Middlesex Middle School, located in the pleasant, attractive community of Darien, Connecticut, takes pride in offering its more than 1100 students a variety of opportunities for creative problem-solving, daily engagement in authentic tasks, and multiple approaches to the learning of accumulated knowledge parents and teachers need and want to hand over to our next generation. In view of the fact that Darien children study a variety of cultures, including those indigenous to Latin America, in their social studies classrooms….learn of the significance of the world’s rain forests and of the importance of conservation and global bio-diversity in science classes…and study either the Spanish or French language in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades, several teachers and students generated a concept which would involve the building of a virtual bridge, uniting Darien, Connecticut, with the place it was originally named for: the Province of Darién, in the Republic of Panamá.

   Contact was established with the non-profit Fundación Pro-Niños de Darién, an organization which supports the health and educational needs of the children of Panamá´s largest, least populated, and most remote province. Through the outstanding efforts of this group, thousands of Darienitas (youngsters living in or near the partially impenetrable rain forest of Darién) have been matched with sponsors or foster godparents who contribute a modest monthly sum to provide nutritional repasts, immunizations, and schooling needs for their sponsored child.  The Fundación was approached about the possibility of establishing a direct connection….a virtual bridge between the students of Darién, Panamá, and the students of Darien, Connecticut. They graciously and enthusiastically offered all their support.

   It is our hope to enable the young people in both Dariens to get to know one another, and to gain a sincere appreciation for, and understanding of , the two cultures – very different in some respects and entirely similar in others. This we intend to further through videoconferencing, the exchange of DVDs and letters, and the posting of comments, ideas, questions, student work, video mini-lessons, and photographs on this site.

   We are undertaking to sponsor a school – La Escuela Nicanor – in Darién, to assist them in the fine work they are doing for the wonderful children of Darién. By means of student-generated fundraising initiatives, it is our hope to be able to provide our sponsored school with a number of enhancements, not the least of which is a small library and computer lab.

     Our textbooks do not present much information about Panamá, although one of the teachers at Middlesex lived there as a youngster. Our students in Connecticut are eager to learn more about the delightful, friendly, vibrant Darién culture by forging a permanent bond between the people native to this Panamanian region and the New England town named for it. Darién a Darien: Un solo mundo (Daríén to Darien: One World) is an initiative designed to facilitate mutual understanding and friendship. We hope the bridge, when constructed, will serve to unite the people of the two communities and to add immeasurably to the educational enrichment of the children on either side.

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