Monday, October 02, 2006

Suburban, urban and rural

One day in mid August I replied to a posting from a school in Texas looking for urban and rural partners for some videoconferences on communities and how they are alike and different. I was confident that I could find third grade classes in our region interested in representing the urban experience. What followed one month later were four delightfully informative vc connections that explored the differences and similarities of these three communities. Prior to the connections the three classes exchanged a list of questions that they had for each other. The students then prepared answers to these questions. Each class also prepared a short Powerpoint presentation that described their school and community.This whole videoconference idea and most of the coordination was the brainchild of Judith Dallinger, the librarian at the Watauga Elementary School in suburban Texas. A "ten gallon hats off" to this brave educator who saw this project through its successful conclusion.

I helped facilitate two of these conferences and I truly loved every minute of them. The first was a meeting between Watauga, Texas (suburban), Ft. Pierce, Colorado (rural) and Queens, New York (urban). Do you hunt? asked a child from Colorado. For chores the children in Colorado round up the cattle. The New York students quickly cleared up the myth that they lived in mansions and saw famous people everyday. They described the apartment buildings they lived in. The students in New York also shared their feelings about not always feeling safe. After the videoconference was over the classes e-mailed each other and agreed to keep in touch this school year. Hopefully to have another vc too.
The next videoconference was between Texas and New York and this time a class in Alaska was the rural partner. This conference was nothing short of awesome. The students in Alaska live in a village divided by a river. Some of the students come to school by boat. When the river freezes, they have to close the school "River Days". While the kids in NY and Texas are close to the local mall. The students in Alaska have to travel 400 miles to the Walmart in Anchorage. The comparison of weather temperatures was striking. Afterschool activities of mushing (dogsled racing), sledding and skating were popular in Alaska. I could go on and on about the wonderful things these students shared and learned about each other. These communities have many things that are different but as always it is what they have in common that seems to bring these students together.

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