Skype connects students in Canadian and Chinese schools
Prince Edward Public School students talk Earth Day, Christmas, Chinese New Year
It's 7:30 a.m. at Prince Edward Public School in Windsor, Ont.
A small group of kids are gathered around a big screen showing a similar group of children—except they're in China, where it's 7:30 in the evening.
The kids wave hello, then using a translator, start talking about Earth Day.
This happens once a month. Grade school children from Canada and China use Skype to learn about each other.
They teach each other songs and their languages. "We get to see kids from a different culture," said third-grader Jesse Moffat.
"A lot different," his classmate Brook Myslichuk chimes in.
Jesse continues: "A couple of weeks ago, we talked about New Year, Chinese New Year. Traditions. They put up different decorations than we do. A lot of it is red."
"It's great," said Musa Baci, a Grade 4 student. "[For Earth Day] we found out they call it Grandpa Earth and we call it Mother Earth."
The teachers who participate in the reciprocal learning program come up with topics for the children to discuss, in conjunction with the Chinese students' teachers.
The program was created by Shijing Xu, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor. For six years now, she has created opportunities for pre-service teachers to visit sister schools in Canada and China. That program involved universities, school boards and more than 40 schools in the two countries. Now, she's extending that opportunity to younger students.
"Both our systems have our strengths and differences," she said. "We want to learn from each other so we can improve education for both sides in this globalized world.
"Sometimes we think the two cultures are so different, but when we listen to the sharing between the kids, we realize we have commonalities," Xu said.
'It's an awareness'
The school teachers, who also need to get up early for the Skype chat once a month, see a huge advantage for their students.
"It's an awareness," said Rose Lesperance, a Grade 6 teacher at Prince Edward. "On the other side of the world, kids are doing similar things. They're learning from them. It's not just opening up a book, going online for research."
Grade 3 teacher Julia Szamburski has seen how much it's helped her students grow.
"It's so important. Seeing them talk to one another, the excitement on their faces," she told CBC News. "They're friends now. It's amazing."
The kids first started with exchanging letters. The Skype sessions started last year. The program now involves almost 20 schools in Windsor and Canada, and is continuing to grow.
"I'm looking forward to more of these," the third grader Moffat said.
Before the kids start their regular school day, they sing 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' as the Chinese students clap along.