Kidz Connect is a virtual cultural exchange program that connects young people in different countries through creative collaboration and theatrical performance in virtual worlds.
The pilot project between students in New York and Amsterdam was held in summer 2006, through collaborations with Imagine IC, Polytechnic University, ZoomLab and Waag Society. Students in New York, New York, connected and created with students in Amsterdam, Netherlands, through performance and digital storytelling in Teen Second Life.
Guided by artists and educators from theatre and digital arts, students learned skills like VJ-ing, Playback Theatre, digital storytelling, and 3D modeling. In Teen 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 occurred both live and online simultaneously.
In summer 2008, students at the Patel Conservatory in Tampa, Florida, wrote, created and performed a live show with students at the IVKO Montessori School (via another collaboration with the Waag Society) in Amsterdam, Netherlands, learning about each other’s culture in the process through music, dance, digital art and/or storytelling within the virtual world Teen Second Life.
A brief TV report on the 2008 Kidz Connect project:
In April 2009, teens from Huygens College in Amsterdam, visited teens at the Academy of Urban Planning in New York. We took the Dutch teens on a scavenger hunt/tour of lower Manhattan’s historically Dutch spots, including Stone Street, the Netherlands Monument and the site of the former Stadt Huys on Pearl Street and Coenties Slip. Both groups of teens from Amsterdam and NY had been doing projects researching cultural stereotypes, so when they met in real life at the Academy of Urban Planning, it was a great chance to discuss cultural differences and sameness and to take a tour of the neighborhood and Bushwick mural. We plan on continuing this rapport between the students in the form of a continued video dialogue.
In May 2009, we realized a project with teens from the Macondo refugee community on the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, via a collaboration with Cabula 6 and Tanzquartier Wien. The project, called Macondo Dance Connect, was a mixed reality performance project that involved bringing kids together from the Macondo refugee community using dance, mapping, storytelling and Teen Second Life.
The objective of the Macondo Dance Connect project was to re-connect youth from the refugee community to their native cultures by allowing them to creatively explore their own history and current living circumstances, while allowing them to discover the nature of cultural identity through creative collaboration and performance in virtual space.
Below is a shot from the performance in which you can see the students dancing as avatars in Teen Second Life as well as in real life on the video screens above the stage. For more information, visit: the Macondo Dance Connect page
In December 2009, we held a Kidz Connect workshop connecting students at the Academy of Urban Planning in Bushwick (Brooklyn), New York, with students at the IVKO Montessori School in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Using a mixed reality combination of Skype for real-time video chatting, and the virtual world Metaplace, the students got to know each other, while building a ‘virtual street fair’ together in Metaplace, in which each student mapped images of their interests and neighborhood onto street fair booths. Through this virtual street fair, students in New York and Amsterdam interacted and learned about each other and their respective differences and sameness.
In the screenshot below, you can see the Metaplace street fair booths in the background and the Skype video conversation in the forefront. The students worked in Metaplace together while being able to see and interact with each other in the Skype window as well (click for larger image):
Upcoming plans include an ongoing residency at the Academy of Urban Planning (AUP) that will enable a continuing series of Kidz Connect programs between students in New York and Amsterdam. We plan on exploring the intersection of urban planning and theatrical performance in virtual worlds that allows for cultural integration and interaction.