Middle school connects with Indian students

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Neighbors | Zack Shively.The Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project is a nonprofit organization that educates children from poor socioeconomic backgrounds that would not ordinarily receive an education. The students live together at the school in Baliganapalli.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.Poland Middle School had a video chat with the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in Baliganapalli, Tamil Nadu in India on Feb. 27. Pictured, a student asked the Indian students about the weather in Baliganapalli.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.The students at Poland Middle School quickly learned they had a lot in common with the students of the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project, such as similar loves of music and sports, despite living on opposite sides of the world.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.The Poland Middle School eighth-grade students enjoyed speaking with the children from the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project and wanted to organize further communications with the students.


Neighbors | Zack Shively.The video conference between Poland Middle School and the Shanti Bhavan school was set up by Ravi Hutheesing, a speaker and partner with the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project. Hutheesing, pictured on screen, and the school counselors Mary Jo Rowan and Laura Mechling organized the event between the schools after the counselors met Hutheesing at a conference.



Poland Middle School had a video chat session with students in India on Feb. 27 as a part of the school’s Capture Kindness Month.

The school connected on a three-way video chat with students from the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project in Baliganapalli, Tamil Nadu in India and Ravi Hutheesing, who set up the connection between the two schools.

Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project runs a small private school in India for children born into the lowest class to receive an education. The students receive their education from the age of four until they graduate twelfth grade.

Hutheesing partners with the organization. He himself is a musician and speaker. School counselors Laura Mechling and Mary Jo Rowan met him after his keynote address at the 2017 All Ohio Counselors Conference and the three set up the video conference between the schools with the help of representatives from both schools.

The counselors asked for volunteers to be a part of the conversation, which resulted in many students wanting to be involved with the project. Rowan had the students do a quick writing exercise during their advisory period to explain why they wanted to participate in the program.

Then, the counselors chose 28 students and met with them during their advisory period to talk about the culture in India and to formulate questions before the video call.

The 28 Poland students connected with the 14 Shanti Bhavan students around 9 a.m. in Poland and 7:30 p.m. in Baliganapalli.

Hutheesing gave the schools some information about each other to begin. Then, students from the schools asked each other questions about their lives.

A confident Poland Middle School student opened the discussion by asking about the weather in India. From there, the schools exchanged questions that ranged from “what sports does your school offer?“ to “If you were to change one thing about the world, what would it be?“

The schools found that they shared a lot of similarities in their interests and desires. Both schools play most of the same sports, such as basketball and soccer, and listened to a lot of the same music, including Taylor Swift and Drake. They also both wanted to help make the world a better place.

They did find out some differences, both small and large. Their climates are very different, the Indian students play cricket and listen to Bollywood music and the Poland students eat at a variety of fast food restaurants. The Poland students realized that the Shanti Bhavan students had a closer community with each other.

The students talked with the counselors after the video call. The students agreed that the Shanti Bhavan children were kind and welcoming. They were surprised by how much they had in common with each other.

When the students answered what they would want to change in the world, Hutheesing asked the students to think about what ways the students could elicit change right now.

Similarly, the students discussed how strong of a community the Shanti Bhavan had in their school. They tried to come up with ways that they could raise their sense of community and engagement with each other.

One student said that if they could find things in common with people across the world, they should be able to find commonalities among each other.

Another student noted that the Shanti Bhavan school has a smaller group of students, and they all live together at the school, making it easier for their connection. He then said that creating a familial connection throughout the school is still something to strive for, even if it is difficult.

All of the students showed strong interest in having another video call and keeping in touch with those students. Some students discussed having a one-on-one call or setting up a “pen pal” situation to keep in touch with those that shared a lot of their same interests.

The school’s Capture Kindness Month also included a theme week during Start With Hello Week where they dressed in different themed outfits to show community within the school. Sandy Hook Promise created the Start With Hello Week to fight social isolation in schools. The organization also gave a presentation at the school.

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