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Islington High students form alliances with Toronto colleagues

Published:Thursday | March 5, 2015 | 4:45 PMOrantes Moore
From left: Founder of the Canada-based children's charity Alabaster Gates, Dr Nadine Wong, and Islington High School's literacy specialist, Nicolette Dwyer, with interactive students Samantha Darlington, Derry Graham, and Dahlia Douglas.


Students at Islington High School in St Mary embarked on a unique communications project recently by linking up with children from St Thomas Moore Catholic School in Toronto, Canada, to discuss their respective cultures using online video chat service Skype.

According to Toronto-based psychiatrist Dr Nadine Wong, whose charity, Alabaster Gates, hosted several Internet conversations across the island earlier this month, the project aims to raise awareness about global issues and create a forum for Jamaican students to interact with children from other countries.

The Jamaica-born holistic health expert told Rural Xpress: "The International Education Project (IEP) is like a fusion of having a pen pal and studying social studies via Skype. We give each school a theme to follow, which the children research and present to students from another school.

"Today, the theme was culture. In February in Toronto, they celebrate Black History Month and although we have that in Jamaica, it's also known as Reggae Month, so the kids showcased some of their unique dance, culture, and fashion.

"This project is really important because it can be a pivot point that starts building a child's self-esteem and helping them to go beyond their limitations. When that child absorbs the idea, they 'can do it,' it's a turning point that can transcend communities, parishes and the country."

Wong notes the IEP helps students meet several curriculum requirements and is backed by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites and the Toronto Catholic District School Board who have agreed for their students to take part.

Thirteen-year-old Islington High School pupil Derry Graham enjoyed the Skype chat and after hearing that students from Europe and Africa were keen to join the scheme, encouraged other Jamaican schools to sign up.

He said: "It was good talking to children from a different country and asking them questions. I'd to do it again because I would like to learn more about their culture."

His classmate, Samantha Darlington, added: "It was fun because we interacted with children from Canada and I learned they like to play ice hockey and the two red pieces on the sides of their flag represents the [Pacific and Atlantic] oceans that are on either side of their country."

Islington High's literacy specialist, Nicolette Dwyer, who helped coordinate the Skype session, said: "The IEP is very important for a school like this because our students are located in rural areas and most have limited or no knowledge of anything outside of Jamaica.

"Watching them have such a great level of communication and learning so much in a simple way was very eye-opening and educationally, really something of a higher level."

Wong returns to Jamaica in September and is presently seeking more schools to subscribe to the initiative, which she hopes to eventually develop into an international exchange programme.

She said: "We're working on getting physical passports so the kids can travel to North American and sit in the seats of the children they have been collaborating with, and those children can come here.

"I want to help educate the world about Jamaica and help them to understand that even before Christopher Columbus came here, there were people and civilisations already existing."