Seth Johnson/Daily Journal: Kennedy Secondary students Rachel Prazak and Olivia Scott talk to African student Bachirou Adib through Skype.

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From Fergus Falls to Africa [UPDATED]

Published 11:11am Friday, October 26, 2012 Updated 11:11am Friday, October 26, 2012

Fergus Falls and Africa may be a world away, but through modern technology, students at Kennedy Secondary School have had the opportunity to talk face-to-face with students from Bertoua, Cameroon.

Nine students from Deb Sutor’s French classes have been using Skype to video chat one-on-one with French speaking African students.

“This is really fun,” said French student Breanna Larson. “It helps us learn the language more.”

Each student has been assigned one student from Bertoua to speak with and get to know. The students have spoken with their African friends four times so far, and they will continue to visit periodically throughout the semester, Sutor said.

It all started when Heather Buesseler, a 1999 graduate of Fergus Falls High School, contacted Sutor and talked about an organization that helps schools in the United States make connections with schools in Africa.

Sutor was interested, and pursued a grant for $3,000 to make a connection possible. The Minnesota Educators Foundation grant was awarded to Sutor, and the money was used to provide a school in Bertoua with cameras and other supplies necessary for communication.

While there were some technical issues and barriers at first, both schools managed to get Skype working, and the students had their first opportunity to talk with one another several weeks ago.

The students in the school in Bertoua are native French speakers, but many are studying three or four different languages.

“It has exceeded my expectations,” Sutor said. “It has given my students a chance to speak with native French speakers, and they have become friends. They’re not judging each other.”

The students in the school in Bertoua are native French speakers, but many are studying three or four different languages.

Larson said she has learned a lot about the culture and other things that can’t be learned in books.

Other classes that will benefit from the school to school connection include video productions, digital photography and cultural geography, Sutor said.

Students from both schools have taken photographs to share, and Sutor said she was amazed when she saw the photos taken from the students in Africa.

“The colors are so bright. It looks like something you would see in Time Magazine,” she said.

Cultural geography classes at KSS will have the opportunity to speak with the students from Bertoua as a class to learn more about African culture.

“It’s great to see everybody enjoying this opportunity,” said Sutor.

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