Approximately 85 students at South of Dan Elementary School got their first look at Italy Thursday during a two-way video conference that was the first of its kind for students in Halifax County Public Schools.
The video conference, the first of four to be held at the school, was the result of working relationships forged late last year between Halifax County Public School administrators and education officials in Italy.
In an effort to include international learning in the classroom, second grade teachers at South of Dan, including art and music teachers, have incorporated a study of Italy and its culture in various aspects of learning this year. The video conferencing serves as a capstone to the students' studies and provides an opportunity for interaction between the two countries.
"The excitement in the air when students arrived at school on Thursday was great to see and experience. It was awesome to see the twinkle in their eyes. Those looks and that excitement is what remind you know why you're in education," said South of Dan Principal Lisa Long.
Despite some technical difficulties, students and teachers patiently waited as both schools got online, and the wait was worth it. South of Dan students smiled and waved as they watched Italian students doing the same on the video feed. Students in both countries sang their national anthem for their far away audience and South of Dan students recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The students, who have been diligently practicing, stood one-by-one and introduced themselves saying in Italian, "Hello, my name is..." and giving their name. One class introduced themselves on Thursday, with the other three classes scheduled to do the same over the next three video conferences.
"Any technical difficulty was long forgotten when the students saw their new friends on the screen. Many teachers had tears in their eyes knowing what a exciting and special event this was for our students." Long said.
It took the work of several individuals to make the technical connection, including HCPS Director of Technology Terry McGhee and HCPS Computer Specialist Scott Day. HCPS Executive Director for Administration Paul Nichols and Chris Jones, director at The Prizery, who both helped create the sister school partnership, were on-hand for the exciting event. Daniele Martina, a friend of Chris Jones, was present in the Italian classroom to help make the link.
"We're excited that this program worked well and this is the type of partnership that we are trying to develop with countries all over the world. This interaction is the reason for developing the sister school affiliation," said Paul Nichols. HCPS executive director for administration.
Other activities encouraging South of Dan students to learn about Italy include learning about the country's food, language, and learning to count to ten and say their ABCs in Italian.