Engaging Youth in Thoughtful Dialogue Across Distance & Difference

November 9, 2017 / by Abigail Finck

How could Syrian refugees transform a school in Los Angeles from 7,500 miles away?

Technology has truly opened classroom doors and communication between students in different schools or districts -- whether nearby or across the country. Opportunities to engage with peers who may have different perspectives are becoming more and more common. For example, Jo Paraiso uses Google Hangouts with her students so they can talk with peers across the country.

VIDEO: Using Technology to Boost Confidence 

VIDEO: Using Technology to Boost Confidence 

However, it’s not so often, if ever, that you hear about students in South Los Angeles, Jordan, and Syria having the opportunity to speak to one another, and most definitely not about difficult issues impacting their respective communities. Through the Global Nomads Group’s Pulse program, Syrian and Jordanian students in Amman connected with peers in Los Angeles for a live conversation to do just that.


Sharing a virtual reality experience, curricular resources, and live dialogue, the students learned about one another, the Syrian Refugee crisis, the challenges each community faced, and how they could take action in their own communities.

Throughout the course of the live conversation, the students in Los Angeles shared about the “food desert” in which their community lives. It’s difficult for them to find healthy food that's affordable, which is negatively affecting the health of their families.

This was particularly confusing for the students in Jordan and Syria. Many of the students talked about the importance of gardens in their families and for their communities. They talked about how growing food is an important part of health and survival in many circumstances.

“I have an aunt in Syria. They have a lack of food. So my aunt’s family, they started to plant groceries and vegetables. That’s why they are alive until now.”

 Syrian student living in Amman, Jordan

Syrian and Jordanian students questioned decisions to eat fast food, to live in neighborhoods with poor access to healthy food, and why students in Los Angeles don’t have gardens at their homes. What started as a conversation to better understand a local struggle, resulted in young people from across the globe sharing multiple perspectives, communicating across differences, a South L.A. school’s new community garden, and students inspired to address a challenge.

Young people today rarely have opportunities to meaningfully engage across distance and difference to develop their critical thinking, communication skills, or ability to see and understand expanded perspectives. Global Nomads Group (GNG) has designed our Pulse series to help provide opportunities for timely, engaging, and easily integrated programming:

Timely & Topical Discussion

  • All GNG Pulse programs are based on current events or social dynamics that matter to youth and their communities.


  • GNG Pulse offers youth live, peer-to-peer discussion opportunities with people they would not normally have the chance to meet.

Applicable/Build On Your Lesson Plans

  • Curricula and other resources are designed to easily enhance your subject areas. Our programs have been integrated into ELA, history, and social studies classes and are also great content for advisory programs, electives, and after-school programs.

For the last twenty years, GNG programs have connected educators and students from across the globe to have meaningful conversations on a wide range of topics and themes to help build empathy, awareness, and action.

This year GNG is hosting a series of conversations to engage youth across distance and difference in thoughtful dialogues that leverage both their critical thinking and communication skills through the exploration of issues like religion, race, immigration, and genocide.

For program series descriptions and to join our live conversation, register below.


Siroun 2

Siroun tells a story about a friendship between an Armenian boy and Turkish boy against the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide. Filmed on the set of The Promise, the experience offers viewers an opportunity to immerse themselves in a rural Ottoman village at this moment in history, creating a foundation of empathy to consider the choices and experiences of everyday people caught at the crossroads of civil war and genocide.

A one-time webcast event will directly connect three classrooms with Terry George, Director of the film The Promise. The virtual reality experience places the user directly on the set of the film to witness the friendship against the backdrop of the Armenian Genocide.

Available Opportunities:


Facing Difference Series

Differences help define who we are, and engaging with people who are different -- sharing stories and learning about their experiences -- broadens our own perspectives and makes us more creative, innovative, and aware. Why then is it so difficult to meaningfully engage with people and ideas that are different from our own?

The Facing Difference webcast series will explore topics of religion, race, and immigration, while the virtual reality experience moves you through a sequence that raises questions about identity.

Available Opportunities:

Global Nomads Group has made an impact: GNG programs have reached more that one million students, connected 60 countries, and explored seven continents. After participating in GNG programs, teachers report that their students are more enthusiastic about contributing to positive change in their communities, made substantial gains in global awareness, and developed digital literacy skills.

GNG believes that if we use technology and innovative pedagogy to connect students and guide them as they engage in meaningful dialogue, they'll make new discoveries; not only about each other, but also about themselves, their communities, and their ability to take action on the issues -- local, national, and international -- that impact their lives and the lives of others. These connections will result in a network of global citizens who have the skills and disposition to change the world for the better.

Register today and experience Pulse with your students!

How do you engage students in difficult conversations across difference and distance? What resources do you use to promote global awareness and understanding?

Topics: Student Voice, Classroom Experiences, Engagement, English Language Learners, Social Studies, Resources

Abigail Finck

Written by Abigail Finck

Abigail Finck is the Brand and Marketing Manager for Global Nomads Group. She currently works to ensure Global Nomads Group's offerings, brand, and impact are effectively communicated and celebrated. As the team’s resident storyteller, she has been instrumental in building GNG's marketing strategies and has managed several youth media initiatives that have taken her across the country and around the world, from high schools in New Jersey to the highlands of Peru. Whether it is Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, young people facing extreme poverty across the world, or the viral KONY 2012 campaign, Abigail uses first-hand accounts to help others connect in a much deeper way, empathize with one another, and better understand our common humanity. When her entrepreneurial spirit, passions, and work intersect, Abigail comes alive allowing her to excel in projects, task, and roles. Outside of work, you can find this explorer on the move with camera and paintbrush in hand, looking for her next adventure and inspiration.

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