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Local fifth graders dream along with Israeli teacher

The world is becoming an extremely small place, as fifth graders in Doug Fahrendorff's class at Hillcrest Elementary School can attest.

Students from the local class have online postings on an internet message board established by a teacher in Israel. Poems of the 10- and 11-year-old writers from here appear on the "Dreamy Discussion Board," as do photos of the Hillcrest group plus their activities, such as launching model rockets, and other samples of their work, Fahrendorff said Wednesday.

"Three years ago, we were invited to participate," he said, admitting to being a computer enthusiast.

Marsha Goren, the Israeli educator who was recently named Microsoft's Innovative Teacher of the Year, is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Fahrendorff said. After his students studied a book called "Number the Stars" about attempts by Denmark to protect their Jewish citizens during the German occupation, they recommended the book to visitors of Goren's school's web site.

"Goren's message board is dedicated to sharing things kids do," he said, understanding the site has 844 registered users and approximately 1,000 articles are posted to the board.

Topics on the board range from pet gallery to hobbies, sports to favorite TV show or favorite book, Fahrendorff said. Around 10 of the 16 fifth graders in his class have contributed.

A different project had his students responding to an appeal from Goren for reactions to the subject "What spring means to you," he said. The poems the Hillcrest group submitted were later paired with artwork from New Zealand students and presented on the message board.

The board reflects a worldwide perspective, getting input from graders in Japan, Brazil, Greece, China and other countries, as well as Israel, Australia and the U.S., he said. All of the material is translated into English. A criticism of the set-up from his students is they can't communicate with the others on a personal basis, which they'd like to do, considering many are also able to participate from computers in their homes.

The Ellsworth class has been in computer contact with China, too, Fahrendorff said. Representing China in Hillcrest's "All-School Olympics," they e-mailed a technology director in that country, whose e-mail address they learned through Goren. Two days later, the director answered, sending the local children a power point presentation (complete with animation and sound) entitled "Cai-Shen and Santa," made in English by their Chinese counterparts of a similar age.

Fahrendorff suspects the youngsters with whom his students have communicated via computer are educationally advanced. For example, he said several Croatian girls e-mailed a message in English to girls here, whereupon the recipients e-mailed back, asking how long they'd studied English.

"Actually, they said English was the third language they'd learned...Croatian was their native tongue and German was their second language," he said.

Goren's Dreamy Discussion Board is taglined "Our mission and dream is for worldwide peace." She offers an invitation to teachers and students from around the world which reads, in part:

"...We're from Ein Ganim Elementary School in Petach Tikva, Israel. This award-winning project welcomes children to become actively involved with us.

"'Dream a dream with Ein Ganim' prompts students at Ein Ganim and from around the world to join in a multicultural project that captures students' thinking in a visual way. 'Dream a dream' inspires children to take a deeper look at the world by exploring, exchanging ideas and using research tools. It supports a positive learning environment and a shared learning experience. By inviting the participation of children from all around the globe, it supports the fight against the Digital Divide..."

"I hope this will lead to new friendships, tolerance and understanding, and hopefully a better world. Children from over 70 schools now participate in the dream a dream project."

Fahrendorff, who's been a teacher at Hillcrest for 29 years, said last week he never imagined when he began teaching that his classes would someday reach out to the world. A more typical suggestion back then was, "Why don't you get together with a class in Roberts?" Now, his students are corresponding back and forth with China in two days.

To view Hillcrest fifth graders' input on the message board about the holocaust, go to . To see their poems about spring, go to , click on "Share," click on "Is it spring yet?", access, then scroll down to Pekerau/Hillcrest and click on the numbers 1-6. Berogan, Tanner, Gabrielle, Abby, Aubrey, Michaela, Kody and Taylor are all Hillcrest fifth graders.