Think outside the box! You know, those four walls we call our classrooms! Yes…That box! Why not unwrap that classroom and share what you and your students are doing with the world? That’s what fifth grade teacher, Jan Abernethy has been doing for several years now.
Students at East Elementary School in Greenville, Pennsylvania are leaving their global imprint through technology, social media, and Ms. Abernethy’s “hands-on” educational philosophy. To date, Abernethy’s class maintains a YouTube channel, a Vimeo channel, a Weebly website, Wikispaces, classroom blogs, and a respectable following on iTunes.
Abernethy has a marvelous blend of traditional and 21st century teaching and learning in her student-centered classroom. That’s because Ms. Abernethy has a menagerie of furry (and scaly) classroom pets. Fifth grader, Jaci explains, “We have ferrets, chinchillas, two lizards, a turtle, a guinea pig, and frogs.”
A typical day for a Fantastic Ferret in Ms. Abernethy’s class is a healthy mix of 21st century and traditional learning. Fifth grader, Cayde explains, “In the morning, we’ll get unpacked. We’ll clean our animal’s cages, then we’ll start with our attendance and our lunch accounts, then after that we’ll get ready for reading or English and we use technology for that. We read books (on their class iPads) and we take tests on them. It’s like a paper tests, but it’s on the computer and it asks questions about what happened in the book.”
With the same excitement that students discuss their class pets, they rattle off all the technology available in their classroom, “We have iPads, Smartboards, computers, and a bunch of educational apps that we use to make our projects.” When asked about their favorite tech device…The answer (Hands Down!) was a unanimous chorus of “iPads!”
Cayde shared that his favorite tech learning is “reading projects on the iPad. It’s pretty fun!” he explains. “This week, we’re learning about the Revolutionary War, so you can do (a project) about George Washington, his army or you can do one about his horse named Nelson.” Cayde explains, “ We can use (Web 2.0 tools) Animoto, KidBlog, Telegram, and Glogster. “
Student, Jaci shares the “Rock our World” project as one of her favorite tech projects so far. According to the Rock Our World website, it’s a “collaborative project where K-12 students compose original music in GarageBand, make movies, and meet each other in video chats.” Jaci adds, “There’s tons of people around the world…some from Germany and we make music and songs.”
As part of a Rock Our World collaboration students in Governor’s Bay, New Zealand proposed that schools around the world create art pieces for local medical centers. The students at East Elementary School answered the call. “We recently did a project. We made tons of art projects and we hung them around our hospital in Greenville,” Jaci proudly proclaimed.
Cody, Isaac, and Caidyn eagerly discussed a Minecraft project they’re creating for their peers. “What we do is we use Minecraft for our math projects. You can have them build houses (by solving math problems)” The boys continue, “We have to give them instructions to create their own world…like a Minecraft town and they use division, properties, multiplication and all that”. Another student chimes in, “If you’ve already built a world for them to discover, you can ask them questions and they have to put signs on whatever you say.” The students are planning to post their projects on the class math blog.
On a more sober note, Jaci and her classmates are spreading the word about an extremely important issue. “We have a website that is for cyberbullying. We’re trying to make these buttons for people that are being cyberbullied. They can click on lots of social media sites.” She adds, “We’re sending letters to Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram…and we’re having a vote to see what buttons we’re going to send out in January.”
Nestled in the northwest corner of Pennsylvania; this community of 5,895 residents, located on 2.1 square miles of greenery is taking global citzenship seriously. Fantastic Ferret, Jaci sums up their class outreach best, “It’s pretty cool that we’re just a small town and we’re doing bigger things than people in some big cities are doing!”