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3rd Avenue

FROM: Avideh Shashaani

What NEED does this meet?
To the extent that our global society remains a stable fact-of-life, the nations of the world will find it necessary to engage each other on many fronts – economic, diplomatic, and cultural. Fund for the Future of our Children (FFC) believes that such engagement requires of nations that their citizenry “get to know” their global “neighbors.” Only by recognizing and appreciating differences and commonalities across regions and cultures will we be able to pursue our common interests through informed collaborative strategies. FFC’s current projects focuses on providing middle school-age children the means to learn about the wider world, and an opportunity to develop the leadership skills they will require in order to meet the challenges they will face as citizens of the world.

What is the APPROACH?
To meet these goals, FFC has developed an interactive website called 3rd Avenue. The site will present the social, imaginative, and spiritual aspects of the world’s cultures in a way that makes that information both appealing and accessible.

The site is designed to welcome young visitors to a “virtual land” consisting of various regions in which they can pursue a number of activities. In the Commons young visitors learn about the social and artistic aspects of a culture; in the Forest they explore a country’s natural environment, its games, and its folklore; and on the Mountaintop, students are introduced to the sacred practices and mythologies of the society. The structure of each region guides visitors through learning experiences. For example, in the Commons the “Train Station” allows the youngster to “travel through time” to explore a country’s history, and in the Forest a student can visit the Hermit’s Hut to learn about the importance of ecology and ecosystems.

For frequent visitors, 3rd Avenue will become a community of friends, both actual and mythological. They will come to know the (virtual) residents of 3rd Avenue, and get to know each other at the same time. The design of 3rd Avenue also serves another function. The contours of its component regions reflect aspects of the human psyche, encouraging in young people an appreciation of an “ecology of self” – a recognition that all parts of the whole are valuable and necessary to well-being.

An important aspect of the site is the invitation it makes to young people to interact on-line with their peers in other countries. This will be accomplished at first by creating partnerships between teachers from many countries. These teachers will agree to incorporate 3rd Avenue into their curriculum and to encourage their students to work with students from other nations. For example, if students in Poland decide that their community would benefit from a clothing recycling program, they might collaborate in designing such a program with students in Nigeria, whose community has the same need.

In addition, 3rd Avenue will feature discussion forums (Roundtables) where students, either individually or under the direction of their teachers, can experience the process of learning relevant facts concerning some social problem and debating proposed solutions. Such activities will foster skills in peace-making, offer civic education, and provide opportunities for young people to take on the role of leadership. These children have the opportunity to develop personal relationships as they work and learn “together.” Eventually, 3rd Avenue will become generally available on-line, with the interactive portions of the site monitored by adults involved with the project. This will allow interactions between youth who are not necessarily students in recruited classes.

Plans for the continuing development of the site include inviting the participation of high school students, who will be asked to contribute to both content and design. We anticipate that this will be a valuable experience for them -- a fun way to learn more about the world while passing this knowledge on to their younger peers. Other potential collaborators include: teachers, scholars, members of the diplomatic community, and technology experts.

Among the first countries to be featured in 3rd Avenue are: Britain, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, Bhutan, and Iran. We expect the number of countries to grow rapidly once the site is on-line. Eventually, every continent will be represented by many countries.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
3rd Avenue will yield many short term benefits, including:

· for youth: a welcoming community in which they can participate and grow, a tool for accessing information, a window to the world, a doorway to valuable new experiences and relationships, a way to have fun while learning.

· for teachers: a social studies teaching tool, a means of collaboration with other teachers from around the world.

· for parents: the knowledge that while their children are having fun, they are participating in a valuable enterprise – learning about the world, learning how to both negotiate effectively in the world, and learning how to transform the world.

· for the countries of the world: a showcase for their unique culture.

· for the world at large: a training ground for future leaders, in which they learn skills that will enable them to identify problems, see those problems from multiple perspectives, and work with others to solve those problems.

However, the most significant promise held out by the 3rd Avenue project lies several decades in the future, when a second generation of youth reaches the age at which they will benefit from a visit to this virtual land. By that time its first visitors will have reached an age at which they will be creating the intellectual and diplomatic environment in which their country operates. If it has done the job we hope it will do, 3rd Avenue will have influenced them in such a way that they will find tolerance a natural attitude and identification with people from other cultures a natural tendency.

What is the COMPETITION?
In some ways, the 3rd Avenue project will certainly be unique. Its overall goals, its unusual website design, and its reliance on collaboration between people in various walks of life and from around the world of life distinguish it form other international websites. Also, as a social studies curriculum, 3rd Avenue will offer teachers an innovative way to present subject material. We believe no other project addresses the issue of the development of future world citizens in an way as imaginative and potentially influential as FFC’s 3rd Avenue.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
We project our yearly budget to be $471,026 of which $128,485 is in-kind contributions. 3rd Avenue will be built using open source technology, so that others in the community, especially non-profits, can benefit from our efforts. The website will also use technology that is available with inexpensive web hosting environments. The interactive component of 3rd Avenue will be a customized bulletin board system that allows youth from around the world to either participate in or observe discussions that enrich cross-cultural understanding. Full participation in the discussions will require that users expand their knowledge of history, mythology, religion, leaders, world cultures, and more. The supporting content and external links will reinforce the idea that conflict resolution and peace can be achieved and sustained by learning the paradigms, archetypes, and values of other societies, and accepting their validity.

We are currently working toward a number of goals for 3rd Avenue implementation. An in-kind grant from the Meyer Foundation provided us with a technology expert who has developed a Request for Proposals (RFP) for vendors. From this pool of proposals, we plan to select a vendor by the end of December. Additionally, we are currently developing partnerships with local high schools and art schools that will help us build the content of 3rd Avenue. With the collaboration of these schools, we plan to have the content developed for six countries by the end of the year. We have also secured the support of a number of embassies, including The Netherlands, New Zealand, Thailand, and Japan, and we are in the process of securing the support of additional embassies. These embassies will be able to provide support through their cultural and community resources.

November 25, 2003 | Permalink


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