The excitement in the room is palpable. Students are organized into groups and sitting on the edge of their seats. Today Chikaming Elementary, River Valley, is connecting to the Challenger Learning Center in West Virginia for their stellar program, Operation Montserrat.
While a bit on the expensive side, the CLC e-missions are the coolest, most interactive programs available out there. The e-missions were developed by the CLC in West Virginia, but the CLC in Kentucky also offers them, as well as the National Space Centre in the UK.
The program starts with students getting settled into their roles and learning about the island, the wind speeds, and the readings coming from the volcano. Things start getting hectic for the students as the hurricane starts coming in towards the island and the volcano starts erupting. Students carefully review maps to understand where the volcano flow was coming down.
Well, that connection was going great until the connection to CLC started dropping. So I switched the connection so the school was calling them directly and could quickly redial instead of waiting for me to redial for them. Because at the same time, a project connection with Canada couldn’t connect on their own and had to be moved to my bridge to work. And another school that was supposed to be connecting to the Alaska SeaLife Center on their own couldn’t make it work and we tried a ton of things that never worked. Rachel Simon in Alaska is so patient! She said, “Technology is our friend, but sometimes we fight with our friends.” Whew!
But the E-Mission kept going and after touching base with the building coordinator, I learned that the program was wonderful and the teacher and students loved it. Yeah!
I haven’t done Montserrat with students, but Kathleen Frank “flew a mission” as a professional development activity for me with a group of 20 elementary and middle school educators and it was the most engaging and exciting video conference I have ever facilitated.
It is completely project-based and everyone gets so caught up in it that time flies by and you are feeling the full effects of the simulation and just trying to save the population of Montserrat. Expensive, but a great experience for middle school students!
The PD activity is the way we started. This year when I scheduled the workshop I said I’d pay for the program the first 10 teachers who signed up for the training (and showed up of course). That model worked well.
I talked to the coordinator yesterday about how that money could have been 3 programs with our mini-grant system, but she thought it was worth it because it’s a better program.
I started my VC career on a project to adapt Operation Montserrat for the National Space Centre in the UK. I think the missions must be just as much fun to run as they are to particiapate as a student. My new job is great but I miss being Commander Tim and helping to save the thousands of Montserratian lives everyday.
Good to see its still going strong in the US.