Last week we had five sessions over two days of our Eco-Conversations project. Dowagiac Middle School connected to five different schools to discuss carbon emissions. Here are some notes I wrote during the sessions:
The presentation from Westcliff High School for Girls included a play on “The Weakest Link”. Five students were interviewed about how they got to school. After their carbon footprints were revealed, the student with the highest carbon footprint was pronounced “the weakest link. Goodbye!” Their students also interviewed our students as part of a school energy use survey.
The Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys is one of the only schools in their area to receive a “green flag” status for schools in their area. We learned a lot about what they are doing for the environment in their school and community. This connection we had trouble with the audio. At the end, they couldn’t hear us, but we could hear them. Some students ran quickly to get a whiteboard and they improvised. It still worked out very well. Even in the Q&A section, students were focused on the environment issues. They asked questions such as, Do you have ethanol for your cars? How far do you drive to school? Do you have all big cars in America or is that just a British myth?
Next we connected to Rosslyn Jr. High, in Edmonton Alberta. Students asked questions like, What is your local government doing to reduce carbon emissions? And, what is the cost of gas in your area?
St. Peters Church of England School. This group is working on putting a recycling plan in place in the school. As it happens, they have a group called the Global Action Plan coming to their school for a waste audit the day of the conference. Their presentation included the work they are doing on waste products and also about the waste audit. There are about 10 students in the EcoGroup school club.
When talking to the coordinators and technicians, we learned that there are over 200 schools in the UK who want to do projects like this. I think there is a big untapped market for collaborative projects in the UK. We just need to figure out how to find each other. I believe that sites like Collaborations Around the Planet, Global Leap, and Janet Collaborate are important tools for finding collaborative partners in the UK. The trick is, if at all possible, figure out the time zone difference for your desired connection ahead of time so you can ask for reasonable timed connections of your potential partners. When we emailed for partners, I listed both times, EST & UK.
One issue with this project was the preparation for the presentations. I did hear from concern about the amount of preparation work. I hear this a lot from our middle schools, and wish we could design more projects that are easier to implement for tight curriculum schedules for middle and high school students. However I did receive this reaction from the lead teacher for the project:
My students absolutely LOVED IT. You know they really liked it when they are telling other teachers and students about it!!! Talking to another country is by far the best VC out there!! When you have students like those here in Dowagiac who have maybe been as far away as Detroit or Chicago (many not that far) they are fascinated with the accents, language usage…….very cool, I would talk to another country any time it was available!
A great experience for one of our RUS grant schools, showing the power of videoconferencing in rural schools.