By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD – Trevor Shining wants to learn Arabic so he can talk to his new friends.
The 11-year-old Meadows Elementary School fifth-grader participated in a video teleconference with students from two schools in Iraq's Wasit Province. The province is on Iraq's southeast border by Iraq.
The school, through its partnership with the 41st Fires Brigade's 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, led by Lt. Col. Timothy Bush, has been corresponding with Iraqi students since the fall. The 41st Fires Brigade arrived in the province in June 2008.
The students have sent videos back and forth, and Friday's video teleconference was the first live contact between the groups. Iraqi and American kids took turns standing in front of the camera and asking questions. A translator in Iraq interpreted the questions and answers.
Shining, whose mother is deployed to Iraq with the 1st Cavalry Division, answered a question about the school's computers and whether the students have computer classes. He told the Iraqi student they have a computer lab and mainly use it for research.
The Iraqi student said that his school didn't have any computers, and Shining said later it was hard to imagine because every classroom at Meadows has a computer and his family has a computer at home.
Shining said it would be nice if they could send excess school supplies and computers to the students in Iraq.
The school is set to organize a school-supply drive in the fall, one of the teachers told the Iraqi children, and asked for a list of wanted items. It included soccer balls, paint and paintbrushes. The government gives the school things like books and paper, but it isn't enough, an Iraqi school administrator said.
After the video teleconference, Meadows Principal Karol Carlisle talked to the fourth- and fifth-graders about what they discussed with the Iraqi students, reminding them they have more than the children with whom they interacted. They couldn't just go down to the Wal-Mart and buy supplies, she said, and the Meadows students' care and participation showed they had a lot of heart and character.
"I just hope it teaches them compassion," Carlisle said of the experience.
The exchange deepens the students' knowledge of culture and language, she added. An Iraqi student asked if Arabic is taught at Meadows because English is taught in his class. It isn't, a Meadows student answered. Shining was impressed that most of the Iraqi childen knew a few words of English. Many introduced themselves in English, "My name is ?"
Fridays and Saturdays are weekends for Iraqi schoolchildren and the students who participated in the video teleconference came long distances on a Friday night to talk to Meadows children, Carlisle said.
That shows that families in Iraq are just like families in America – they care about their children's futures, she added.
Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7547.