from Educators' eZine
The Ethiopian Wolf. Who would have thought that a creature I hadn't even heard of could have such an impact on my students.
In my second grade classroom, we will occasionally read articles from Ranger Rick during guided reading lessons, and during this particular week we just happened to be learning about an African mammal on the brink of extinction. One group of students had an assignment to write a letter to the world telling why this animal should be saved. As a teacher who routinely integrates technology into the classroom, my students are often curious about ways to share the knowledge that they gain. One particular student was especially curious about sending the letters to someone through email, so I decided to look up some information on the web. Within minutes, I had found a website with information about the animal and efforts being made to save it. For the following week, instead of taking part in indoor recess, this group of students chose to spend time learning more about this endangered animal on the computer. Watching them, I could see how much they were enjoying learning. I didn't think it could get much better, but I was wrong.
That Friday, as we got ready for dismissal, one of my students came to me with a request. He was hoping to do some research on endangered species and create a podcast to share with the world. He even suggested that they come in before school to begin working so they could have extra time (a practice I routinely allow my students to do in order to fit everything into our day). How could I say no to such enthusiasm for learning! We talked for a few minutes and he ran with excitement to share his idea with the rest of his reading group. As my students left for the weekend, I could tell they were already thinking of Monday morning when they could begin their project, the wheels in their heads already turning with amazing ideas.
That weekend, I spent some time updating my classroom website to guide them through the project. Monday morning at 7:45, ten minutes before the first bell rings, I had a knock at my door. I looked out to see two eight-year olds who couldn't wait to begin learning. I can't think of a better sight for a teacher to begin the week with. I let them in and allowed them some time to explore the updated website, letting them know that we would discuss the project more during that day's reading group. The rest of the six member team slowly trickled in before the bell rang, each one willing to put in the extra time to make this work.
During reading group that day, I laid out the project plan for them, giving them rubrics and questions to guide them. The students were given fifteen minutes each day for two weeks to gather information on the computer about endangered species. Their goal was to create a commercial explaining to the world why we need to save endangered species. Over the course of the next two weeks, there wasn't a day that I didn't have a knock on the door from students who wanted to learn. After they finished gathering information, the group worked together to create a storyboard for their project. They shared what they learned and came up with a rough draft that answered their guiding questions.
After completing their storyboard and submitting it for editing, the students were ready to begin building their project by recording their narration. Unfortunately, our project was interrupted by the announcement that the buses had arrived to take the students home for spring break. Before they said good-bye, I reassured them that they could begin recording as soon as we returned from spring break. While I know how excited they were to begin spring break, I felt pride knowing, for at least a few seconds, that they were already anticipating returning to school.
As I begin my own spring break, I find myself reflecting on the many ways technology has changed my teaching philosophy in the past couple years. I have begun to realize the importance of exposing students, even young ones, to global information. The information that today's students have available at their fingertips far surpasses past generations. These children need to learn how to navigate this information and use it in positive ways so they can become successful in today's global world. My goal as a teacher is not to teach my students how to memorize and regurgitate facts that have no significance to them. I want my students to come to school ready to learn each day and excited to share their newfound knowledge with the world.
And I am anticipating that knock on the door Monday morning when I return from spring break, knowing that when I open it, I will be greeted with students who are as eager to learn about the world as I am to teach them about it.
To view the website associated with this project, visit my classroom website.
For more information on the Ethiopian wolf, click here.
The completed podcast is anticipated to be finished mid-April. Click here to listen.