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Long Distance Education.

Byline: Ceri Edwards

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Most children of class five in Azzan bin Qais Private School (ABQ), Bausher, have never been to Scotland, but they have benefited from a unique and innovative educational experience that enabled them to sample life in a culture very unlike their own. By using Flat Stanley - a book by American author Jeff Brown published in 1964 - as inspiration, students of ABQ and St Andrews School in southern Scotland taught each other about clothes they wear, the school they attend and the life they lead.

The brainchild of Angela Hillan, head of school at ABQ, the idea for this joint venture in global citizenship came from the plot of Flat Stanley, where the title character gets flattened by a falling bulletin board enabling him to subsequently visit new places through the post travelling in an envelope.

Fitting this concept to their school curriculum, ABQ students made their own versions of Flat Stanley, renamed Flat Sa'ad to make him truly Omani, and sent him, along with a fact file, 'passport' and a letter from his mother, Mrs Lambchop, to their counterparts in Scotland. In return, the Scottish students sent their Flat Stanleys in St Andrews School uniform, along with the obligatory Scottish kilts. Upon arrival in the sultanate, the Scottish Stanleys were taken to the students' homes, treated to exciting excursions to Omani landmarks, including the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Nakhal Fort, and had traditional Omani outfits made for them.

In turn, the Omani Sa'ads received a taste of what life is like in Scotland. Now that the Sa'ads are safely back in Oman, with journal entries and photographs of adventures in Scotland, the ABQ students presented their experiences on April 13 in the presence of guest of honour, Dr Ahmed al Ghazali, chairman of Muscat College, and proud parents.

Also in the audience was Eileen Mulrooney, head teacher of St Andrews School and Angela's sister. "We carried out this project for a number of reasons - students could learn about the culture, customs and environment of another country as well as research and learn about their own to present to others," Angela explained.

She added that another benefit of the project was that the students were provided the opportunity to acquire and practise writing skills in situations that gave them a real purpose and audience.

Besides learning a lot, the ABQ students informed that they thoroughly enjoyed their experiences and would like to follow in Sa'ad's footstep and visit Scotland some day. Eileen was extremely proud of the ABQ students for the efforts they had put into their project and end presentation. "I am now confident that this type of a project will be a permanent part of my school's curriculum and I will be investigating possible links with other countries," she said.

[c] Apex Press and Publishing

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Date:May 10, 2008
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