MV Times webcam is link to home for British students visiting here
Friday afternoon, a group of British students hit the beach east of Boch Park in Vineyard Haven, and on Tuesday another group did the same. At 1 pm here, it is 6 pm in Great Britain, and these exchange students and staff were putting themselves in a position to greet their folks at home, via The Martha's Vineyard Times' webcam. The webcam, which may be found on the newspaper's web site, www.mvtimes.com, looks out on Vineyard Haven Harbor and the harbor shore in a northerly direction. The beach is downstage, front and center.
The students are from Bridgewater High School in Warrington in Cheshire and Shelley High School outside Huddersfield in South Yorkshire. They are here as part of an exchange through the West Tisbury School. These exchanges, which include visits by Island students to England every year, have been in process since 1991. The current group of English students will be here until this Saturday, Oct. 28.
This is one of two groups of English exchange students hosted by students at the West Tisbury School. In this photo and the one on Page 1 this morning, the visitors are standing on the beach north of The Times office, waving to friends and family at home who were alerted to stand by their computers.
For several years now the exchange has involved these two British schools. The British visitors total 33 students. The exchange is for 10 days. Each student is paired with a West Tisbury eighth grader, and for the most of their stay, they remain with their exchange host student. The West Tisbury students will visit their English counterparts in June 2007.
The exchange began in 1986, organized by science teacher Joel Weintraub. Mr. Weintraub was a chaperone on the 1985 eighth-grade class trip to Washington, D.C. On that trip, he realized that for the same amount of money the class could participate in an exchange that would last longer and help build international friendships.
"Joel had several contacts who were able to get him connected with a partner school, and before you could say 'fish and chips with mushy peas', the exchange was born," Bob Lane, the West Tisbury School assistant principal, said this week.
During the exchange, the students from both sides of the Atlantic visit nearby sights. The English students make off-Island field trips to Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower, as well as on-Island field trips and potlucks. And, there is plenty of time for the visitors with their American host families.
At a potluck dinner Tuesday, Brian Warner, assistant head teacher and organizer for the British youth at Shelley High School, said the British end of the exchange is slightly different. It includes visits to old seaside resorts and steel works. He said he hoped it would be as pleasing as his students' experience here has been. "This is a fabulous place, one of the best in the world," he said.
The students also find the experience thrilling. Chris Smith, from Shelley, who took part in last year's program, returned this past summer to visit his host family, the Moreises. He and the Moreis son, Jeffrey Duarte, are making plans for next year.
Katherine Burnett, one of the Shelley students, discussed the differences between here and home. "It is much calmer here, and the mornings are more relaxed." Chris Smith's sister, Rachal, also a Shelley student involved in the program this year, added that it is "interesting to get a different perspective on how other people live."
Bethany Pennington, a West Tisbury student, said traveling to England was the longest flight she had ever made, and she added that the trip helped her "see how other people live and understand a different culture."
Mr. Warner described the exchange as a "real hands across the water" experience for these young people. He said his charges build lasting ties, as do the staffs from the American and English schools. Planning for next year's exchange begins as soon as this trip is over.
For the students, however educational the exchange may be, they do have a sweet time.
"Our chocolate melts in your mouth. The chocolate here is sweeter, but everything is cheaper," said Hollie Currier from England, getting into specifics. With a huge smile, her friend Charlotte Roscoe offered a general revue, "This is a great holiday."