New York – As China and India rise in the 21st century, some say the “culture gap” between the U.S. and the rest of the world could be fatal to its place in the sun.
And as a naturalized American, Rupert Murdoch is keenly aware of the phenomenon. Being Australian-born and well-traveled gives the News Corp. (nyse: NWS – news – people ) chairman and chief executive a global perspective.
And so the billionaire is taking action. In a press release on Tuesday, Murdoch’s media colossus and Jones Apparel Group (nyse: JNY – news – people ) said they’re joining forces to show America the world-in person.
News Corp. and Jones Apparel announced a major grant to Fund For Teachers (FFT), an entity that furnishes “outstanding teachers” with shots at exotic summer learning and exploration.
The two corporations have donated to enable educators from America’s most “global” metropolis, New York City, to study in Asian nations. The hope is that said teachers will be better able to instill, first-hand, a broader understanding of Asia into American students.
With an infusion of $1.5 million, the News Corp. Asian Grant Program will be managed by New Visions for Public Schools, the New York metro area’s administrative partner of FFT.
Through its Jones New York In The Classroom organization, the clothier has pledged $300,000 to FFT. Teachers will create their own Asian itineraries, and this donation will be used to develop curricula to “enrich the learning experience in the classroom and in cities and towns across” America.
Raymond Plank, founder of FFT said in the statement that “Children need to understand and embrace the global environment to survive as adults. The culture gap is a huge threat to the global workforce.”
Murdoch echoed that sentiment – with a dose of optimism: “We are proud to sponsor a program that will prepare our students to face the challenges and opportunities of a globally connected world.”
Ojala. One can only hope.
Among donors and hosts, generosity reigns at garden party
Cynthia and Tony Petrello stepped up to the plate in a major way with the Fund for Teachers garden party Friday night.
They opened the lush gardens of their elegant Remington Lane home to a crowd of 300 for a buffet dinner and later dancing to the sounds of Chaka Khan.
Of course, they had good reason. Their close friend Gene Isenberg, Nabors Industries chairman and CEO, was honoree. Tony serves as president and COO of the drilling company. All that and their interest in education prompted the generous Petrellos to completely underwrite the evening.
he dapper Isenberg and his wife, Ronnie, moved through the crowd greeting such important players as Raymond Plank, Fund for Teachers founder and Apache Corp. chairman.
The crucial question for the party hosts and planner Richard Flowers on this weather-filled weekend was tents or no tents. In the end, they took the safe route, erecting a vast tent for the buffet dinner and program and a separate party tent decorated like a swank nightclub for dessert and dancing.
The evening served as the culmination of the Fund for Teachers’ annual spring fundraising push, an effort that brought in $1.8 million. In the crowd were Anne Mendelsohn, Jill and Jeff Collins, Mary Lou and Walt Smith, Susie and Bob Peebler, Leticia and Steve Trauber and Linda and Jeff Stephens.
Rupert Murdoch (L), CEO of News Corporation, Peter Boneparth (C), CEO of Jones Apparel Group and founder of the Jones New York In The Classroom initiative, and Raymond Plank, founder of the Fund for Teachers, pose at an event recognizing the combined donation of $2 million from the above companies to support Fund For Teachers in New York May 8, 2006. The grant will send teachers to study in Asia, bringing back culture, language and a global perspective into the American classroom.
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Bear Creek pupils, parents treated to virtual tour
It might have be Mona Lisa’s indecipherable smile or the white-marbled beauty of the armless sculpture of Aphrodite.
And it might have been that Bear Creek Elementary School parents and pupils only had to make a short trip from home to experience these and other masterpieces of the Louvre.
But parent Stacey Vincent is giving rave reviews for a recent virtual tour of the Paris museum by more than 300 adults and children, mostly pupils in art classes taught by the tour’s host, Bear Creek teacher Lisa Sitz.
“Come Away with Me to the Louvre,” an evening featuring Sitz’s filmed trip through the museum plus a sampling of French cuisine and a few artsy activities, premiered Feb. 16 at the school, 4815 Hickory Downs.
The event was the result of a project that began last year when Sitz received a $4,500 grant through the Fund For Teachers foundation to record her actual trip to the Paris museum and create a program for her students.
“When everybody came in, we got little passports and boarding passes. (Sitz) made it like we were going on the trip with her,” said Vincent, whose 10-year-old daughter Savannah is in Sitz’s fifth-grade art class. “We started off with the food — croissants with ham and cheese, crepes with strawberries — then she welcomed us to Paris.”
Through video footage, Sitz took the “tourists” down the Louvre’s hallways, stopping at various art works. When it was complete, young assistants passed out candy that children in the audience used to form portraits.
Children also made wearable pens and magnets out of square-inch porcelain pieces Sitz stamped with the image of Paris’s famed Eiffel Tower.
“Savannah had a lot of fun with that. She thought it was great, especially making the little faces, and she got to eat the candy afterward,” Vincent said.
Sitz has what nearly amounts to a fan club among her students and their parents, Vincent said.
For Sitz, who began teaching in 1980 when she helped to open Cimarron Elementary School in Katy, the love of art is secondary to the joy of sharing it with her students.
“I took a break when my daughter was born and stayed home with her for 12 years, when I had a the Blue Bonnet Pottery Studio in Katy,” said Sitz, 50. “But besides making and selling pottery, I was usually teaching while I was there, so six years ago I came back to the classroom at Bear Creek Elementary.”
Sitz still keeps two pottery wheels at the school and uses them to help her students make sculpture art.
“I love art history and I have a history-based curriculum,” said Sitz, a former commercial artist for Houston’s Sakowitz store.
She had toured major museums in Paris and London before her 2005 trip, one reason she undertook the lengthy application process for the Fund For Teachers grant to create a project that would capture the Louvre on film and in more than 1,000 digital images.
“I came up with the project idea to do a virtual tour with hand-held cameras, where the kids are (mentally) walking with me through the museum — ‘OK, kids, let’s gather around and look closely at this Rembrandt,’ ” Sitz said.
Sitz, who has a 1977 art degree with an emphasis on sculpture from Trinity University in San Antonio, made the project interactive, with students keeping art journals and sketching the pictures or making notes about what they saw along the way.
“It was educational and it was a lot of fun for all ages,” Vincent said.
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