Two weeks ago, Alderman Road Elementary School and the Sukma Bangsa school in Aceh Indonesia completed their last skype session. For this past semester, students in North Carolina and Indonesia have been learning about each other and each other's country through weekly skype sessions. On Tuesday, Andi Webb departed for Aceh, Indonesia. She'll be delivering the last of the 500-some books that her students collected for Sukma Bangsa's English language library. She'll also be volunteering there for the next two weeks, doing some teacher training and teaching English and history.
To best understand the impact that this program has had on students in North Carolina and Indonesia, there isn't a substitute than hearing directly from Andi herself. Below is an essay she wrote about the skype sessions.
A Few Small Voices
Fayetteville, North Carolina – When the little girl on the screen asked my students to sing them a song, tears began to roll down each of my cheeks. We were nearing the end of our Skype session, and 20-some students in the village of Pidie had just finished singing their national anthem to us.
Pidie is a little more than a two hour drive from Banda Aceh, Indonesia. I’ve never been to Indonesia, but I get short of breath thinking about my upcoming trip this summer to volunteer at the Sukma Bangsa school. Every Friday my students at Alderman Road Elementary school and I have Skyped with the students at Sukma Bangsa as part of a cultural and academic exchange program to build partnerships between America and the Muslim World. I’ll continue the exchange this summer when I travel to Pidie to teach English, History, and “American football.”
Along with cookies and chocolate from my students and my own great expectations, I’ll bring with the me the several hundred books and documentaries that my students have collected for Sukma Bangsa’s “American Corner” library. Alderman Road is a “Title I” school here in Fayetteville, where I’ve taught since 1999. We have 631 students and are trying to integrate global education into our programs. This “School-2-School” program develops cross-cultural and critical thinking skills, while introducing students in the United States to kids in other parts of the world. When I found the program online one night last fall, I thought it would be a natural fit for my school and applied.
In January, I began collaborating with Victor Yasadhana, the director of Sukma Bangsa, to develop lessons and a schedule for our joint class sessions. For the last three Fridays, we’ve met over Skype, at 8AM our time and 7pm their time. Through our discussions, our students have learned about Indonesia and realized commonalities. We’ve laughed about things they both seem to enjoy -- like Barbie dolls and chocolate as well as playing games, singing, and dancing.
We also discussed hurricane season here and answered questions about how hurricanes are named. We’ve learned a bit about the "Ring of Fire," the region in the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur due to the heightened activity of tectonic plates, and my students want to learn even more. The Sukma Bangsa school was founded for victims of the 2004 tsumani that killed more than 250,000 people.
Singing and dancing have figured prominently in our exchanges so far. Our students sang and danced to the Village People’s "YMCA," and afterwards, the Indonesian students asked if we knew the Macarena. They’d learned the Macrena (and how to line dance) from last year’s exchange with a Dallas Middle School. Well, we know the Macrena in North Carolina, too! So we happily danced Macarena together, in the classroom and on the screen!
In addition to the dancing, one of the highlights of last week’s Skype session was when one of our 1st graders taught our Indonesian friends some greetings in Spanish. Alderman Road has the highest population of Hispanic children in our county, and many of our students are bilingual. At one point, we had three different languages going in our Skype session. Talk about going global!
In response to the Indonesian national anthem, my students chose to sing "One Small Voice," a song about children in the world having a voice. As I watched, and tried to hold our laptop and the video camera at the same time, the emotion of it all hit me. My students in Fayetteville, North Carolina were singing a song about the world to their new friends, literally on the other side of the world in Aceh, Indonesia.
I’m touched by what I’ve witnessed from out students so far and this experience. While I'm not quite sure how to process it all, I do know that these times together will be something neither our American nor our Indonesian students forget.