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Students from Long Island & South Africa Connect in LIU Post Cultural Initiative

‘Courageous Conversation’ between middle school students in Amityville, N.Y. and Matieland, South Africa reveals much in common; dialogue to continue online


Morgan Lyle,Assistant Director of Public Relations
LIU Post, Long Island University

LIU_Post_Arnie_Dodge2_teleconferenceBrookville, N.Y. –A group of middle school students in Amityville, N.Y. joined contemporaries in South Africa by videoconference Monday, March 18 in the kick-off of Courageous Conversations, a cultural exchange initiated by Dr. Arnold Dodge, a professor of education at LIU Post.

The conversation was frank, lively, wide-ranging and even, at times, musical.

“How do you celebrate your birthday?” asked one of the youngsters gathered at Stellenbosch University in Matieland, South Africa. His new American friends replied that they have cake, blow out candles and sing “Happy Birthday.” To demonstrate, the Amityville youths broke into song, and almost immediately, the South Africans joined in – an intercontinental sing-along. (It turned out both groups knew the Stevie Wonder version of “Happy Birthday,” too.)

Ninth-graders from Edmund W. Miles Middle School in Amityville took part in the videoconference, and their school library hosted the American side of the conversation.

Dr. Dodge has been working with Berte Van Wyk, senior lecturer in philosophy of education at Stellenbosch University, to forge a connection between young people in the two countries and show them they are not as different as they might have thought. Long Island University has donated a dozen iPads for the South African students to use in communicating with their fellow teens.

The goals of Courageous Conversations include global awareness, development of language and communication skills and “myth-busting,” Dr. Dodge said. The latter was evident when the South African students explained that there are no lions and tigers walking around in their hometown, and when the American students explained that there are no skyscrapers in Amityville.

The American students asked the South African students what holidays they celebrate, where they hang out with their friends, what music they listen to and TV shows they watch, and what they want to be when they grow up. Occasionally the talk was more serious, as when the two groups discussed crime and drugs in schools.

“This is just starting the conversation,” Dr. Dodge said to the students in both countries. “You can get on your iPads and continue.”

“I was excited to begin with, and now I’m supercharged,” he added. “You guys were great. Your questions were great.”

Posted 03/21/2013

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