“When you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!” That is a popular song that children learn in school. On Tuesday February 23, 2021, history was made in Garrett County when students in Grantsville Elementary School sang that song with their new friends at Ndukumbana Primary School in South Africa. Kelli Frantz’s 4th grade class at Grantsville spent nearly 40 minutes on their computers talking with 5th graders from Ndukumbana Primary School in Ethembeni Village (in Zulu the village name means Place of Hope) in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. They were delighted with the exchange.
Student Reactions from Grantsville Elementary School:
*Wyatt Shingler: “It was fun to meet new people from a different part of the world and to hear what it is like where they live.”
*Lexi Koontz: "It was fun to meet with them, to see them, and to hear them speak."
*Camden Smith: “It was really cool, and it makes me want to visit South Africa!"
*Savana Broadwater: “We are studying animal adaptations right now, and I can't wait to meet with them again to ask them if they've ever seen an African Social Spider, which can be found in South Africa.”
*Haley Miller: "I was surprised that they had never had hot chocolate!"
Caption: Students from Grantsville Elementary School talking with students from Ndukumbana Primary School
Then Brittany German’s 5th grade class at Crellin Elementary School had their 40-minute discussion with the students in South Africa. They too were thrilled with the experience.
Student Reactions from Crellin Elementary School:
*Hadley Berg: “I liked all the different languages they can speak. We have a lot in common with the South African kids, but we also have our differences. It is amazing how we live in the same world, but so far apart...doing similar things. What a great experience, something I will never forget ... “.
*Olivia Hayhurst: “The South African experience was really cool. My favorite part was learning about what we had in common. We have the same farm animals, and we have a few of the same restaurants. That was my favorite part about meeting the South African school kids. I found it very interesting; all the sports that we played that they play too. It made me feel really happy because I got to learn something new and meet a lot of new people.”
*Aiden Mayne: “I thought we would have more differences! I was surprised we had so much in common!”
*Kaden Bolyard: "I like how they taught us to count in Xhosa."
*Diana Shreve: "I can't wait to learn more about their culture!”
*Cameryn Niner: “It was such a nice experience talking with them, and surprising how much we had in common!"
*Elizabeth Zimmerman: “I really liked the similarities with sports and their pets."
*Claira Uphold: “I REALLY liked talking with them because it was my first time talking to students outside of the United States! It was neat seeing what we had in common!”
Caption: Students from Crellin Elementary School talking with students from Ndukumbana Primary School
The students asked each other questions about their likes and dislikes and how they spend their time. It turns out that students in Garrett County and students in South Africa are remarkably similar. They both like the Ninja Turtles cartoons, pizza, soccer and KFC chicken. They also like hunting. The students in South Africa hunt springbok which is a small deer-like animal. Students in all three schools have dogs as pets and have farm animals including goats, sheep, cows, and chickens. They learned about the different seasons in the U.S. and South Africa due to living in the northern versus the southern hemisphere. The students in South Africa saw snow for the first time when a Garrett County student aimed the computer to look outside a window. They discussed the time differences between the countries because it was 8:30 AM in Garrett County and 3:30 PM in South Africa.
The Ndukumbana 5th graders wrote, “It was awesome to talk with your students. What we learned is that we know how to communicate using computers. We had a really fun experience. We found it interesting that we have some similarities in cartoons, food and hunting. We had fun singing along to ‘if you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.’ We are looking forward to more meetings.”
Tim Watson told the Garrett County students that they were ambassadors from the United States to South Africa. He said he was extremely proud of them for their interest and engagement. The Garrett County children were respectful and excited to share their information with their new friends.
The principal in South Africa said this is the first time his students have interacted with students from the United States. His village is generally not visited by whites and many village parents came to watch the interaction. Afterwards he related, “News is still buzzing in this village, that our kids had a talk with Americans students. This is really a mystery to the parents on our shores. I am glad that my students had a chance to speak with your students.”
Watson, the counselor at Grantsville and Crellin, organized the internet meeting between the three schools. This is an extension of a diversity program that Watson and Vianne Bell, Board Member of the non-profit Coalition for Effective Local Democracy and Trustee at Garrett College, have conducted at both schools for the past 3 or 4 years bringing international students from Garrett College to visit Grantsville and Crellin to talk about their countries.
“This type of interaction is educational on many fronts. Garrett County is fortunate to have such dedicated and innovative professionals in the Grantsville and Crellin Elementary Schools that provide this opportunity for their students. It is a beautiful thing”, expressed Bell.
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