Imagine Group V girls laughing and writing stories with young Iraqis living in a displaced persons’ camp and longing for contact with the outside world. Picture an Upper School English class meeting with Honduran high school students to discuss the global reach of hip-hop music. Envision GA dancers collaborating with peers in Afghanistan, or Spanish classes speaking in the target language with children in Mexico. These were the possibilities created by the GA_Portal, a gold shipping container housing immersive audio-visual technology that connects to a global network.
Positioned next to Ruth West Campbell hall, the GA_Portal was at once art installation and dynamic classroom. From September 15 to December 15, it linked GA to Portals located in a high school in El Progreso, Honduras, an arts foundation in Kigali, Rwanda, the Harsham Camp in Erbil, Iraq, and a community center in downtown Milwaukee, as well as other locations.
A traditional Portal visit lasts for 20 minutes and begins with a universal prompt: “What would make today a good day for you?” GA teachers have elaborated on this approach and developed lesson plans that utilize the Portal in class discussions, writing projects, dance and music performances, and artistic collaborations across disciplines and ages.
The power of Portals lies in the immediacy of the connection and the simplicity of the medium. Visitors stand in a grey, carpeted interior that eliminates external context, creating a sense of being in the same room with someone who is actually thousands of miles away. Portals insist we pay greater attention to those living in another part of the globe, and as we learn about a foreign culture, we ultimately learn more about ourselves. The Portal Project aligns with GA's campus-wide focus on citizenship this year, bringing our students one step closer to becoming citizens of an increasingly interconnected world.