In July 2020, Saffron McPhedran ’28 launched a virtual club called Pangaea Kids to connect with other students around the globe.
In 5th grade World Cultural Geography, students study a central question throughout the year: how are people throughout the world similar, and how are they different? To get a jump start, their teacher, Will Piper ’96, assigns a summer reading book called “Children Just Like Me.” While reading the book, Saffron (Saffy) McPhedran ’28 was reminded of her mom’s friends and their kids, who live all around the world. In July 2020, McPhedran created a club called Pangea Kids, and invited those global friends to a virtual meeting every Saturday morning. “At first it was kind of hard because we all spoke different languages,” she said, “but then we started to understand each other. It’s really cool to see people in their houses all over the world.”
The club started out with just five kids, but steadily grew. Today, they have friends who join from Chile, Monaco, Reunion Island, Jordan, and even a friend from Japan, who wakes up at midnight to attend (finding a time that works for everyone has proven to be the biggest hurdle). Each of the members have purchased the book and use its geographical format to explore weekly topics. They take turns researching different continents, and present their findings to the group in the form of slide decks, quizzes, or games. They also regularly share their family life by giving tours of their homes or community. McPhedran led the group a tour of an American grocery store. “We showed everybody the cookies and cakes, it was really cool,” said McPhedran. “And it was fun for my friend Manuel, who lives in Chile and was not allowed to leave his house without a pass due to COVID-19. He really enjoyed it.”
Piper was impressed with McPhedran’s efforts. “Saffy’s project really shows a lot of leadership on her part because she’s hosting meetings and moderating discussions,” he said. “It also shows insight, empathy, and action. She is gaining a lot of insight on how people across the globe live, how geography affects our lives, and she’s developing a sense of empathy as a result.”
For McPhedran, who is a distance learner this year, the project has deepened her connections. “This school year has not been easy for us,” said Cynthia McPhedran, Saffy’s mom. “We’re missing out on the social aspects of school, but this has brought us a lot of joy.”