Charles Town middle-schoolers swap smarts with children around the world

December 13, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Emma Espinosa and Zach Bauer, sixth-graders at Charles Town (W.Va.) Middle School, log on to Kidlink on Monday at the school.
By Richard F. Belisle/Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Zach Bauer, 11, found out that sixth-graders in Italy spend more time at home on the Internet than his fellow sixth-graders.

Emma Espinosa, 11, another Charles Town Middle School sixth-grader, learned that the Italian students watch much less television than her classmates.

Zach and Emma are among 120 Charles Town Middle students who are on Kidlink, an international educational network where students across the globe communicate with each other on school learning projects.

They translate their communications into English on Google Translator.

Students in Sherri Mackey’s sixth-grade math class have been studying statistics with their counterparts in Russia, Italy and a Catholic parochial school in Illinois over the Kidlink network.

Study topics include how much time students spend on the Internet at home, how much television they watch, their preferred snack foods, music, movies and sports, and whether bullying is a problem in their respective schools.

The students’ research stems from interviews on the subjects among their own classmates. They analyze what they’ve learned and assemble it on charts and graphs that they send to schools on their Kidlink network. In turn, those students send their work to the local studnets to analyze and justify.

Emma said she learned that Italian school kids spend less time watching television because their teachers send them home with laptops to do their homework.

Joyce Fisher, a teacher’s aide at Charles Town Middle School, coordinator of the Kidlink program there and member of the Kidlink board of directors, said sixth-graders in math, eighth-graders in art and some special education students are participating in Kidlink. The program began at the school last year.

“When I was in school in the 1960s, we had pen pals. It took six to eight weeks to communicate back and forth over regular mail. Now, it just takes a day,” Fisher said.

“We can do this in any language,” Emma said. Zach demonstrated on his laptop how Kidlink works.

“This is global learning for the 21st century,” said Charles Hampton, school principal. “We have to learn to step outside the box, get out of the four walls of the classroom. It’s problem-based learning working with students in other countries.”

He said Charles Town Middle students are gaining knowledge of other cultures.

“And they’re excited,” he said. Because of the time difference between the United States and Russia, some math students want to come to school at 5 a.m. so they can get on Kidlink with the Russian students.

“Can you imagine,” Hampton said, “math students wanting to come to class at 5 in the morning?”

Charles Town Middle is the only school in Jefferson County using the system, he said.

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