Meet Jenny Buccos: The Accidental Explorer!

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She creates virtual travel for millions of children
around
the world – in 5 minutes or less.

Q: You make the world accessible to millions of children. What set
you on the path to such an adventure?

I’m originally from a small upstate New York town. My personal
global education began in Hong Kong in 2000, whilst on assignment
with an investment bank. This was my first time off the North
American continent. This experience and the months after 9/11
became the catalysts for founding ProjectExplorer.org.  Beginning
in the winter of 2001, I spent several months observing the people
around me becoming increasingly afraid of the world outside of
America’s borders. As I listened to these conversations, I began
to think about the power and potential in developing a global
understanding from a young age.

The idea for an online global education series began brewing in early
2003. (This was before the existence of YouTube and the mainstream
availability of online videos)During my initial research, I was surprised
to come across the following statistic:

According to the U.S. Department of State, about 75% of Americans
do not have a passport. (Source: Testimony of Frank E. Moss, Deputy
Assistant Secretary for Passport Services, U.S. State Department)

In 2006, after months of research and fundraising, the first series
debuted, providing virtual passports to students across the country
and around the globe.

Q: Could you elaborate for our audience on the importance of
being a global citizen?

To me, being a global citizen means celebrating our common humanity,
while respecting the different path another culture or group might take.
In my opinion, the first step in becoming a global citizen, is educating
oneself on those differences and similarities. This is why I chose to
start with students as early as Grade 3.

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Q: Tell us about the premise behind ‘ProjectExplorer.org’?

Think virtual field trips to far-flung destinations such as Azerbaijan,
Qatar, and Zambia.

ProjectExplorer.org’s programming is designed to expose young
students to a variety of regions, traditions, histories, and cultures.
Our videos and related lessons are presented at three levels of learn-
ing (Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, and Grades 9-12.) ProjectExplorer.org
currently features over 400 short films, all of which are kept under
5 minutes. This allows educators to incorporate them into everyday
classroom lessons. Each video is designed to serve as a springboard
for further dialogue and exploration of a topic.

ProjectExplorer.org selects projects that give greater attention and
depth to subjects and regions that are often overlooked in schools.
We constantly ask for input from Parents, Teachers, and Students
on what locations or topics they would like covered. When developing
our videos, we consult with educators to ensure our scripts are digesti-
ble in terms of content and length, and adhere to curriculum standards.

Our goal is to infuse a global perspective across traditional subjects.
For example, in science class students can learn how fossil fuels are
formed in oil-rich Azerbaijan: https://vimeo.com/56490517

Under our Educator section, we offer lesson plan suggestions that
encourage in-class discussion in addition to creative exercises that
challenge students to analyze and interpret the materials they have
seen.  Many of our lessons ask students to compare and contrast past
historical events with current global issues, fostering dialogue that
explores ways to resolve conflicts, including environmental and
racial issues.

If Educators or schools want to get involved, all they have to do is log
on to ProjectExplorer.org! There is no formal enrollment process;
we simply request that Educators register on our site so that we have
a stronger sense of who’s using our materials.

Q: Tell us about your job as Director of ‘ProjectExplorer.org?

I am the Founder, Director, and Producer of ProjectExplorer.org.
As Director and Producer, I am responsible for the overall Creative
Direction of the organization. This involves filming, editing, developing
storylines, and location selection. In fact, most of the video on our site
were filmed and edited by me. We operate on a shoestring budget and
even though I am the Founder and Directoof the organization, I am
typically also the Grant Writer and handle the day-to-day operations
of running the organization. It’s a 24/27/365 kind of job!

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Q: Who are your partners in making all of this happen?

I currently work with an exceptionally talented group of women
on the ground –two on-camera presenters and two field producers/-
shooters. We are a small, multifunctional crew that fills every role
on a traditional film set from script writing to the actual shooting.

From a financial standpoint, our work over the last few years has
been made possible by The Four Seasons. They are not only our official
accommodations provider, but their local staff assist us in coordinating
our film shoots and searching for unique cultural experiences that
visitors often overlook.

We have several corporate backers to support us as they recognize
the importance of a globally competent workforce, and, are therefore
investing in their future employees. Also the last decade we’ve had
hundreds of people supporting our mission with donations ranging
from $10 to $1,000. We operate on less than $500,000 and reach an
audience of 6 million, so donations large or small have a major
impact in our work.

Q: What has been most challenging about the experience of bringing
the project to life?

Funding has consistently been the biggest challenge. I have found my-
self in terms of funding in ’emergency mode; where I feared I would
have to cancel upcoming projects.Through the generosity of donors,
thankfully we have managed. Currently, we are trying to raise
$20,000 (by September) for our upcoming projects in Australia,
Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Qatar. We are also in the process of
raising funds for our first full-time Educator which will help expand
our reach and allow us to adequately train Educators on how to
successfully incorporate ProjectExplorer.org into their curriculum.

Simply put, the more funding we have the more educational content
and lesson plans we can provide to schools, students, and educators.

Q: What has been most rewarding?

I recently received a letter from a 3rd Grader that read:

“I used to think that the world was a bad place, but you showed me
it is not.”

So, while traveling to exotic and far-off destinations is a HUGE perk
to my job, seeing the impact of my work is defiantly the most
rewarding part.

Q: Thus far what have been your favorite destinations and why?

London, England and Johannesburg, South Africa! London was one
of my first international travel experiences and remains a favorite
destination for personal travel. (I’m also a huge Shakespeare geek!)
From a professional point of view Johannesburg tops my list. I had
amazing collaborators in Jo’burg for my 2007 educational series.
I’ve been back seven times since production in 2007 and consider
several of the people I met there my “family.”

Q: What are 2 dream destinations that you have yet to visit and
why would like to visit them?

Morocco and space! Seriously. Does the latter really need a reason
why? To the good folks at Virgin Galactic, let me know if you are
interested in a ProjectExplorer.org/Virgin collaboration.

Q: How long does it take to produce each film?

Each film is about 5 minutes long, and from start to finish it takes
about 40 hours to complete each and every one. This includes research
and development, actual filming of the video, editing, animation, and
the creation of instructor guides & lesson plans. Our tiny organization
does about 80 of these videos every year.

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Q: Why is this work important?

I believe that now, more than ever, global understanding is a critical
skill that students must possess in order to succeed.

ProjectExplorer.org recently polled 223 students & young adults
(ages 13 to 25) and found some impressive results on this topic. Of
the group: 93% believe “jobs are becoming increasingly international
in nature,” and 97% are “curious about world events.”  However,
many students believe their schools are not providing a global cur-
riculum or perspective: Only 12% of students surveyed would
“strongly agree their 6th-12th grade teachers incorporate a global
perspective into their lessons.”

Q: So what does a young woman who has traveled to more than
50 countries do for fun?

I love the theater! I also dabble in DJ’ing  (purely as a hobby) fusing
African music with Funk/Soul, but haven’t had much time over the last
few years given my work/travel schedule. To be perfectly honest, after
logging thousands of air miles and spending upwards of 1/3 of my year
in hotels, there’s nothing more enjoyable than dinner and a movie
in my home in Brooklyn.

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