Wellington College is first UK school to offer 'portals' to connect with diverse communities

Posted on 21st Feb 2022 in School News, Technology

In a post-pandemic world, Wellington College is the first UK school to offer 'portals' to connect with diverse communities around the world, without leaving the school gates.

It looks like a shipping container, but it's so much more. It’s a portal which will enable pupils at Wellington College to connect with other portals around the world; Mali, Rwanda, Palestine, Mexico, Iraq and Uganda. From Monday 21 February until Friday 25 February, thoughts on global education, climate, beliefs and belonging, human rights and social justice will be exchanged.

Wellington College is the first school in the UK to partner with Shared Studios, a nonprofit based in New York. The Portals, launched in 2014 in galleries in New York and Tehran, now occupy over 40 permanent sites, in over 20 countries. The majority are in shipping containers, however exceptions include a gas station at a refugee camp in Iraq and a bus in Lagos, Nigeria.

Shared Studios exists to create meaningful human connections between people who would never otherwise have the chance to meet. Their network of gold shipping containers (aka ‘portals’) enable immersive, life-sized, life-like connections, creating the sensation of being in the same room. This allows people across the world to talk, dance, play and collaborate. It has been used by the likes of the UN, UNICEF, and the Obama Foundation.

Rebecca Park, Head of Global Citizenship at Wellington College, commented: "Due to the impact of COVID and the limitations on travel, the world has become a much smaller place. By partnering with Shared Studios, we are excited to give our pupils the opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with other young people from all over the world. We hope to give them a greater understanding of connections across the world and their place within it. These portals are a powerful tool for global learning.

"Sessions will be focused around Bamako, Mali to look at how culture shapes us; Kigali, Rwanda, discussing the complexities of the climate crisis; the impact of storytelling on our beliefs and communities with a group in Gaza City, Palestine; and linking with one of the largest refugee camps to consider how they have used football to bring communities together and protect human rights in Nakivale, Uganda."

Amar Bakshi, Founder and Creator of Shared Studios, added: "Portals is about curating the diversity of the world, and bringing the benefits of that diversity to people from all walks of life. We are in a world where people are retreating in their own little bubbles. They see and hear things that are given to them but don’t often get to talk to people halfway around the world or talk to someone they hear about all the time. With every new site we connect with, we grow more diverse, more dynamic and ever more valuable together."

Barack Obama said: "It’s an amazing technology. It feels like you’re standing there right in front of me."

Wellington College is excited to be partnering with Shard Studios who, in this groundbreaking project, have combined art and technology to bring together diverse perspectives that challenge participants to see and engage the world differently.