June 4, 2013
Middle School Pen Pals Sing and Chat Half a World AwayBy Terry Date, May 28, 2013
Swampscott Middle School students traveled to Salem State University Thursday to connect with pen pals almost 8,000 miles away.
Their pen pals are from Siyabulela Primary School, in the township of Langa, South Africa.
The great distance was bridged by technology.
For the fifth year the Swampscott and Siyabulela kids spent two hours telecommunicating, a room-to-room cultural exchange.
They saw each other displayed on large screens, the South African students in their school uniforms, their voices projected over the Salem State media center's audio system.
The students learned what music their counterparts like to sing and listen to. At Siyabulela a student said: R&B and jazz.
They learned how far away from school they live? A 10-minute walk, one South African student said.
What they eat? How many kids are in their classes? What's their favorite subjects? Math was popular among both groups.
Who were the South African kids' heroes?
Two Siyabulela students said their heroes were their parents and their teachers.
South African students wanted to know about the Boston Marathon bombing.
How far away from their school is Boston? Where any of them hurt? Did they know people who were hurt?
Students shared poetry and sang, singing as a group and solo.
Mac, a Swampscott student, played drums and sang a traditional West African song, drawing enthusiastic applause from both rooms.
The students have been writing each other all year and, as usual, it was hard for them to say good-bye.
The program was started by Judy McKenzie, a former seventh grade teacher, who started this project after visiting South Africa.