Blogging with Bedouins: A Vov Class Project

When many of us were in school, we had pen pals. We wrote letters by hand and mailed them at the post office. Things are a little more high-tech these days!  Kids have blog exchanges.  As part of their curriculum on the history of and current life in Israel/Palestine, students in Rachie Lewis’ Vov Class are blogging with photos, stories and poems while a group of ninth grade Bedouin students from the Negev Desert are doing the same.  Hearing the Bedouin students’ stories gives the Vov class a window into the daily reality of a group living on the other side of the world.  “When you hear stories, it’s a lot harder to accept generalizations about a group of people,” says Rachie. 

Looking at the blog posts, the sixth graders see that their lives are both similar to (they play video games!) and different from (they ride camels!) the lives of their Bedouin peers.  “This balance of similarity and difference” says Rachie, “leads to a sense of comfort, and from there you can explore things that are less comfortable,” such as the fact that many of the Bedouin students come from unrecognized villages that lack basic public services.    
In working on their blog, the sixth graders also had to reflect on their own lives. “The project made me think more about my life and my family,” said Shaina Jewett-Wolf, one of the Vov Class students.  Each student uploaded an “identity portrait” to the blog in which they describe the different things that make them who they are. This poem is from Shaina:
I am from music.
Different rhythms tapping all around
Wonderful sounds.
I am from dancing.
From spinning around
To jumping up and down.
I am from holidays.
Presents, joy, wonder, family
Feasts of food and smiles on our faces.
During last year’s blog exchange, the Bedouin students also wrote poems.  One example:  
We are from the life under the hot sun
where the rain didn't come
where the camels live around
where no water, no grass on the ground.
With deadly quietness. We feel bored.
We are from pizza with mothers
Chocolate with fathers
And ice cream with brothers.
We are from "Stop the noise" and do your homework."
Two things parents keep telling us.
We are from nice friends
Who are the best forever.
And this year, each of the Bedouin students described an aspect of their culture that is important to them and posted a photo. One example:
I am 16 years old. I live in small village that called Alforaa.  My dream is to be a history teacher. My hobbies are watching TV, listening to music and reading books.
In this picture, you can see the main kind of Bedouin food. It's called Mansaf. It's made from rice, meat and bread. All the family members sit around this big dish and eat together.  Mom is a good cook, and she makes for us many other kinds of food. I love to eat Mansaf. I invite you for a lunch in my house.  

Maybe someday one of our sixth graders will travel to the Negev and take her up on it! But in the meantime, the blogging project allows for a virtual connection that allows each group to welcome the other into their lives.