Students share cultures, enlarge their worlds via Skype

Students share cultures, enlarge their worlds via Skype

  • By Jonathan Streetman 812-331-4353 | jstreetman@heraldt.com
  • Jun 17, 2016

For one classroom full of fifth-grade students at Childs Elementary School last month, Posoltega, Nicaragua, was just a few feet away and songs of both countries filled the same air.

The conversation happened May 6 through a Skype session coordinated by Spanish and art teachers at Childs, University and Templeton elementary schools, as well as through the efforts of Bloomington Sister Cities International. Posoltega, along with Santa Clara, Cuba, is an official sister city of Bloomington.

“At Sister Cities, we felt it was important to create some connections between schools in Bloomington and the schools in Posoltega,” said David Boeyink, Sister Cities treasurer. “We felt that this was a perfect time to do it.”

Boeyink was referring to the fact that Childs, University and Templeton all have recently taken steps to become certified International Baccalaureate schools — meaning, among other things, that all students in kindergarten through fifth grade have Spanish class once a week as part of the IB curriculum.

The IB program aims to develop learners who are inquiring, open-minded, caring, balanced, reflective and effective communicators. Developing relationships with Bloomington’s sister cities fits right in line with those goals, said Adriana Spencer, Spanish teacher at University Elementary.

In coordination with Brandt Badger at Templeton and Gabriela Coolidge at Childs, the three Spanish teachers began working on the Bilingual Art and Literacy Exchange Program in coordination with members of Bloomington Sister Cities. The first project was to send bilingual bookmarks to children in Cuba that the students created in their Spanish and art classes with teachers Cassidy Young and Hannah Shuler.

“We were so excited and encouraged by how much the students enjoyed the project,” Spencer said. So they decided they would do the same project with their students, sending the bookmarks to the Ricardo Morales Aviles Elementary School in Posoltega.

But this time, the project wouldn’t end when the bookmarks left in the mail. The Skype, or video-conference, session was planned in coordination with Martha Irene Hernandez, the schoolteacher in Posoltega, as well as a planned presentation by Boeyink and Debbi Conkle from Sister Cities International.

Coolidge said her students leapt at the opportunity and asked the Nicaraguan students, who had stayed after school hours for the session, all kinds of questions.

“They wanted to know if they walk to school or if they take the bus, if they wear uniforms; (they) wanted to know about sports. All kinds of stuff,” Coolidge said. “It was very interesting, the different perspectives. These kids (in Posoltega) were ready to show us their country. They set up a huge flag in front of the screen, so our kids ran to show them ours.”

Coolidge said they also sang the Nicaraguan anthem, “so, of course, my students said ‘We need to sing, too.’” They sang the Hoosier fight song.

Both Coolidge and Spencer agreed, and Boeyink later echoed, that expanding a student’s world beyond Bloomington is crucial to their development.

“(It’s important) to know that there’s a different world out there, not that it’s better or worse or richer or poorer, it’s just a different way of living and enjoying life,” Coolidge said. “Knowing that it’s not just pizza and basketball, not just things that they’re used to.”

Educators and the Sister Cities group said they intend to build on these relationships in the coming school year and expand the Bilingual Art and Literacy Exchange Program as the schools continue to integrate the IB curriculum.

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