Monday, March 5, 2012

Garrison Forest Skypes with Students in Cambodia

Recently, the students in our Lower School Skyped with the students of the Tchey School in Cambodia, and the event was the subject of a news story on our local ABC affiliate. Last night, on the 5:00 news, our story was featured. The entire thing, from the Skype call itself to seeing the final story on the local news, was very exciting for the students and for me. Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What am I thinking?

My math students are getting ready to begin filming their math videos today. So why I am the one who is so nervous? They are excited. I am unsure. They seem to feel confident they know what they are doing. I have no idea what I am doing. This is all new to me, and I think it is new to them. Why is there such a difference in our feelings?

Earlier this year, I stumbled across the Student Made Math Videos wiki. As I looked through the videos on the wiki, I thought, "wouldn't this be fun for my students!" So I showed them the wiki, and asked them if they want to try to make their own. The answer was a big YES! Okay, we decided to make videos. "Now what?", I thought. Other teachers asked me "how are you going to do it?" I didn't know. In fact the more I thought about it, the more nervous I became. I didn't know if I wanted to take on something this new and this big. After all, I am not even the regular 5th grade math teacher. I am subbing this year for a 5th grade teacher who is out on long-term leave. Frankly, the more I thought about it, the more I wondered, "What am I thinking?" Maybe the girls would forget. No such luck. After a couple of weeks, the questions started, "Mrs. Shriver, when are we going to make our videos?"

So we moved forward. I split the girls into teams of 3-4, and I gave them their mission -- make a math video. I didn't give them much more than that. I did make a rubric, and I suggested they work in Google Docs to brainstorm and plan their videos. I gave them the link to the wiki so they could get ideas from other students. Off they went: brainstorming, planning, writing, creating. And not one word of worry from any of them. This is truly amazing to me. Don't they know how much work this is going to be?

But I don't think they care how much work this is going to be. They are having fun. They are working together. They are creating. They are even working a bunch of math problems in the process. I don't know how good the final products will be, but this is where I have to let go. Does it really matter? Shouldn't the learning that they do along the way outshine the the importance of the final products? My answer to this is YES!

So here we are -- the first day of filming. They have their scripts; they have their costumes and props; they certainly have lots of excitement. What about me? I'm providing the camera, a tripod, and a wish of good luck. Somehow, I don't think they'll need it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Seeing Far and Near

When I recently returned to school after Winter Break, I found an airmail envelope in my mailbox from the Traveling Teacher, of whom I have previously written. She had graciously sent me some Vietnamese and Cambodian money to show the girls in the Lower School. During Morning Meeting one day, we looked at the money and made predictions as to what 8000 Vietnamese Dong could buy. The guesses ranged from an iPad to a trip to Vietnam. The looks on their faces were priceless as we discovered that the equivalent in US dollars is about 39 cents! The girls were truly amazed.

As each grade came to my class later that week, we followed up on our Morning Meeting conversation by looking at the videos made, under the guidance of the Traveling Teacher, by a group of Cambodian students. In her blog she shares the story of how the videos were produced. The final products are so well done. It just amazes me what these students were able to do with a minimal amount of equipment.

The best part of the experience of watching these videos, however, was the reaction of my students, some as young as 6 years old. They watched with quiet awe as the lives of the Cambodian students were reveled through the videos. They were immediately struck by the many differences between the lives of these students and their own lives here in the US. Comments ranged from "she has to do a lot of the things that my parents do, like cook dinner and buy groceries" to "her house doesn't have electricity." But in addition to noticing the differences, they also noted several similarities...going school, doing homework, working on computers, and a fondness for Mickey Mouse.

A couple of groups viewed the water wells video and were so affected by what they saw, they now want to talk to the head of the lower school about what we can do to help the people of Cambodia. I am so grateful to the Traveling Teacher for helping bring my students closer to a part of the world that is so far and so different from our world in so many ways. It is wonderful to see such wisdom, concern, and compassion in even our youngest of students.