WILLIAMSBURG -- Laura Cobb knelt at the end of a small table in her fourth-grade classroom, where a group of her students discussed a story about a young girl from Africa, and pointed to a picture on their worksheets.
"Do you have to walk four miles to get water?" she asked them.
A resounding no.
"I just go to the kitchen," one of them answered.
Cobb smiled. "Your life is very different, isn't it?"
Different, true, but in some respects they are exactly the same. After all, Cobb said, 9-year-olds are pretty universal.
She will see that firsthand come August when Cobb, a seven-year teacher at Mill Creek Elementary, leaves to spend four months teaching in Scotland as part of the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program.
The program, a federal grant opportunity that allows teachers in the U.S. and abroad to swap places for as long as a year, offers a global, real-world lesson on culture that students and staff can share.
She mailed her application by the October deadline and received final word a few weeks ago.
"We view the world in our own way, through our own perspective, and that lens is really reflective of who we are," Cobb said. "By seeing the world through new lenses, and by bringing new lenses here, it'll enrich everyone."
Cobb will teach at St. Mary's Primary School in Bathgate, Scotland, in a classroom of children about the same age as her Elk Rapids Public Schools' fourth-graders. She will exchange with Theresa Smith, who has taught at the school for eight years and visited the United States just once.
"I feel so privileged to have been selected," said Smith by e-mail from Scotland. "I sincerely hope I can bring a Scottish flavour (sic) to Mill Creek Elementary and hopefully we can continue student links when I return home."
Traveling has been part of Cobb's life for years. A 1986 Traverse City High School graduate, she taught both in Florida and in inner-city San Antonio before moving back to Michigan. She also has traveled to Europe and Japan.
The Fulbright experience will benefit both students and staff at Mill Creek, and is indicative of Cobb's approach to teaching, Principal Maggie Antcliff said.
"Laura sought this out," Antcliff said. "I was not surprised."
Her trip will be one more lesson to bring home to her students in Michigan, one more way to illustrate the significance of global awareness.
"It's so important for these kids, at this pivotal time in society, to understand that they are part of that village," she said. "It's important for them to see the world without the blinders on."