1. Description of Our Community
Our community includes Somali immigrants and Somali-American youth in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC. This includes immigrants who came to the United States up to 30 years ago to attend school and others that arrived in the United States within the last two years because of war. Other members of our community are the children of these Somali immigrants. Some of the children were born in the United States and have always lived in the United States. Other children were born in Somalia, Senegal, Kenya or others countries and came with their parents to the United States. We all speak English and many of us also speak Somali, Arabic and Spanish. All of us are Muslim. We are a blend of cultures and traditions.
2. Summary of Our Project
Our project began as a way to learn more about both Somalia and the United States and to better understand our blended culture. The purpose of our project is to share what we learned and teach others about Somalia and being Somali American. We also offer specific suggestions that people can use when they meet Somali immigrants or Somali American people to help them feel more comfortable in the United States. We started by learning basic facts about the geography and symbols of both countries. Then we created our own symbols to represent a blend of the two cultures. We studied books including fictional books about children that moved from Africa to the United States, factual books such an atlas and history books, and an essay written by a boy who came to the United States because of the war in Somalia. We talked about things that would be hard for people coming to the United States from Somalia and people who have fled a war. We then wrote interview questions to see if the ideas that we had were accurate. We did face to face interviews with six people and got information from17 other people through a web-based survey. We learned that some of our ideas were right and that there were other things we had not thought of. For example, we knew that people would miss their families and friends when they left home. But, we were surprised that everyone mentioned how much they missed the food from home. We then spent a couple of weeks talking about the main challenges faced by the Somali immigrants we had talked to and brainstormed about both things that they could do to feel more comfortable and things that we as youth could do to help them.
3. Our Computer and Internet Access
A. Percentage of students using the Internet at home:more than 50%
B. Number of workstations with Internet access in the classroom:1
C. Connection speed used in the classroom:dedicated connection
D. Number of years our classroom has been connected to the Internet:2-3
E. Additional comments concerning your computer and/or Internet access (Optional):
One of the goals of the Somalia American Community Association’s Family Learning Center is to provide families with computers that they can use to improve their job skills and to connect to the internet. As a result, all of the project participants had access to the internet at home. Internet access was very important for the Somali Kids’ Project because we used it to find pictures, videos and information about Somali and the United States. We also used the internet for our web-based survey. One of the coolest things was finding avatars that reflected us and our teacher that we could include on our web-pages.
4. Problems We Had To Overcome
While we started with a focus on Somali Americans, there were some youth and adults in our group from other countries and we had to think about ways to include them without losing our main focus on Somali immigrants. We were able to look at the parts of their experiences that were similar to the Somali experience and include those ideas in our website. It was hard to find developmentally appropriate books that talked specifically about the Somali experience. Because the project was voluntary we also had problems with attendance and participation. While there were 11 children all together, only four participated in every activity. It was also hard to hear about some of the hard times that the people we interviewed had gone through.
5. Our Project Sound Bite
From studying the real life experiences of Somali immigrants to the United States, the Somali Kids’ Project helped us learn more about the world and also to be grateful for the safety and security that we have in our lives in the United States. We also learned that even kids can make a difference in the lives of others.
6. How did your activities and research for this CyberFair Project support standards, required coursework and curriculum standards?
While this project was a voluntary extra curricular activity, we consulted the standards from the National Council for Social Studies (http://www.socialstudies.org/).
Culture: how we understand ourselves as individuals and as part of a group or groups. In our case Somali, American, Somali American and Muslim.
People, places and environments: We learned about geography and how living in different environments affects people. For example, how we are different from our parents because we grew up in the United States while they grew up in Somalia.
Global connections: We were able to have first hand contact with people who have lived in many different countries and we learned about how they lived, how they see things, and issues that they have faced in moving to the United States.
Civic ideas and practices: We touched on our responsibility as citizens to help other people that live in our community. We talked about things in general that can help as well as things that we can do personally.
This project was different from our school classes because we were able more active in the process. We were able to shape the project and the web-site. We looked as books, videos and music and were able to talk to people asking our own questions in our own words.