Mr. Eckert’s fourth graders at Cottage Lane recently participated in a live class with Mr. Tuohy’s grade four learners in Cape Town, South Africa. The 65 students joined together in a class discussion, shared joint online posters they’d created, and even sang and danced together. In other words, we all had a blast!
Mr. Eckert, Mr. Tuohy, and I co-taught the class, using the computer platform Skype. Even though we were far away in South Africa, we were able to see and hear Mr. Eckert’s class on a large screen in front of the classroom, and Mr. Eckert’s class could see and hear us on THEIR screen. The e-pals were were very excited to finally meet face-to-face!
The students had been blogging with each other across the seas for six weeks, getting to know each other and discussing what they were learning about ecosystems in their science classes. They shared information, pictures, and videos on our special blog site.
They discovered they had a lot in common with children their age, even though they lived in a different country, on a different continent, and even in a different hemisphere! The students in both classes also came to understand that taking care of the environment is a global issue: If people in different countries can work together to live sustainably, and decrease pollution, they can have a positive effect, which will give all children a more beautiful future.
As Ethan, from Sun Valley Primary said, “I’m thinking, if one person can make a small difference, if the kids here [in South Africa] and there [in America] spread their knowledge about taking care of the environment, we can make a BIG difference. Just think how much better it is when we all work together! This inspires me. I feel like I’m part of something important!” Well said, Ethan!
How did they get to do this special project? As most of the readers of this blog know, I’m usually a teacher at Cottage Lane School in New York. This past school year of 2011-12, I’ve been on leave from the school district in order to participate in the Distinguished Fulbright in Teaching Program. Twenty American teachers from across the country are chosen each year to work on a significant educational issue with teachers in other countries. My project centered around the question, How do we teachers help children to understand the interconnectedness of living things, and therefore the importance of taking care of the environment?
During the past ten months, while here in South Africa, I’ve learned much about the environment and the preservation of animal species. I attended an environmental class at the University of Cape Town, interviewed conservationists, visited animal sanctuaries, and went on photographic safaris. I spoke at teacher conferences, and visited schools in South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia. I listened to the children.
I chose Sun Valley Primary for an international collaboration because of their reputation for trying innovative methods to help their students learn. Fourth grade teacher, Mr. Tuohy, volunteered when he heard that a fourth grade teacher in the United States (Mr. Eckert) had also volunteered. Both of the teachers put forth extra effort, teaching and guiding their students through the lessons created on the blog. Kudos to both of these dedicated teachers!
The students in both classrooms seem to have learned a lot about the environment, and about people in another country. I was impressed by the interest and concern they expressed in their blog postings. They were good ambassadors for their countries. Working with both of the groups was a real pleasure. I hope we’ll be able to have more international link-ups in the future.