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Salmon River sixth graders use Skype to travel to Greece

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FORT COVINGTON - Salmon River Central’s sixth grade STEM program went international on Wednesday, learning about how ancient Greece continues to influence modern society and cultural ideas.

Over 65 students gathered in a Skype-capable lecture hall at the school and spoke for over an hour with Athens, Greece resident Roula Kabourgianni. The international speaker challenged students to think long-term about Greece after weeks of class lessons about the country’s ancient history, and even hosting their very own Greek festival on Nov. 22.

Everything from the Declaration of Independence to the rise of Hitler can be related to cultural practices in ancient Greece, said Kabourgianni. Athens inspired generations of free thinkers in many different areas of study and gave us the basis for democracy, while Sparta encompassed ideals of military might and discipline, as well as a distaste for weakness.

Kabourgianni pointed to many ties between the U.S. system of government and that of the ancient Greeks, stressing freedom of speech, equality before the law, elected offices and a system of checks and balances. But she also made sure to talk about the differences - Athenians banished politicians with too much power from the city for 10 years and killed Socrates for being outspoken, much of the modern world has come a long way from that.

Students also challenged the speaker with questions like “How are the economies of Greece and the U.S. connected?” and “Why does Spartan totalitarianism work so well as a model for the U.S. military?” While these appeared to take Kabourgianni off guard, overall she seemed pleased at the depth of thought that went into the discussion.

STEM social studies teacher Janice Santamore spoke about how excited the students were about the video call, promising to be attentive and polite for the program’s first international contact.

Presumably it won’t be the program’s last. Besides speaking with STEM students, Kabourgianni put the teachers in contact with an Athens school that has expressed interest in linking their students in some way. Superintendent Jane Collins called it an amazing opportunity to make international friends.

The Skype call was made possible only through friendship, actually, and the organization of Ms. Collins, who is friends with Kabourgianni. She hopes this opportunity inspires students the become big influences in the world someday.

But no matter what, all 65 kids have now made a friend in Kabourgianni.

“If any one of you happen to come to Athens, give me a call,” Kabourgianni signed off a smile. “The places we’d go!”

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