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A hero of two nations

"I get the birch at school for getting ink blotches on my work. Whack.

Aaah! Whack. Aaah! If only I could leave school and go to sea."

This is the life of a 16th-century Lincolnshire schoolboy, as imagined by a 21st-century Lincolnshire schoolgirl. The description is included in a book by children at two of the county's primaries about the early life of local pioneer John Smith, leader of the first permanent English-speaking colony in America.

John Haden, a retired Lincolnshire head, compiled the book, Captain John Smith of Willoughby and the founding of America, from work by pupils at Willoughby St Helena's and Partney primaries.

The book, published this month, will be sent to schools in Jamestown, Virginia, as part of a project to link schools in the American town with those in Captain Smith's birthplace. The TES Make The Link campaign encourages schools in Britain to set up similar links with their counterparts overseas.

Captain Smith was captured by an Indian chief but released following the intervention of the chief's daughter, Pocahontas. The story was retold in the 1995 Disney animation, Pocahontas.

Trish Glazier, head of Partney, said: "Children think of Disney films as being American. But someone involved in the founding of America was from Lincolnshire. We're a vital part of someone else's history."

Using a pound;2,000 grant from BT, pupils at Eresby special school have recorded a DVD version of the book, recounting the early life of John Smith for Virginian pupils with learning difficulties.

The 39 Eresby pupils have also started to correspond with special-needs pupils at Lafayette high, which has 1,000 students.

Jackie McPherson, head of Eresby, said: "Our pupils think they know America because they've seen it on TV. But this makes it real."

Nonetheless, Mary McDivett, 15, an Eresby pupil, has found American high-school life quite strange. "It's so big," she said. "And they have funny accents."

In July, Ms McPherson will travel to Virginia to observe a summer school for special-needs pupils at Lafayette. "The project has opened the door for communication," she said.


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