Connecting Young Learners Effort Could Evolve Into Connected Classrooms Program

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 02/21/2019 - 02:18
Harvest Elementary Teachers (left to right) Jennifer Edwards, Jodi McMaster, Debra Smith, Minela Ridinger, and Paige Johnston, addressed the Saline Board of Education.

Imagine a group of Saline Area Schools first graders interacting with children in a classroom on the other side of an ocean via Skype, Google Hangouts, or some other means of video conferencing over the Internet.

The two groups excitedly fire off questions at each other in an attempt to mine facts and details for the purpose of deducing each other's location. Youngsters like the students at Harvest Elementary School would be particularly excited to make new friends in a far-off place while learning dozens of bits of information about where those new friends are from without even realizing it.

Right now that's just an idea, but thanks to educators from Harvest Elementary something like that could be happening in Saline classrooms sometime during the next few years thanks to a recent effort to globally connect the district's children to other people and places in an effort to bolster the communication aspect of the district's "Compass" for student learning, which also includes creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration as the four main spokes on Saline students' compass for education.

The main thrust of the 2018-19 school year was "(building) global competency and awareness of different places and cultures," said Harvest teacher Jessica Edwards, who shared what her school's first graders had done to achieve goal.

Harvest staff sent a letter home to parents to request post cards from folks they know abroad in Michigan, the United States, and even around the world. The cards were to have messages containing facts and information about the place that the sender lives.

A map of Michigan, the globe, and the world were hung up at the school and the post cards were mounted alongside the maps with lines drawn to their point of origin.

The program was such a success a fourth map was hung to accommodate all of the responses.

Harvest staffer Minela Ridinger explained that Saline educators attending a fall symposium titled "A Bridge to Becoming Globally Connected" held by Diane Junga and Mary Marshall during which discussion on the importance of connecting schools and the community was held is where the idea for the postcard effort came from.

"That gave us the idea to connect globally with students and families and partners," Ridinger explained. "Our rationale for why we're doing this is to build awareness of different cultures and different places around the world."

The hundreds of post cards that poured in were shared with Harvest students during many classes and several post cards were shared with parents via social media application SeeSaw and Twitter.

Students themselves took the post cards to the maps and were guided by teachers on where to place them.

Given the fact that some of the students in the program are only six years old and might have a hard time grasping the high concept of "global connectivity" if it were merely explained to them verbally by an adult, the post cards were an easier and fun way to get the concept across in a way that's "a bit more relevant to them," Ridinger explained.

Harvest staffer Paige Johnston said that she was excited with where effort to globally connect Saline students was going and that she was excited for the district to "take the next step," given the fact that all of this began with a small idea that came out of a conversation between these five Saline educators. 

 

Sean Dalton's picture
Sean Dalton
Sean Dalton is a veteran of the Washtenaw County journalism scene. He co-founded WeLoveDexter.com and WeLoveAnnArbor.com and also worked for Heritage Newspapers.