The Political Science Program at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, with the assistance of the University’s Division of International Studies & Programs, is pleased to introduce its Pacific Studies Program - a pioneering collaborative initiative between A&M-Kingsville and the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.

The Pacific Studies Program (PSP) is being co-directed by Dr. Nirmal Goswami, Professor of Political Science, A&M-Kingsville and Dr. Elaine Webster, Director, Summer School and Continuing Education, University of Otago. The PSP will include graduate and undergraduate students traveling to and staying in New Zealand from July 5th, 2012, through July 22nd, 2012, attending classes at the University of Otago, and visiting multiple sites through field trips in the greater Otago region. Areas of focus include history, politics, economics, culture, sustainability and environmental policies, etc., with reference to both the greater Pacific region and New Zealand.

Dr. Christine Reiser-Robbins, Anthropology Program, Texas A&M-Kingsville, is directing a Service Learning Project, a special component of the PSP. The PSP will facilitate interaction between middle and high school students from Bishop School District, Texas, and Logan Park High School, Dunedin, Otago, through the application of Internet-enabled technologies.

You are all invited to cyber travel with us as we learn about the uniqueness of New Zealand and the surrounding region. This blog will document our experience. You are welcome to post comments.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Cool Learning Community!

One of the unique components of the Pacific Studies Program is the development of a Learning Community which included multiple audiences. This was done by incorporating the following groups: TAMU-K undergraduate and graduate students and faculty; Logan Park High School (Dunedin, New Zealand) students/teachers; and middle and high school students/teachers from Bishop and Kingsville, Texas. TAMU-K faculty, Dr. Christine Reiser-Robbins, along with Bishop teacher Ms. Mary Dragon and Logan Park teacher, Mr. Paul Enright, coordinated the Learning Community Project. The three of us, as graduate students, were the lead TAMU-K project assistants. Dr. Goswami was the overall supervisor. We had spent months preparing Bishop/Kingsville students to interact with the Logan Park students through the application on Internet-enabled “Skype” technology. We are very happy to report that the Project was a big success. The Texas and New Zealand middle/high school students talked with each other on topics ranging from culture, history, language, environment, geography, immigration, etc. The interactions between the two groups were live and spread over two sessions on two days. The Texas students welcomed the New Zealand students by singing a mariachi song while the New Zealand students greeted them in Maori! The questions each group asked varied from serious to light-hearted. Both groups clearly enjoyed the experience and so did we. It was interesting to observe how the two groups, after discussing serious topics, moved on to things like American television. The New Zealand kids wanted to know if schools in Texas experienced events like those depicted in TV shows like The Glee Project; they also asked if Texas high schools had cliques. The Texas students inquired if New Zealand schools had homecoming. We were impressed by the intellect and curiosity demonstrated by both youth groups. We learned from the experience too! Our Project might be the only Learning Community Project that connected university students and faculty with middle/high school students/teachers in two continents! This Project was a very enriching experience for all!

Katharine K.
Elisabeth C.
Mike T.

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