A mouse click away

Bishop Grimes students correspond with students in New Guinea
By claudia mathis / sun staff writer

It was the culmination of a school year that included a cultural exchange between Syracuse and Papua, New Guinea. On June 6, Bishop Grimes seventh grader Zach Snyder, along with six other classmates, tested the kites they had made in the front lawn at school.

The design of Zach’s kite represented the culture of Syracuse and also what he had learned about Papua’s culture through communicating with students at St. Anna Primary School in Papua throughout the school year. “We learned that even though our continents are far apart, we’re not all that different,” said Zach.

Zach’s and his classmates’ education has been enriched through their involvement in Project 9000: Faces of the World, a telecollaborative project that connects schools in Central New York and Papua, New Guinea through the use of technology. The goals of the project are to enrich the students’ learning by bringing a global dimension to their academic experiences and to foster a deeper appreciation of and respect for diversity. In its second year of operation, the project was funded by a $17,500 grant Le Moyne College received from the John Ben Snow Foundation. During the first year, the grant provided the resources for the purchase of five computers and a printer for students at St. Anna Primary School in tsunami-ravaged Papua. Even though many of the students had never seen a computer, they acquired computer skills when they began to communicate with students at St. Charles Borromeo, Our Lady of Pompei and Solvay Middle Schools, all in Syracuse. Each of the four schools researched the other schools using their computers. Then the students corresponded via email. The students learned quite a bit through the cultural exchange.

Dan Bartlett, mathematics professor at Onondaga Community College, serves as the liaison to all the schools involved in the project. Bartlett said that Le Moyne has applied for more funding from the Snow Foundation to keep the project going. “We want the students to continue to learn cultural diversity,” said Bartlett.

Under Project 9000, last October Deb Foster, Bishop Grimes computer technology and broadcasting teacher, led seventh graders in developing Power Point presentations to send to the students in New Guinea. Each young person created a slide telling about himself/herself, along with a picture and a voice clip. The students also connected with one another through the computer-based Key Pal, a contemporary version of the Pen Pal system.

Last January Foster asked for student volunteers from the seventh grade to work on a kite-designing project that would include the participation of the New Guinea students. Foster said 13 young people volunteered. “They were very excited about coming up with designs for the kites,” said Foster. “These students were able to experience a rare opportunity to learn about another culture by communicating with their peers through the Internet and by working on the same kite project. This project was able to bring students together who live on the opposite sides of the world.”

Meeting once weekly, they decided to make three kites out of the many designs that were proposed. The flag that Zach flew was designed to show the communication between both sets of students by means of the Internet. North America and the Islands of Australia, which is where Papua, New Guinea is located, were drawn on the kite. Syracuse and Papua were connected by a dotted yellow line, which represented the Internet.

Bishop Grime’s seventh grader Alexis Verone said she flew a kite designed with a flag of Papua that included the yellow bird of Paradise against a red background, white stars against a black background and a Hawaiian flower. Also included on her kite was the Statue of Liberty and the bald eagle, representing the U.S. Alexis said she enjoyed creating the design of the kite. “We traced the designs on tarp and then spray painted them,” said Alexis.

The third kite was designed on a lighter note. It was a design of SpongeBob SquarePants, a cartoon character that lives under the sea. The students and Foster decided to include that design because the voice of SpongeBob belongs to Tom Kenney, who is an alumnus of Bishop Grimes.

Bishop Grimes’ seventh grader Sara Wilson said she learned quite a bit when she took part in the kite project. “The kids in New Guinea are different but they’re really fun to communicate with,” Sara said.

Foster said the project incorporated many different curriculums. “Art, the science of aerodynamics and technology were all included in the making of these kites,” she said. “We are currently creating a DVD that documents the entire process that the students helped film as well. The entire project was a wonderful source of enrichment and the students benefited in many ways. I loved working with the students on this project.”

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