UK and U.S. School: A Transatlantic Relationship

It was great to hear from Darrick Wood School in Orpington on their Transatlantic Skype conversation with an American school in Ohio, Alain Cozens,Assistant Head Teacher at Darrick Wood School, tells us how the conversation came about….

Darrick Wood Students
Darrick Wood Students

“The start of a new transatlantic relationship between our school in Orpington, London and Kenston Ohio began rather by chance. I came across the US school’s website during a web search and discovered it to have one of the best school websites I have come across. Browsing through its academic departments I came across the name of name of Anissa Smith, an American Government and Politics teacher who has an excellent blog for her students. I received a very positive response and email correspondence over a number of weeks led to planning a Skype conference in mid-April of this year.

Our Year 13 Government and Politics class spend half their Year 13 course studying different aspects of US politics and government. They have been gripped by the ups and downs of the presidential primaries this year and success in their A level exam requires them to be as up to date as possible. The media provides us with a wealth of information, comment and opinion and in fact it can be somewhat overwhelming to keep abreast with it all. However our Politics department at Darrick Wood School felt that a new dimension could be added by our students actually engaging with US High school students on a range of issues face to face by Skype. Many of these students on both sides of the pond are now old enough to not just study the issues but actually vote at the ballot box and what a year with these UK and US students faced with such momentous decisions to make in the coming months with the EU referendum and US presidential elections.

Kenston High School, Ohio
Kenston High School, Ohio

Technically the whole Skype session ran smoothly and it seemed that the US High School students were just in the next room rather than 5 time zones away in the deepest mid-west of the US. The American students answered a whole very varied range of question from our sixth formers and posed some really excellent ones of their own. It was a fascinating discussion . Issues raised by our students included the relative merits of the current presidential candidates, the issue of money in politics, social issues, US constitutional arrangements and much more besides. The US students were surprisingly well informed about developments on this side of the Atlantic and were interested in different aspects of our political life including the EU referendum and how the House of Lords can be justified as a political institution as well as wanting to discuss UKIP and Jeremy Corbyn.

The whole experience was a great success. We hope to repeat this event next year and see how we can further develop links between the Politics departments at our two schools. It was truly wonderful and heartening to see young people in two countries which enjoy such a special relationship engaged in such stimulating discussions”.

Anissa Smith the teacher at Kenston High School gives her view on the Skype conversation with Darrick Wood School:

“Discussing politics with Darrick Wood School was a great experience for my AP Advanced Placement American Government Class. How often do you get to chat with students across an ocean about your government and theirs?

The UK students asked so many questions about our government and my students were very honest. They are all around 17 and 18 years of age and they have varying opinions on politics in the United States. Many will be voting in the next presidential election and have been following the primaries and caucuses. The United States has quite a controversial presidential election happening right now. American politics unfortunately is dividing many Americans similar to the UK and its upcoming vote on separating from the EU.

I was so impressed with the youth of the UK and the U.S. and their interest in each other’s politics and politics in general. We are fortunate to teach students who value education and want to get involved in civic activities. I’m hoping this will become a yearly tradition”.