Pinckney, Michigan students learn Algerian ways



The Ann Arbor News

High school students in the Algerian province of Blida don’t know much about fast food and drive-through restaurants. Most of them don’t even have cars.

Then again, Pinckney Community High Schoolstudents don’t know what Berber tribal music sounds like, and most of them don’t speak two or three languages.

By the end of the school year, teenagers in both places will know a lot more about each other and where they live because of a unique interactive social studies lesson developed by Michigan State University‘s College of Education.

“I tell my students that the best learning is done through travel,” said Pinckney High social studies teacher Shane Clary. “In a way, that’s what they’re doing.”

Instead of using planes, trains or automobiles, juniors and seniors in Clary’s western world history class are visiting their Algerian counterparts this semester via computer, video-conferencing and Internet blogging.

“It’s an awesome and unbelievable opportunity to be able to talk directly with kids from another country,” Clary said. “It’s easier than learning from a textbook, and it’s much more interesting.”

Pinckney is one of several Michigan schools participating in E3Link, a program originated by the U.S. State Department‘s Middle East Partnership Initiative in 2005 to help develop an understanding of culture, community and country among students in the United States and the North African country of Algeria.

“It’s important to do this,” said Jenna Craft, a junior in Clary’s class. “As Americans, we think we’re the best. This makes us see what other countries don’t have and that makes us more grateful of what we do have.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, visited Pinckney High when students from both countries connected for the first time in a video-conference get-acquainted session. There were a few technical difficulties, but the experience was eye-opening to students in both places.

“I have to admit that I really don’t know anything about Algeria or Algerian people,” said Pinckney senior Ashley Peapples. “I bet I’ll learn a lot.”

Students in both classrooms shared brief descriptions of their communities with each other. They talked about what they liked to do in their spare time and the differences between their music and parties and celebrations.

“I think they’ll discover as they go along that they have a lot more in common than they don’t,” Rogers said.

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