Success! Suffern students from Donna Lappetito’s Cultural Art Exchange Art Club, Barbara Biddy’s grade 6, and students with families in Central and South America shared artwork and conversation based on the theme of ‘Water’ and its uses and impacts on our respective lives. The conversation with El Caoba, Flores, Peten, Guatemala lasted over an hour, closing with a song from our side and dance performed by Guatemala.
The video conference format was structured like a daisy chain in which a painting was held up to the camera and the artist’s name called. The artist answered questions about the artwork and everyday life, and in turn held up a painting from the partner school for that side to answer questions, and so the conversation continued back and forth in this manner.
Miguel Barreto facilitated the conference through Creative Connections, a non-profit cultural exchange organization. The project, Rainforest ArtLink: “How does the environment affect one’s culture? This innovative Artlink program features the formation of unique classroom partnerships between students from the United States and countries in the rainforest regions of Latin-America. Partner classes exchange art on an environmental theme and are given the opportunity to question their partners in a live video- or tele-conference. Given the unique location of the international partner classes the dialogue focuses on the impact of environment on culture.” (from website)
The usual hurdles of scheduling and bandwidth issues proved no match for either school. Guatemala’s side was undaunted by scheduling and location changes. The students with teachers,
Verónica Caraveo and Jorge Rodriguez, traveled two hours to a new location with hardwire Internet access in order to make this happen. We are so appreciative of their effort and gracious manners. Suffern was dealing with end of year exams and shortened days, but our students showed tremendous enthusiasm and made sure their teachers knew they had an important event to attend.
Shyness disappeared as Miguel put both sides at ease with gentle humor and skillful translation.
These conversations among young people around the world are imperative. The knowledge gained about other cultures, our similarities and differences, the importance and impact of the physical environment, basic geography and an awareness that although there are many different ways of life, we all share the same smiles and feelings, this is vital for deep understanding and respect throughout the world.
From Barbara Biddy: Our students learned that communication doesn’t always have to be verbal. It can be done through art, body language, or just big smiles, which were exchanged by all the children. It was so much fun to watch how the children listened intently to Miguel translate. In the words of one of our students, “It was a cool experience.”
For more pictures go to Flickr