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Cutchogue East students Skype with kids in India, Virginia

Early Wednesday morning, third graders in Marianne Wachtel’s class gathered on the floor, eager to introduce themselves to fellow students across the world. 

The Cutchogue East Elementary class participated in Skype-A-Thon, an international learning initiative run by Microsoft Education. Over two days, teachers and guest speakers in classrooms across the globe were paired up and had the opportunity to ask each other questions about where they live and what they do.

Ms. Wachtel’s class participated in two Skype sessions, one in the morning with ninth graders in India and one that afternoon with second and fourth graders in Virginia.

In each session, both sets of students needed to ask each other questions to reveal their location.

“What colors are your flag?” and “What time is it where you are?” were some of the questions children shouted at the SMARTBoard screen.

The third graders were eager to learn about time differences — it was 7:30 p.m. in India when they Skyped — and cultural differences between the countries.

“In India we learned what music they listen to,” eight-year-old Olivia Lake said. “It’s called Bollywood.”

Claire McKenzie, 8, was interested to see that all the students had black hair and that they had different holidays in celebration of gods and goddesses. Jake Hutchinson, 8, said he was impressed they could speak three different languages.

“It was really cool to speak with people on the other side of the earth,” said eight-year-old Tyler Brown. “I learned different stuff, like they eat special food we’ve never heard of.”

When it came to speaking with students in Virginia, the Cutchogue East students were surprised and excited to learn all the similarities they shared and references they understood.

“I like sports, so I liked learning that they’re by the Redskins’ stadium,” said Brody Richart, 8.

The third graders were excited to hear the students had similar school days and liked the same foods — pizza and chicken nuggets.

Another fact the class enjoyed was realizing there were things the Virginia students shared with the ninth graders in India, who volunteered to come back to school after hours to be apart of the Skype call.

“We made a connection to India,” said Mason Marengo, 8. “Both [schools] have the same mascot. It’s a tiger.”

As the conversation with the Virginia students ended, Ms. Wachtel proposed the idea of doing a collaborative project to their teacher, Hannah Buttner, who eagerly agreed. Once both schools complete their portion of the project they’ll have another Skype session to share their work.

“It’s better than pen pals,” Brody said.

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