Traveling from Uruguay to Licking County, elementary school principal Sylvia Malcuori says she's learned several things from Northridge Local Schools during her two-week educational trip.

Traveling from Uruguay to Licking County, elementary school principal Sylvia Malcuori says she's learned several things from Northridge Local Schools during her two-week educational trip.

"The learning of the children is the same," Malcuori said. "Just the physical set up, the operational, organizational set up is just a little different."

Speaking as her interpreter, Northridge superintendent John Shepard said he and Malcuori are participating in a U.S. Department of State sponsored fellowship.

Malcuori spent two weeks in Johnstown during her "summer" break. She was to head back Saturday, with school starting up in Uruguay on March 1.

During the North American summer break in July, Shepard will travel to Uruguay's capital city of Montevideo, where he'll observe Malcuori's school.

Shepard said the program helps unite educators from different countries.

"We are sharing ideas and trends that are occurring here in our schools," Shepard said. "It's been a great program that has opened up our doors to the world."

Montevideo is home to about half of Uruguay's population of 3-million, but Malcuori said there are only about 190 students in her school.

While class sizes are similar, Malcuori described Northridge students as more self-reliant.

"What I've noticed the most is the kids here are very independent. They are able to work on their own," Malcuori said, "In Uruguay, I see more dependence on the teacher."

Malcuori she is impressed with how all students have a chance to learn together.

"What I hope to take back with me is how they integrate their students more, no matter what level of learning that student has," Malcuori said.

"Those with physical challenges and emotional or social challenges or even academic challenges, they aren't really equipped to deal with that," Shepard said.

Malcuori said she also wants to take back more ways to involve parents in schools.

"I think a challenge for a school like Sylvia's is that typically both parents work," Shepard said. "What I think is unique here is the excitement of entering school and you get the grandparents involved, we have a great volunteer base in our schools."

Shepard said they've had great dialog discussing ways to get parents and even grandparents involved in school activities.

"I think if that's one thing we can take and share with them, not that we have the secret to how that works, but to share how important it is," Shepard said, "I think it is vital to the success of a child in school."

Shepard said the program has helped set up a partnership sharing educational trends and development for "schools that typically don't have that type of diversity."

He said the two already plan to continue their partnership by setting up a blog where his students and Malcuori's students could talk to each other and find out what was taught in classes.

Shepard said Northridge also plans to build an organic farm similar to one at Malcuori's school.

"For me it's intersecting because you learn so much about how really we aren't that different," Shepard said. "Kids are kids, I think that's what we are learning."

"It's my first time in the U.S. and so the experience has been great. I have just felt at home since I've been here," Malcuori said.