Friends and Flags (Archived Version!)

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Founder Karen Eini
 At a Glance
 Name 
Friends and Flags
Member since  April 21, 2000
Participating Countries  Argentina, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, United Kingdom, USA
Age of Participants 1st grade through 11th grade
Purpose Offer a multi-cultural learning atmosphere where students can use their English and share their world with others.
Project Founder and Coordinator Karen Eini
Web address http://www.friendsandflags.org
 
Friends and Flags was born from a dream Karen Eini had one night. On awaking, she excitedly wrote down her idea and began working on it the very next day! Since then, the Friends and Flags program has brought together students from 25 countries around the world.

 

Jerusalem
A native of Montreal, Canada, Karen moved to Israel in 1989 and has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) there for the last ten years. Karen began experimenting with the Internet about five years ago, using it to engage her students in exciting adventures beyond the walls of their classroom. Upon completing her Masters in Education Studies, with a dissertation on the effects of the Internet in the EFL classroom, Karen felt the need to begin a project of her own.

Learning about Finland Friends and Flags was originally intended as a small classroom project for Karen's 9th graders. She hoped to find five classes from different countries that would be interested in corresponding with her students. The goal was a collaboration of all the participants—sharing information with the others via e-mail and traditional mail. The advertisement Karen placed on project registries around the world brought overwhelming results! After 90 classes from 25 countries were registered, Karen reluctantly closed the registrations, since Friends and Family was being organized entirely in her own free time and without any sort of funding.

The 90 registered classes were organized into 15 learning circles, with six classes in each circle. E-mail lists were set up for the group as a whole and for each learning circle. Teachers collaborated, too, exchanging methodology and thoughts on classroom issues. To accommodate all this communication, Karen built the Friends and Flags web site (http://www.friendsandflags.org), and continues to maintain it in her free time. She also writes weekly newsletters, updating the participants on events, issues, ideas, and what is new on the web site.

Participating students range from 1st graders in Australia to 11th graders in Spain. Children from a hospital school in Slovenia enrich other classes with their stories in Braille. As part of this multi-cultural learning experience, where students are encouraged to use their English to share their world with others, each class prepares informational packets about its country for the other five classes in their learning circle. The students write about their homes, schools, national sports, holidays, tourist attractions, etc. They make collages, audio tapes, videos and posters for their partners. Generally, each class has divided into smaller groups, with each small group being responsible for preparing an informational packet for one of the other classes in its circle. Throughout the process, both students and teachers have stayed in touch with participants in their own circle and other circles through e-mails, messages on the message board at the Friends and Family web site, and the exchange of cards, both online and off, on holidays, in sympathy, and just to stay in touch.

 

Sundaisy
SayIt has played an important role in this process. The creative nature of SayIt's site appealed to Karen from the start. Participating students attempt to present their cultures in a variety of creative ways, and SayIt is a great vehicle for their creativity. SayIt allows them to create cards and exchange them with one another. And SayIt's voice greetings allow the students to practice speaking English and to introduce their partners to their own native languages. In addition, SayIt's Affiliate Program and various contests and reward programs have allowed Friends and Flags to earn some money to further build their program, while they use SayIt to stay in touch with one another!


Peace and Respect
Reactions from the participating students have been enthusiastic. Almost unanimously, they comment on how much they like communicating with students from other countries and how much they have learned about other cultures. Nofar, a 15-year-old from Israel, says, "The most important thing I learned from this project is to honor the differences in people." Nofar's group is working with Taiwan and she has used SayIt to design and send a thank you card to the students in Taiwan. Frances and Andriana, 11-year-olds from Canada, both agree that Friends and Flags has taught them to work cooperatively in a group. The most important thing that Jessica, age 12, has learned from this project is "how to search and go on sites for information or go on the Friends and Flags site for updates on packages or on different schools." And Canadians Rebecca, Jasmine and Sophie, all age 12, explain what they have learned: "Most of the kids are usually the same, except for their different cultures and traditions."


Friends and Flags
Sadly, the Friends and Flags participants have already had to weather tragedy. Several participating Nigerian students were killed during a violent outbreak in their small village. Responding to this tragic lesson in the realities facing some of their peers, Friends and Flags students in all the participating countries rallied to send their condolences and sympathy.

Fortunately, the 1999-2000 Friends and Flags year is ending on a much brighter note. On June 23rd, at Kazir School in Israel, there will be a Friends and Flags Festival. Kiosks will be set up displaying the informational packages students have prepared and students will be wearing the traditional clothing of each country. Video conferencing has been arranged with Cyprus to allow parents and students there to "attend" the festival, and video e-mails have been received from the USA. Younger students will have "travel passports" and will receive stickers from each kiosk they visit. Students at Kazir School are using SayIt cards to invite their friends and family members to the festival. In addition, inspectors from the Israeli Ministry of Education and numerous embassies have been invited to attend. Truly a fitting celebration to cap the first year of this wonderfully innovative program!

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