Editor’s note: This article is written by Dana Duncombe, a Healthy NewsWorks alumna.
February 2019…Student journalists from AMY Northwest Middle School in Philadelphia recently conducted a transatlantic interview with their eighth grade counterparts at Collège Carnot in Lille, France, where I currently currently work as an English language teaching assistant.
After weeks of preparation and complex scheduling to account for the six-hour time difference, the interview took place via Skype on Monday, January 28, with each classroom streaming the live video on a large screen.
One by one, the American students peppered their French peers with questions related to healthy habits and stereotypes. “What do you eat for lunch? What sports do you do? What is a typical weekday like for you?”
Confusion erupted when the American students learned that Collège Carnot holds class on Saturdays and that schools do not have water fountains. “Where do you fill up your water bottle?” one journalist exclaimed. “In the bathroom,” the French student responded. The American classroom exploded with various intonations of “What!”
Shortly thereafter, the French students asked their questions. “What do you think of when you hear the word, ‘France’? Do you listen to any French music?”
I particularly enjoyed it when one of the American students organized an impromptu fashion show of AMY’s school uniform. Students stepped in front of the camera showcasing the gym uniform, the eighth grade shirt, and the standard outfit for girls.
Timidity and giggles surfaced each time new students, French or American, positioned themselves in front of the camera.
I heard my students whispering about the striking similarities between them and the AMY students. I noticed some too—readjusting their hair, bonding over the Fortnite video game, and agreeing emphatically that school starts too early.
The AMY students will write about the experience for the Healthy Bulldog newspaper, part of the Healthy NewsWorks program.
“It was definitely a positive experience for our students,” said Stephanie McKenna, an AMY English Language Arts teacher and the newspaper’s faculty advisor. “They were excited for weeks leading up to the interview, produced thoughtful questions, and were very eager to hear the responses from the French students.”
One finding: “When our students asked the French students what they did on the weekends, they found out, no matter where you are, teenagers just like to eat and hang out,” Mrs. McKenna said.
In Lille, my students asked as soon as it was over when they would see the Americans again. They are already starting to prepare new questions.