I am sitting in an all-day conference hosted by IdeaStream and WVIZ. I decided to stop by and listen to the "Observing Animal Needs First Hand" session. The two Kindergarten teachers, Melanie Watts and Anne Ferlito, leveraged technology to inspire learning, involve families and give students an amazing experience.
These two great teachers got it right! They started with the curriculum, and then they began to reflect and think about how to really connect learning with students' lives. It all started with a question, "How do we really connect our living animals standards with students?" The answer was family pets. So Melanie and Anne decided to send a letter home to parents asking if they had family pets, if those pets could come visit, if they could FlipCam the pets at home, or even skype in a pet visit.
Anne was fortunate enough to have several live animal visits. Melanie, after attending a tech workshop, decided to send home flip cams with her kindergarteners. These 5-year-old students were given the opportunity to record something relevant to their lives, their pets, and share that with their classmates to learn curriculum! During their session, we got to watch some examples of the videos shot by the students. You could almost feel the pride and excitement of the students as they shared their lives with their classmates. There were also several skype sessions that allowed students to see animals "live" in their natural habitat.
Garth and I presented at NAPSA's national conference yesterday in Cincinnati; this meant 8 hours in a car to reflect and brainstorm. We talked a lot about inspiring students, not just engaging them with learning. As I am sitting and watching the parts of this project come together, I can tell that Melanie and Anne are truly passionate about what they do. The time and creativity that went into this project is amazing. I find it ironic that they both have said (multiple times) that it isn't really anything exciting. Great teachers seldom realize just what a difference they are making in students' lives, and even less-often are great teachers told that they are great.
But this project is great. These students were given the opportunity to really connect learning to their lives and share something that is usually lost from the educational experience. We need to allow students the opportunity to bring their personal lives into the classroom and the teaching/learning experience. I couldn't help but smile watching the videos. I also can't help but think about how this project would be just as useful/relevant in my middle school science classes. Hopefully these two wonderful, inspiring, hard-working teachers will give Garth and I the opportunity to Skype with them in the Spring so that they can share their animals with our students.