Project Dedicated to Building Bridge Between Darien, Connecticut, and Darién, Panamá, Marks First Anniversary
In the spring of 2008, students at Middlesex Middle School in Darien, Connecticut, began an exciting new project, the successful completion of which was expected to link the Fairfield County town to the remote, mysterious rain forest province of Darién, Panamá, where its name originated. MMS students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades were intrigued to learn that their town – once known as Middlesex Parish – borrowed its present name from that portion of the Panamanian isthmus which connects North and South America. The impenetrable rain forest of Darién causes the Interamerican Highway to suddenly stop in Panamá, thus rendering impossible a trip which might otherwise allow motorists to drive from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Fascinated to know that their town’s name was taken from a place where roads are scarce, where monkeys and huge harpy eagles are in tropical treetops, and where tapirs and jaguars and sloths roam the rainforests, students expressed a strong desire to communicate with the young people living in that beautiful part of the world.
It so happens that a Middlesex teacher lived in Panamá and still has many friends there. In this photograph, the teacher is visiting with boxing legend Roberto Durán, a native of Panamá.
Middlesex entered into an agreement with a highly-respected non-profit organization in Panamá called La Fundación Pro-Niños de Darién, asking their help in identifying a specific school in the rain forest which we might sponsor. The purpose of their friendly alliance would be to provide our students with an opportunity to communicate with, and get to know, students from the “original” Darién, by means of videoconferences, blogging, and the effective use of other 21st century communication media….and to assist our new friends in acquiring the necessary technology to enable them to communicate with us. In order to raise the funds to make this dream a reality, students put together two spectacular variety shows, selling out on both occasions and earning enough to help our new friends to acquire a school library/computer lab.
These talented students, wearing Panamanian camisillas, served as masters of ceremonies for the well-received Variety Show II on October 30th, 2008. Between the two very entertaining benefit shows, funds were raised to enable the Fundación Pro-Niños de Darién to begin constructing a computer lab, a new dining hall and kitchen, and a poultry facility for the Nicanor School, where students raise their own crops and grow what they eat each day.
In order to facilitate the Darien to Darién venture, Mr. Smith made his first trip to the Panamanian province in 2008.
When he lived in Panamá, as an 8th grader, the MMS teacher was unable to see the remove province of Darién, because no roads existed there. As a result, he only heard about Darién, while he lived in Panamá City and began focusing on a career in the entertainment field.
Students in the 8th grade enjoyed a special Darien a DariénDay at school in 2008, engaged in activities ranging from the making of molas and guanábana ice cream to the singing of Panamanian songs and playing games popular in the original Darién.
The Darién a Darien: un solo mundoproject now celebrates its first anniversary. Although the students at Middlesex Middle School are very eager to begin corresponding with – and getting to know – the extremely likeable people of Darién, it takes time for the process to begin. The Panamanian government has an important program called Conéctate al conocimiento, which means “Get Connected to Knowledge.” Under the auspices of this initiative, schools in rural regions (el interior) are provided by the government with Internet connection and maintenance. Nicanor School was placed on the list to receive this service, and we are presently anticipating completion of the necessary work. As soon as this has been accomplished, it is the hope of all the members of our two learning communities that the virtual bridge will unite us for many, many years to come.
Darien, Connecticut, USA
Darién, Panamá — La Escuela Nicanor