Mystery Skype With Russia Extends Students’ Borders

 Today the Year 6 students at St Andrew’s College had a unique experience, engaging in a game of Mystery Skype with students from a school in the very remote location of Sakhalin Island International School, off the east coast of Russia and north of Japan.

This was arranged by Mr Wilj Dekkers who happened to know the classroom teacher in the International School run by Shell Oil. In fact, the Skype session happened over two days, with the initial session struggling for consistent internet connectivity (they had experienced a massive snow dump the night before which may have contributed to the problem). If anything, this taster added to the suspense for the students and also allowed Mr Dekkers to coach the the students on formulating effective questions, listening carefully to the responses given from the students and using the various atlases and computers to research more effectively:

Students talking to a class on Sakhalin Island, Russia via Skype.

Students talking to a class on Sakhalin Island, Russia via Skype.

When the students managed to reconnect, the quality of the call was significantly better, allowing the two classes to freely ask questions back and forth with these having a strong focus on geographical locations such as

Students in the the school in Sakhalin Island

Students in the the school in Sakhalin Island

  • Are you north of the equator?
  • Is your country land locked?
  • Does it snow often in your country?
  • Do you use the Euro as a currency?

The students were required to ask closed questions that could be answered as “Yes” or “No” and quickly realised from this that there was a real skill in being able to formulate a useful closed question.

In the end the students from St Andrew’s College managed to guess the capital city of “Moscow” leading to the inevitable question of “Are you in Russia?”, whereby our new friends followed with “Are you kiwis?” They then shared some interesting facts about their school, including:

  • It’s an international school with all of them being there because their parents are connected with the Oil Industry
  • There are ~140 students in their school, made up of 33 nationalities
  • They were about to head outside and play in the snow and it was -10 Celsius (it has to get to -20 to -25 degrees Celsius before it’s too cold outside to play.

The St Andrew’s students then performed a rousing waiata to finish off the very enjoyable Skype session:

Culture Connecting Classrooms: Kapa Haka Via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew's College via Skype

A student from Avondale Grammar in Singapore asking a question of Year 4 students at St Andrew’s College via Skype

On Friday last week our two Year 4 classes in the Preparatory school engaged in their first ever Mystery Skype, something other classes have done before with schools in Singapore and Australia. For those unsure of what a Mystery Skype is, here is a good explanation:

Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions.

This Mystery Skype was again with Avondale Grammar in Singapore, but with different classes, neither sets of students knew where in the world the other class was. It was terrific seeing the students asking intelligent questions, using atlases, globes and trusty Google to try and locate where the other school was. I was impressed with the students from St Andrew’s asking questions such as “Are you an island?” and also picking up clues such as the names on the school uniforms of the students from Avondale.

This culminated in our Year 4 students being the first to correctly guess the country and the school which was a very exciting “win” for them. To help out the Avondale students, the St Andrew’s College students decided to perform the school haka:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s deliver a passionate haka over Skype to students in Singapore.

Mr Craig Kemp, the teacher at Avondale Grammar that helped co-ordinate the Mystery Skype was really impressed with the haka from our students, sending out a tweet with a photo of how it looked via Skype from their end.

It was quickly decided at this point that a followup Skype between the two classes should happen, as Mr Kemp was keen for his students, who had been learning some Kapa Haka themselves, to see more from the St Andrew’s College students. This happened today and we again captured the action as the two classes shared performances with each other:

Year 4 students from St Andrew’s College and Avondale Grammar exchange kapa haka performances via Skype.

I was really thrilled to see this “re-connect” between the two classrooms as it builds on the connection established via the original Mystery Skype and allows both classes to share cultural performances they have been practicing, in this case, kapa haka. It’s awesome to see that New Zealand teachers around the world are taking aspects of tikanga Māori with them into their classrooms and sharing it with their students.

A view from the St Andrew’s College classroom as Year 4 students perform the classic waiata “Toia mai te waka nei”

It’s incredible that technology such as Skype allows this sort of cultural exchange to take place so easily and I am pleased that teachers like Mr Kemp from Avondale Grammar in Singapore, and our own Year 4 teachers Mrs Penny Munro-Foster and Mrs Anneke Kamo are open to making these sorts of connections.

Mr Kemp noted at the end of the performances that former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga was coming to visit the school only an hour after the Skype session and this was a great warm up for his students who were going to perform the haka for Tana.

Students from Avondale Grammar practice their kapa haka via Skype before a visit from former All Black rugby captain Tana Umaga

This connection creates an awesome example for other classes at St Andrew’s College to take up the challenge and try Mystery Skyping for themselves!