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Thursday May 12, 2016 at 2:22pm Age: 3 yrs
Category: Middle School


Communications technology has made the world smaller and more accessible, and Minisink Valley is using it to widen its borders overseas. On May 5, Mrs. Villa’s 6th grade class gathered in the middle school library to speak to students and teachers at the Heart in Haiti school via Skype.


Leading up to the Skype event, students were introduced to Haitian culture through research, videos, and slide presentations – including one, just minutes earlier, by Carina Blon, a liaison for the partnership with the Haitian school.   


The Haitian connection was borne out of Mrs. Villa’s volunteering in Haiti, beginning in 2011 when construction of the Heart in Haiti school began. Since then, Mrs. Villa has returned to Haiti 10 times during various school breaks, and taught English as Second Language on two occasions. As she grew closer to her Haitian students, Mrs. Villa saw an opportunity to share her experience with her classroom back home. 


Part of the Haitian’s school mission is to build pathways to independence through educational and learning partnerships with schools in the United States and Canada.  Thus began the annual collaboration with the Heart in Haiti school to connect Mrs. Villa’s American and Haitian students and their cultures through programing and technology. 


Over the last four years, Mrs. Villa’s students have completed research reports on the country and people of Haiti which they translated into presentations. Metal artwork made from recycled steel drums and pipes is one of Haiti’s cultural icons. As part of the program, students watch videos about this unique art form and are exposed to a variety of physical examples. Using aluminum sheets, Minisink students carve a Haitian-related image or symbol, and their projects are sent to the Heart in Haiti school at Christmas time.  


“This learning partnership is highly beneficial because we learn from sharing with one another. We share ideas and answer questions as a way to get to know someone we might never otherwise meet. Not least of all, we learn about the value of education. Attending school in many parts of the world is very much a privilege, and children cannot take education for granted,” Mrs. Villa said.  


Accessibility to technology – and to electricity – are other non-granted privileges in Haiti. The May 5 Skype session faced many hurdles and delays, from slow Internet connections to an electrical outage that required the powering up of generators to connect the laptop in Haiti.


After waiting patiently for over an hour, students finally had a chance to pose questions covering play and eating habits, family life, common pets, and agricultural practices.


Interferences notwithstanding, one answer received a clear answer:  “Do you have phones?” one student asked. “Non!” Haitian students shouted in unison.



The Skype exchange ended with Haitian students singing “Lean on me” and a happy birthday song in French.