France in Focus 2024: A Virtual Exchange Program Focused on Creating Sustainable Communities

France in Focus 2024: A Virtual Exchange Program Focused on Creating Sustainable Communities

Program Overview:

The US Embassy in Paris, 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. In the first two years of this program, nearly 2000 students and their educators from the U.S., France, and Overseas France participated. The France in Focus project leverages community research guides from the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project, and engages students in virtual exchange, both synchronously and asynchronously.

We are now accepting applications for the 2024 program in which students will engage with engage Sustainable Communities! How  will we help our community thrive? 

Program Goals:

  • Students engage in activities from the Sustainable Communities! guide to explore their role in sustainability in their own communities.
  • Students engage with peers internationally 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 issues of sustailability 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


Who is eligible to participate?

France in Focus is designed for high school classrooms in the US, France, and Overseas France. 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 make up the heart of the program. 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 an online platform for student interactions. 
  • Capstone project: This final project 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 teachers and classrooms to explore additional ways to foster exchange over the course of the program.


How do I apply to participate?

Click on the registration button at the top of this page! 

Teacher information sessions will be held: 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023 from 9:00am-10:30am Eastern Time / 3:00pm-4:30pm France

Thursday, December 14, 2023 from 12:00pm-1:30pm Eastern Time / 6:00pm-7:30pm France 


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:

Session 1: January 11, 2024 Sustainable Communities: What does sustainability look like where we live?  

Session 2: February 8, 2024 What makes a strong, resilient community and how do we tell those stories?  

Session 3: March 7, 2024 What role do we each play in Sustainability in our communities?  

Session 4: April 4, 2024 How can our collective actions make our communities more sustainable?

TBD May 2024: 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 online exchange platform
  • Convene your class to attend the "live" sessions
  • Connect with 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 conversation about controversial issues.


What is required of students?
  • Participate in the live sessions, or watch the recordings
  • Complete asynchronous work, and upload to the online platform
  • Collaborate with classmates and students in other locations
  • Take part in a capstone project to be shared in May 2024
  • 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 December 2023
  • Design, lead and facilitate live sessions and asynchronous program content
  • Provide a program outline with goals and required activities/assignments ahead of each session
  • Provide office hours for educators or students by request
  • Provide additional support for the online platform as requested
  • Introduce educators to one aother and suggest additional engagement opportunities throughout the program


Where can I learn more about the project?

We have an incredible series of blogs featuring students, educators, and leaders of the program that can be found on our France in Focus page!