Different but the same; Cardinal students chat with students in Africa

Second-graders at Cardinal Elementary Skype with a class in Uganda, Africa.

The world got a little bit bigger for second-graders at Cardinal Elementary School Wednesday.

Jessie Greiner's class Skyped with a group of ten students living in an orphanage in Uganda, Africa. Greiner arranged the chat through a Twitter account called Skype Classroom, which connects classes of students around the world, and a website called Chat to the Future.

The chat with the Cardinal students was the Ugandan students' first Skype with a class in the United States, and it opened students' eyes to a world beyond the classroom.

"It was a cool experience, because usually not very many kids get to Skype with people out of the country," said Carter, one of Ms. Greiner's second-graders. "[I learned] that if they still speak English, they can have different accents and some words can be pronounced different but spelled the same way."

"I would say all of it was cool, because they could tell us things, what their favorite things to do are," said Ava, another student.

There were notable differences between the groups, but similarities, too.

"They have different color skin, they talk different and they live far away," said another student, Madison, on how the two groups were different.

"They go to sleep when we have school," said Chaz on the time difference between Iowa and Uganda.

Both groups were able to ask the other questions. The Ugandan students were shocked there is no uniform for students at Cardinal. Another surprise came when the Uganda students saw the second-graders' class pet; a hamster.

Both groups shared their dreams and goals for when they grow up; including a nurse, teacher and astronaut from Cardinal and a nurse, pilot and singer from Uganda. The Cardinal kids were able to see how different an environment it is growing up in Africa, but that the students there are just as motivated to achieve their goals.

"They focus in school so much... because they want to be educated and grow up and get a nice job," Carter said.

This isn't the first Skype experience for Greiner's class, the students have had around 15 sessions so far this year, talking to students in other countries and authors of books they've read. Every interaction teaches them something new.

"A lot of things that are similar to them, but different, their cultures, their experiences, just their life in general, how does it match up to theirs?" Greiner said. "Just different things that they would have never learned outside of Eldon, Agency or Batavia, Iowa."

The Skype sessions become integrated into classroom lessons. Once the class said goodbye to the kids in Uganda, they got on their iPads to study geography on Google Earth, finding out exactly where in the world their new friends live.

"It's part of our conversation and the kids are the lead right now," Greiner said. "I don't even have to be in there leading them through anything."

Greiner said she hopes to talk with the students again and even arrange to send them a care package.

To see more of what the kids in Ms. Greiner's classroom are doing, visit the class Facebook page.