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Buddying up with Calgary chaps

Aklavik kids named honourary citizens

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Aklavik (May 05/03) - A group of Moose Kerr students are learning all about cowboy gear and two-stepping, thanks to the new Computer Buddies program.

A month ago, 19 Grade 3, 5 and 6 students began communicating via e-mail with students from Glendale elementary school in Calgary.

Dubbed Computer Buddies, the project began after Moose Kerr school was visited from Paul Davies, an engineer with Shell Canada.

Davies suggested the school embark on a cultural exchange with the Calgary school, where two of his children are enrolled.

"His enthusiasm about the North, Aklavik and Moose Kerr school was quite infectious and two of our teachers were anxious to participate in a project with that school," said program support teacher Selena Kowell.

So Grade 5 teacher Sophie Call and Grade 6 teacher Gavin Christie decided to start up the Computer Buddies program.

Moose Kerr students were each provided an e-pal address and have been communicating with the Calgary students for the past month. Kowell said they have been sharing environmental, geographical, cultural and community information with each other.

During the Easter break Kowell visited Calgary and was invited to attend a presentation at Glendale about Aklavik.

"They did a wonderful presentation with slides and all kinds of information. In fact, I learned things I hadn't known," said Kowell.

The students then presented Kowell with a box of cultural goodies from Calgary to deliver to their Computer Buddies up North. And to solidify the relationship between the two schools, Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier made a special presentation.

"He presented them with a Smith-built Stetson that is given to dignitaries to Calgary and also presented them with a certificate making the students of Moose Kerr school honourary citizens," said Kowell.

The white cowboy hat, known as the city's symbol of hospitality.

Call said her students are quite enthused about their e-pals.

"They are very excited and to know that the kids at Glendale are so excited about it too is really interesting for them," she said.

The cultural package put together by the Glendale students included Calgary Flames paraphernalia, 3-D goggles from the Calgary Science Centre, a Glendale school brochure and dried Calgary flowers.

In return, the students are preparing their own cultural goodie box to send to their Glendale friends.

"We've got tons of different fur items, mukluks, an ulu, a drum dancing outfit, some carvings and dried meat.

"The kids are also practising for a video we are going to prepare for them this week," said Call.

Principal Velma Illasiak said she hopes the two schools will be able to co-ordinate a student exchange next year, so Moose Kerr kids can experience Calgary's culture firsthand.

"It's the first year a program like this has taken place and I think its a wonderful eye-opener for our students.

"It really broadens their knowledge about life outside of their community and hopefully it will spark some friendships that will last a long time," said Illasiak.