Swahili might not be the language of choice at Corl Street Elementary School, but 46 fourth-graders know how to say at least one word in the language: jambo, which means hello.
That was the first thing the group shouted when they met students from Gardenview Education Center in Tunyai, Tharaka Nithi, Kenya.
They may not have been able to physically get to Kenya on Friday morning but were able to virtually travel to the east African country from the confines of a classroom.
Donna Kondash’s and Rich Schmidt’s classes met in Schmidt’s room to Skype with the Kenyan students, their teacher and headmaster.
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The video conference was sparked after a semester-long partnership with Schmidt’s class and the international school.
And it coincided with Schmidt’s class curriculum about biomes and regions of Africa that is taught every other year, Schmidt said.
“For the most part, they won’t travel to Africa, but this puts a real life face to what they’re learning,” Schmidt said. “They need a real world view of things. We’re studying Africa right now, which is perfect. It all lines up really well.”
The two entities connected after a student, Neil Maguire, and his parents, Andrew and Dawn, took a trip to Kenya during the holidays.
Andrew Maguire said he was stationed in Kenya in 1993-94 with the Peace Corps and recently went back.
There, Maguire said he met Schmidt’s counterpart, Mugambi Martin Murithi, through a friend.
“We hashed out the idea over a couple beers and it worked out,” Maguire said, regarding how the school partnership occurred.
The class first held an online trial run March 11.
“We just wanted to make sure Skyping was doable,” Schmidt said. “There aren’t many schools in Kenya with computer capability so we were lucky to connect with a school that did, and believe it or not, it went really smoothly.”
The Skype conversation Friday, however, came with technical glitches that frequently left both sides without live streaming or sound.
“We’re just glad we can make something happen to get these kids together from across country lines,” Schmidt said.
Both classes introduced themselves, met with each other’s headmaster or principal, and then conducted a question and answer session.
“Our school day is about seven hours long,” said fourth-grade student Samantha Wrbican. “How long is your school day?”
A Kenyan student replied in English, “about eight hours.”
Kenya recognizes English and Swahili as the country’s main languages.
Schmidt said he hopes to keep in touch with Murithi and others from Gardenview with another Skype session and the possibility of creating pen pals with students.
“It’s opening us and the kids to so many opportunities, and in this way with the pen pals enhances curriculum that ties in with writing composition,” Schmidt said.