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Faxes of the world unite

Here in Auckland, New Zealand, we are having great weather but unfortunately we have a water drought. We are sending you some poems to say what we think and how we feel about the water shortage."

"At present it is winter in Antarctica and night-time for 24 hours a day. The sea has frozen over and most of the animals have moved away from our base to the edge of the sea-ice where there is more food, but they will return in the summer."

"We will be using our telescopes in the Canary Islands to look at Jupiter to see if we can detect after-effects of the collisions. We may be the first to show Jupiter's disc after the first collision to reassure those of a nervous disposition that Jupiter is still well and that no disaster is going to happen to us!"

Bailey Road School in New Zealand, Scott Base in Antarctica and the Royal Greenwich Observatory are three of the addresses on faxes arriving at a group of first schools in Dorset. Set up by Nikki Griffin, the county's advisory teacher for IT and early years, the fax project aims to act "as a motivator, and as an alternative form of communication".

The schools chose to concentrate on environmental issues such as recycling and land use, although, as with many such projects, other issues began to arise. Organisations such as the National Rivers Authority, the National Trust and Friends of the Earth all responded. Some replies were very full: the Department of the Environment sent a 17-page fax, and a teacher in Portugal sent 40 pages of her children's work.

Nikki was keen to ensure an international dimension to the project, and she chose to go about this systematically: "At the beginning I got a list of embassies and we chose about 40. We wrote to them and a lot sent their fax numbers."

Some of the embassies also helped set up links with schools in their countries. During Dorset's IT in the Park exhibition, when schools from all over Dorset demonstrated activities involving IT and the environment in July, the schools received faxes from Germany, Hong Kong, Antarctica, New Zealand and all parts of the UK. The children were also thrilled to receive a fax from Prince Charles, telling them he was "interested to hear about their project and delighted to respond".

Nikki Griffin hopes that funding can be found to enable the project to expand beyond the initial five schools and into other phases. The most pressing need is for dedicated fax lines so that the school phone is not put out of use when faxes are being sent or received. Nikki is always pleased to hear from others who might wish to send faxes to Dorset schools, and she can be contacted by fax of course on 0929 405061.

For further details contact the Dorset ITCentre on 0929 405059

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