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Project teaches students about global affairs

Courtney Owens, a junior at Central Valley High School, can tell you the leader of Nigeria is Goodluck Jonathan. The country’s largest export is oil, and they have a 63.9 percent literacy rate. She said 40 percent of Nigerians are Christian and 50 percent are Muslim.

These are just a few of the facts Owens can tell you about the African nation.

Owens and her marketing classmates at the school, as well as 26 students from East Valley High School’s marketing class, held an economic summit Tuesday to present what they’ve learned over the past six weeks.

Robin Barnhart, marketing teacher at CV, said students drew names for the country they studied. There were 34 countries studied, and the United States was not one of the options.

“We try to mirror the real world economically,” Barnhart said.

Students learned about the population of the country, information about the top exports and imports, how many computers or televisions per person were available in the country, traditional foods and more.

It wasn’t mandatory, but some students dressed in traditional costumes or brought samples of traditional food.

Kylie Anderman, a junior from CV, studied up on Australia with Madison Hovren, a sophomore. The two students have relatives in that country and were surprised by what they learned.

“It was started by England as a prison camp,” Hovren said.

They learned the country has a large population of venomous animals and 8 percent of all bites are fatal. The two displayed a poster board with pictures of the country’s leaders and included a slideshow on an iPad.

Anderman said one of Australia’s most popular things to eat is Vegemite, which she described as a jam made from vegetables Australians spread on bread.

“It’s super nasty,” she said.

Drayke Hilpert, a junior at CV, studied Finland. She learned that country has a strong education system because most teachers get the same amount of education a doctor gets.

It has two big holidays. Independence Day, celebrated Dec. 6, marks the day the country gained its independence from Russia. They turn off all the lights at a set time and light blue and white candles.

They also celebrate Midsummer, when everyone travels to the countryside for large bonfires.

But the country is also a top producer of greenhouse gases, after becoming an industrial hot spot. One aspect of the summit is to delve into larger issues such as this. Each country is given money, foreign aid vouchers or foreign aid cash to trade with other countries to help with their problems.

“Our goal is to improve the standards of living for (those) countries,” Barnhart said.

Students also are expected to keep up on current events in each country.

Michael Hannan, a CV sophomore, studied Bangladesh, a country which exports a large amount of clothing.

Hannan spoke about the recent garment factory collapse that killed about 1,100 people. He said leaders passed laws on Monday that improve conditions.

During the summit, teachers, volunteers and district administrators stop by to pick their top three countries. Superintendent Ben Small hands out the Superintendent Award to his favorite project.

The summit also accounts for a large chunk of the students’ grades.

“It’s a pretty intensive project,” Barnhart said.