France in Focus 2022-2023: A Virtual Exchange Program

France in Focus 2022-2023: A Virtual Exchange Program

Program Overview:

The US Embassy in Paris and the Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations and Smithsonian Science Education Center have developed a unique program, France in Focus, that invites students and educators to connect across the globe and focus on issues of sustainability. The 2021-2022 virtual exchange engaged 850 students and their educators from the U.S., France, and French overseas regions. The France in Focus project leverages community research guides from the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project, and engages students in virtual exchange on the eTwinning platform provided by Erasmus+.

The 2022-2023 program is designed for students to engage with the guide entitled Biodiversity! How do we balance the needs of people with the needs of other living things?

Program Goals:

  • Students engage in activities from the Biodiversity! guide to explore their role in biodiversity and sustainability in their own communities.
  • Students engage with peers internationally through the eTwinning platform to understand global-local interconnection and share knowledge about their experiences and their communities’ solutions.
  • Students converse with international experts in the field.
  • Students are equipped with the skills and knowledge to move toward a capstone project, focused on biodiversity in their own community.

Please see the FAQ below. If you have additional questions about the program, please reach out to Katherine Pedersen Blanchard at or Alexa Mogck at


Who is eligible to participate?

France in Focus is designed for high school classrooms. The program is designed for entire class participation, meaning a teacher and their students must all commit to participating. Students must be at least 13 years old to participate. Classrooms of all subject matter are welcome to participate! Previous participating classrooms have included environmental science, civics, English, social studies, French, and literature classes. All sessions will be conducted in English.

How do students engage with the content? What is the exchange component like?

Classrooms from different regions are paired together throughout the course of the project to increase the opportunity for exchange. Additionally, Synchronous and Asynchronous opportunities are provided, as well as a final capstone project:

  • Synchronous “Live” Sessions: Throughout the course of the program, the Smithsonian and US Embassy in Paris jointly offer four “Live” sessions where students in all our classrooms can engage and immerse themselves in the topic in real time. These sessions are also recorded for those who are not able to attend. Live sessions include an introduction to the session topic, interactive activities, an interview or conversation with an expert in the field, and preparation for asynchronous work after the session.
  • Asynchronously: The program leverages the eTwinning platform, which is designed specifically for student interactions. In anticipation of the program, training videos and office hours are offered for eTwinning.
  • Capstone project: Optional final project that is student-initiated, student-designed, and student-led. Students focus on taking action in their own communities based on what they have learned through the program content. They then have the opportunity to share their capstone experience in a showcase session with experts from the field.
  • Other opportunities: Because this program is designed to meet the needs of classrooms, students, and their educators, we invite paired classrooms to explore additional ways to foster exchange over the course of the program.
How do I sign my class up?

Enrollment for US-based educators for the 2022-2023 France in Focus program is now closed. If you are a teacher in France and wish to participate, please email Katherine Blanchard at 

When will this year’s sessions take place? What are the topics being covered?

Live sessions will be hosted Thursdays from 9-10am Eastern/3-4pm Paris. Session dates and titles are are:

September 29, 2022: Introduction to the project: What does biodiversity mean, and how is it related to us and our community?  

October 20, 2022: What does biodiversity look like in your community and is there balance?

November 17, 2022: What are the conflicts between people and other living things in your community?

December 15, 2022: How can I take action to balance the needs of living things in my community?  

TBD May 2023: Capstone Showcase

What is required of educators?
  • Collect and submit Smithsonian's student releases, signed by parents and guardians
  • Enroll yourself and your students in the eTwinning platform
  • Convene your class to either attend the "live" sessions, or watch the recording
  • Connect with your paired teacher(s) and classrooms in another region to deepen students' learning experiences
  • Encourage students to recognize their own existing knowledge of their community as a starting point
  • Keep in mind that there are no "right" answers – students may have very different ideas and that is good! Some of the topics explored are challenging. Be prepared to support students in conversations about controversial issues.
What is required of students?


  • Participate in the live sessions, or watch the recordings
  • Complete asynchronous work, and upload to eTwinning
  • Collaborate with classmates and other students in your paired classroom
  • Optionally take part in a capstone project of your choosing January-April 2023
  • Be respectful of other students and presenters during the live sessions, and throughout the program
What kind of support does Smithsonian provide?
  • Provide a teacher training session in early September
  • Design, lead and facilitate live sessions and program content. 
  • Provide a program outline with goals and activities ahead of each session
  • Provide office hours for educators or students every-other week
  • Provide additional training on eTwinning
  • Available by email or Zoom for additional support
Where can I learn more about the project?

We have an incredible series of blogs featuring students, educators, and leaders of the program: 

Connecting Students Across Oceans for a Shared, Sustainable FutureStudents from the U.S., France, and French overseas regions are working together with the support of the Smithsonian and the U.S. Embassy in France to focus on fostering a sustainable future for all.

Fostering Franco-American Exchange for Our Shared Future: U.S. Ambassador to the French Republic and to the Principality of Monaco, Ambassador Denise Campbell Bauer, reflects on the Smithsonian-France partnership that has helped students reach across the globe to connect on important issues facing our planet.

Thinking Globally from a Classroom in France: David Dussort and his Seconde 6 students at Sainte Marie Bastide High School in Bordeaux, France, participated in the U.S. Embassy in Paris and Smithsonian’s cross-cultural program #SmithsonianInFrance. Learn more about their experience and how the lessons have shaped their way of thinking globally and acting locally.

How the Smithsonian is Creating a Path for Students to Meet Global Sustainability Goals: The Smithsonian Office of International Relations is always finding new and innovative ways to showcase how the Smithsonian is part of a shared, sustainable future for the Earth. Aviva Rosenthal, Director of the Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations, shares how the Smithsonian Institution-wide legacy, resources, and goals can also help foster a sustainable learning path for students around the globe.

Building a Curriculum to Address Our Shared Future: Heidi Gibson works to develop engaging and future-forward curriculum for the Smithsonian Science Education Center. Recently, she developed the Sustainable Communities guide as part of the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project for use in the #SmithsonianInFrance program. Learn more about this guide and how a sustainable-centered curriculum supports global students on their paths toward creating an equitable, sustainable, and connected future.

How a US Classroom Reached Across an Ocean to Make Global Sustainable Goals a Part of Their Lesson Plan:A US-based class connected with peers in France and French Territories to learn how they can be part of the solution for our shared, sustainable future. Their teacher, Maria Isabel Alonso, answered a few questions with her class at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami, Florida, about how they used the Smithsonian in France program to incorporate global sustainable goals into their curriculum and daily lives.