America's Unofficial Ambassadors

We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.

S2S: “Forming Friendships and Crossing Borders”

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By Andi Webb, Alderman Road Elementary School K-5 Instructional Coach

21 March 2014

Today was our first Skype session with the students of Alderman Road Elementary and Sukma Bangsa School in Aceh, Indonesia and it was a resounding success! Our first graders Skyped with older children and teachers from the school, as well as with Victor, the principal of Sukma Bangsa School.

Some of our students had never used Skype before so it was really neat to see their excitement and watch them learn. A few days ago, we prepared for the big day by brainstorming appropriate questions to ask and going over basic guidelines for Skype.

Our students took turns asking each other questions, with Victor leading the questioning in Aceh and me leading in Fayetteville. My students learned that people in Aceh eat a lot of chicken and rice. Our children agreed that they also like chicken and rice as well as pizza (of course!).  We also learned about the dry and rainy seasons, and even learned a few words in their language, like hello and thank you!

One thing that several students were curious about were the scarves that they observed the girls wearing on their head. However, I had told them that it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask about that just yet. To my surprise, Victor broached the subject naturally and explained that they are called hijabs and it is a common Muslim tradition for girls and women to wear them. We also learned about Ramadan and fasting. My students were incredulous to learn that during the holiday, Muslims abstain from food and drink all day long for a month. They asked if you get hungry, and Victor laughed good-naturedly, saying that of course they do, but it isn’t so bad after the few couple of days.

Our children shared their favorite colors, some information about the rather crazy weather we’ve had lately,  and where we live. I told them that North Carolina is where Michael Jordan is from, but Victor said they were not very familiar with Michael Jordan since he isn’t active anymore. The children in both places were quite interested in what each other does for fun. They were excited to discover that they all enjoy playing tag and hopscotch!

Several teachers also participated in the session on both sides and we all laughed and learned from each other. The most interesting part for me, came at the very end of our session. The conclusion of our first lesson was prompted by their call to prayer. Curious, our children asked about what it meant and Victor explained that it was time for them to go pray, so we would need to end our session. It was sad to say good-bye because we were enjoying the session so much but we already have plans to reconvene very soon and the children can’t wait!

I think that our students learned much more than they shared this session, since they were a little awestruck. However, I was very impressed with how our students behaved and conducted themselves throughout the session and I am thrilled with their level of enthusiasm!

As we build this partnership, our students at Alderman Road have begun collecting many children’s books for the American Corner at Sukma Bangsa School. Upon their request, we are also working on collecting American flags and maps to contribute to the collection. We are having candy sales and reaching out to the community to work on fundraising. I am excited to continue to deepen our partnership with the people of Aceh, Indonesia and, most importantly, I believe we are beginning to form friendships that could last a long time. Until we meet again….

Andi Webb is an award winning Instructional Coach for all subjects in grades K-5. She has worked at Alderman Road Elementary School in Fayetteville, North Carolina since 1999. Ms. Webb and Victor Yasadhana, principal of the Sukma Bangsa School in Indonesia, have collaborated to build a schedule and content for joint Skype lessons for their students during this semester. In addition, they plan to develop parallel science Olympiad projects and “Go Green” groups. Alderman Road is also participating in fundraising to help Sukma Bangsa build its American Corner library, as well as donating books and other materials. Read more about this partnership here.

Below are some letters written by the students at Alderman Road to their new friends in Indonesia:

letter1 letter2 letter3 letter4
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