Is there graffiti in Kazakhstan? Do you like living in Nigeria? Is your food spicy or sweet? Are there rich people there? Have you ever been on a plane before? In the new short film “The World Is as Big or as Small as You Make It,” students from Philadelphia use technology to connect with peers around the world in touching, cross-cultural exchanges.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, kids in Philadelphia participate in a “Do Remember Me” program founded by Sannii Crespina-Flores at a local rec center. Using free software- such as skype– the students have conversations with teens from all corners of the globe. The lessons and knowledge gained are endless: cross-cultural communication, digital citizenship, current events, technical skills, research…. and opening the students’ eyes to the world outside their neighborhood.
One young woman notes, “The world is a… humungous place. This program is perfect for me because I get to know people and ask as many questions as I want.” Later, another students announces “The world is as big or as small as you make it.”
Throughout the short film, we witness the moving dialogues. Girls from North Philadelphia give a tour of their day, neighborhood, and playground, while the girls from Kazakhstan show how they play in the snow, take the bus, and how some people ice fish in their local lake.
In a poignant moment, a girl from Japan is asked “Is your school safe? Is your city safe? Have you experienced racism? If so, how?”
She responds “I didn’t experience it… and I hope I never,” though she says she heard about a young African-American getting killed by the police in the US. There is a pause as the group realizes that the news has spread around the world.
The favorite scene of my kids is an exchange of talents. A Cameroon student (born in Spain and living in France) and beatbox artist asks “Is there something about you guys that could amaze others?” The kids from Philly share a dance,and both groups are impressed.
The students discuss their origins- “If you are from Africa, why do you all live in France?” and then they move onto typical teen conversations about girlfriends, and following each other on instagram.
Ms. Crespina-Flores explains “Puberty is puberty.. being a teen is being a teen. They find out there are so many similarities. They are more connected, and more alike than they are separate. It’s an exchange of possibilities.”