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Kidz Connect

Virtual cultural exchange program held inside an immersive, virtual world
Description
Kidz Connect was a virtual cultural exchange program that connected youth in different countries through creative collaboration and theatrical performance in virtual worlds.
Problem
Cultural exchange is at the heart of international conflict resolution, yet the experience of cultural exchange through traveling is not accessible for many youth.
Solution
The backbone of Kidz Connect was based on online collaboration through the frameworks of performance and storytelling. Through these frameworks, which encourage active listening and interaction, we built a rich online rapport between students in different countries, allowing participants to instantly connect and collaborate regardless of geographical location or previous experience with performance or digital media.

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The pilot project between students in New York and Amsterdam was held in summer 2006, through partnerships with Imagine IC, Polytechnic University and Waag Society. Students in New York City connected and created with students in Amsterdam, Netherlands, through performance and digital storytelling in the virtual world Teen Second Life.
Guided by educators from theater and digital arts, students learned skills like Playback Theatre (improvisational storytelling technique), digital storytelling and 3D modeling. In Second Life, they met and collaborated to build a hybrid virtual city combining aspects of both New York and Amsterdam. Within that common space, they created a performance that simultaneously occurred live and online.
Here’s a shot from the first meeting between the NY and Amsterdam students during the pilot project in 2006, in which the students met as avatars inside Second Life, while a livestream was also being broadcast into the virtual world space:
06b_first_mtng.jpg
The project continued with a program in 2008 involving students at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, Florida and students at the IVKO Montessori School in Amsterdam. The students wrote, created and performed a live show in Second Life, learning about each other’s culture in the process through music, dance, digital art and storytelling within this virtual world.
The program has since then taken other manifestations, each tailored to meet the needs of the youth community and engage the students in a creative way.
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