Tag Archives: ecoconversations

International VCs and Service Learning

Today we have several amazing videoconferences for our rural students in Berrien County.


Reed Middle School, in Bridgman, is connecting to a class in the UK to discuss environmental issues. The class in the UK shared with us information about carbon emissions, including some great posters and a RAP that started with:

hey hey, we’re here today, to tell our friends in the USA about CO2

Our students shared the issues around bottled water including health, media advertising, costs, public water supplies and more. After the thorough presentations, students asked each other questions about the weather, their school systems, uniforms. The students clearly enjoyed the interaction and learned from the other class.

Stand Up, Speak Out with MAGPI

Lakeshore Middle School has been participating in a unique serving learning program with MAGPI. In the kick-off conference, students interviewed holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissmann Klein. As a follow-up, they participated in service learning projects and reported on the results on the project wiki. In today’s session the schools at each site are reflecting on their experiences with service learning and the impact of the program on their understanding.

Talking to Students in Haiti with Global Nomads Group

Upton Middle School and St. Joseph High School are participating in the Global Nomads Group program with students in Haiti. You can read more about it here. The program was a two part connection, starting the conversation with the students in Haiti on Monday and continuing today. The participating classes are also raising money for Haiti through StudentsRebuild.org. You can see part of the action: watch the live webcast on Friday, March 26 at 12:00 Eastern. More details on the GNG home page. These are incredibly powerful experiences, as students hear the stories of the students in Haiti, building empathy and understanding. We also were moved by the interaction of between Haitian students in Florida and the students in Haiti. GNG’s programs are always incredible!

Seems like these VCs are a great way to celebrate this blog’s 5th anniversary! 5 Years since that first post!

Day 9: Multiple Section Collaborations for Middle and High School

One of the challenges of using videoconferencing in the curriculum is the middle and high school schedules. High school structures make it difficult to be creative; and the cost of scheduling content providers for each section at the high school level is prohibitive. Many great high school content providers are guest speakers scheduled at specific times, and it doesn’t take long for teachers to get annoyed when the schedule gets disrupted. Time for preparation for a videoconference is challenging as well. These are some of the reasons that middle and high schools tend to use VC less than elementary schools (for curriculum videoconferencing purposes, that is.)

So, one of the ways that I’ve been trying to address this challenge, is to schedule collaborations for each section/class period. This way each section gets the same experience, and since it’s a collaboration, it’s free!

Steps to Success

  1. Start with the curriculum. The project has to fit tightly into the curriculum to be worth the precious instructional time.
  2. Define it. I work with the teacher to define exactly what each class will do, to make sure it’s focused to the instructional goals.
  3. Set the dates & times. Save yourself some negotiation time and just pick the dates and times. Some of my teachers like to have all the sections on the same day; others want them spread out a bit.
  4. (Optional) Make a web page or wiki. I like to make a web page or wiki for the project so that interested schools can easily see which times I still need to fill.
  5. Logistics: If you have a mobile cart, the teacher may prefer to have the system in their room for all of the sessions. Some of my teachers prefer it in their classroom; others prefer to participate in the library.


Sharing a water bottle race car in EcoConversations

Here are some examples of projects that I’ve been working on for middle and high school:

Point to Point Collaborations

  • EcoConversations for middle school science classes.
  • I really want to pull off a Black History Month set of VCs for my high school English teachers this year, but I’m not done writing the wiki yet. I am at stage 2 – working with the teacher to define what each class will do.
  • Another high school English one I’m hoping to run in April is Poetry Month. I’ve had some high school English teachers really enjoy performance poetry videoconferences. I want to systematize the idea to reach more teachers.

Multipoint Collaborations

These can easily be adapted to more simple point to point collaborations as well.

  • I’ve been running MysteryQuest World for a few years; and this year have converted it to a one hour session to fit into one class period. I actually will have a few more spots in this one either Friday or Monday, so check back if you’re interested.
  • HistoryQuest 8th grade has worked great for the 8th grade schedule this year. Civil War is scheduled for April.

Your Turn

  • How are you meeting the scheduling and curriculum needs of your middle and high school teachers? Please comment and share any other tips you have.

If you are totally new to collaborative projects and/or would like step by step assistance making a collaborative project happen, from start to finish, sign up for Kid2Kid Videoconference Connections, a six week online course beginning January 25.

Eco Conversations: Carbon Emissions

This morning we have another EcoConversations connection with Dowagiac Middle School and Westcliff High School for Girls in the UK.

The first presentation was from a group of students in the UK who shared how McDonalds (eating burgers) is making a negative impact on the rainforest and the environment: no recycling, litter, impact on health, and where the rainforest is cut down for raising cattle, etc…

Next our class presented about our community and what the students do for fun. They shared about the agriculture grown in our area. Then our class shared our the invasive species in our area.

Next another group in the UK shared about recycling and impact on environment.

Then, as Mr. Tsang said, “the business over”, the students asked each other questions. Here are some of them:

  • How many McDonalds do you have?
  • What kind of music do you listen to?
  • Two of the students in the UK sang to our students! That was a hit!
  • What kinds of food do you eat? What is your favorite food?
  • What’s your favorite subject?
  • What are you getting Christmas?
  • Are you on Facebook?
  • What grade are you in?
  • What’s your favorite sweets?
  • What time is it there? (This question never gets old in a videoconference!)
  • How many students are in your school? (1000 UK / 600 MI)
  • Do you guys think we have funny accents?

The students had a great time chatting and we are talking about setting up some more collaborations between our schools.

Eco-Conversations: Water Bottles

Today Buchanan Middle School has four Eco-Conversations connections, two with the UK (Wigan and Torfaen), one with Ontario, and one with Texas. Our focus for these sessions has been on water bottle pollution.

Our class prepared posters explaining the effects of water bottle pollution, including pictures of the local environment. The classes have been collecting water bottles to recycle and they have a mattress bag full of water bottles.

Eco-ConversationsThe first session was with a school in Wigan, and they told us about their recycling program. The real learning in this connection happened in the question and answer time. For example, the two classes shared where they have access to recycling. In Wigan, they can recycle all kinds of things including clothes and shoes at the supermarket. We don’t have EcoConversationsthat in our area – mostly just plastic recycling at the grocery store. Another question from our class was, “Do you think our accents sound different?” which started a discussion of how we sound different to each other. Our class also showed a toy car made out of water bottles and an RC engine. The students in the UK loved it.

Our second session was with a school in Torfaen, Wales. Both teachers in this session are graduates of the Jazz workshop. Our class shared an introductory PPT about their community with pictures etc. EcoConversationsOur partner class had posters and pictures to talk about recycling and reducing their carbon footprint, complete with footprint notes. They talked about the costs of water bottles, and the lack of fluoride in bottled water for young children’s teeth and bones as well as other environmental issues. Their eco club told us a story of correcting their principal in his use of electricity. “I was shamed in front of the school,” he said! Everyone is learning together to reduce their consumption. Then our class had each group share their posters about water bottle issues and the water bottle pile and toy. Then the class in Wales asked our students questions. Both classes asked each other about their sources of information. Our friends in Wales have required recycling, but we don’t know of anywhere in the US that has a law that everyone has to recycle. We learned about “Dan the Can” and the students drew and colored pictures of him and brainstormed some other possible projects between the classes. Eco Conversationswe found out that it’s free to recycle in the UK, but we have to pay extra to recycle. Our partner class started their eco club 4 years ago and won this flag for their work in the community, planting trees, educating others, showing how they are saving energy, etc. They are understandably very proud of their flag!

Our third session was with a class in Barrie, Ontario. Both classes shared presentations with each other. The class in Barrie surveyed the students in the school and found that the students thought bottled water tasted better. Then they did a blind taste test and they preferred the tap water! They included both US and Canada stats in their presentation and had Recycle Bingreat pics to illustrate their facts. During Q&A time the classes ask each other several questions that had a show of hands: how many drink tap water at home? how many recycle water bottles? how many like water bottles? It was a great way to compare and see how well the students at both classes were applying their learning. The class in Ontario showed us their recycling bin too.

Our fourth class connected to McGregor, TX. They had lots of great facts and issues about water bottles including the amount people spend on water bottles, the issues of BPA plastic, etc. The students really enjoyed sharing, and our teacher shared with the TX students some of what we learned from the other classes this morning.

We have one more section that is connecting to a class in British Columbia in November after our state testing is done. This project has again been a great experience for our students!