in line with the pillars of the International Baccalaureate program, Anytime, Anywhere encourages internationalism for our students while underscoring the importance of knowing about the world outside of our own country.
“Through this experience, which is fueled by curiosity, we learn to respect and value the cultures of others and the ways in which they persisted in times of struggle with passion and strength,” said Folake Akinola-Pinard, Principal of Downtown Elementary. “[Our] faculty, staff, and families work together to bring the destination to life for the students with musical performances, cultural demonstrations, a ‘Corridor of Contributions,’ food tasting, dancing, and much more.”
Indeed what makes the experience immersive is how the school is transformed to resemble parts of the country, in this case, the one that occupies the southern portion of the Korean peninsula. And what’s more, this is not an “all-expenses-paid” trip. Students must work hard all month on lessons to “generate fuel” to power the methods of transport they will take to their destination.
This year, the fuel subject area was math. Each week, 5th-graders collected the work that students were most proud of and each piece of work counted as a mile towards the trip. The curriculum in other classes—history, language, art, and music, also focused on Korea.
Bright and early that Monday morning, Prospectors began their day as any typical airline passenger’s day would. They presented boarding passes to “agents” and passed through a TSA-like checkpoint in the DTES gym. Groups of Prospectors then boarded elevators decorated like a Korean Air plane.
Following a meticulous schedule, each class was taken on a guided tour through each floor, which had an installation connected to the geography, history, and culture of the country.
“With ‘Anytime, Anywhere,’ we provide students with windows and mirrors—this is an opportunity for some of our students to see themselves in school as well as to celebrate cultures different from their own,” said Anita Walsh, artist-in-residence, a founding Prospect Schools employee, and a master art teacher who led the construction of a typical South Korean home on one of the floors.
While visiting the home, Prospectors enjoyed some tea and learned more about Korean pottery made with celadon. They also toured and tried on hanbok, which is traditional Korean clothing.
Then it was off to the market, where Prospectors enjoyed delicious Korean fares such as kimbap, kimchi, and sweet rice cakes. They also stopped to enjoy some popular K-Pop music videos in one of the hallways.
A trip to South Korea wouldn’t be complete without noraebang, or Korean-style karaoke—a popular activity to do with a group of friends. Prospectors experienced a private karaoke room rental with a catalog, microphones, and the traditional noraebang lights and atmosphere.
The day also included a taekwondo lesson by our very own Maestra Julia [Cho], her family, and some volunteers. In fact, Anytime, Anywhere wouldn’t be possible without the help of parent and staff volunteers, 40 of which helped out this year to make the excursion to Korea a success! Let’s not forget the student volunteers from Brooklyn Prospect High School, whose work during the week leading up to the trip, with the support and vision of Ms. Walsh, made the experience 아름다운 (beautiful)!
For 5-year-old kindergartener Carter Lazarus, the day was full of new experiences—some which he loved and others that he will take some getting used to. Kimchi, for instance, he “didn’t like so much.” But the Korean snacks make him want to travel to the real country. The tea made him “feel like home.” And the taekwondo was “fun.”