Friday, June 15, 2007

Poetry Slam 2007

For the past three years I have been involved with poetry slams through videoconferencing. I have blogged about Poetry Slam in the past. This year I was fortunate to win a NYS Learning Technology Grant and continue the Poetry Slam program . In the past I had 8 different schools compete via videoconferencing in poetry slam competitions. This year was a little different. The grant I wrote was for only 3 schools. Six of the eight poetry slam classes were in the middle school where I work. The other two classes were in a neighboring middle school and in a non public Catholic School. The poets have been going to these 3 schools for the past ten weeks teaching poetry writing and performance to sixth graders. Yesterday we had a live slam in my school and the top scoring class went on today to slam with their non public partners virtually. Since the Catholic school had only recently received their videoconferencing equipment I decided to go to the school to help facilitate the poetry slam. There was also a judging site in yesterday's competition. That was a middle school in the Bronx. It was in the Bronx where using videoconferencing as a way to bridge geographic distances and scheduling logistics first began. Now this program has grown nationally to a new organization called GLOBALWRITeS.
The students at the Catholic school started their day in a prayer circle. They prayed for our world and even prayed a little for their poetry slam. Then the slam began. The student's poetry and performances were great. There will be a poetry anthology of all the poems as part of the grant. Some of them will also be posted at the GLOBALWRITeS website. Interestingly, the class from my middle school was a bridge class. This means that all of them are English Language Learners (ELL). The fact that they placed first in their school slam and now in the inter-school slam is quite an impressive accomplishment. The other nice thing is that as part of the grant classses will continue their participation in Poetry Slam through 7th and 8th grades. Imagine three years of poetry writing and performing. There will be classes of future poet laureates!!!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Career Day

It seems if you want to love what you do become a scientist. At least that is what I have learned from all the scientists that our classrooms have videoconferenced with over the past years. The meteorologists at the National Weather Service an arm of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are no exception as they shared with our students yesterday their love for the work they do. Meteorologist Richard Watling began his talk with the students advising them to find something they love to do. He recounted the days of his youth in the Finger Lakes Region of New York watching the sky and the weather. He talked about the educational steps he had to take to become a meteorologist. Then he shared his favorite weather pictures of hurricanes and tornadoes and the power of these weather systems. He also spoke of global warming and the attention that needs to be given to this issue. Meteorologist Laurie Hogan also looked up to the sky as a child. Her sky was the great open spaces of North Dakota. Our students live in an urban environment and don't have the opportunity to see weather in this dramatic way but they definitely see its effect on the news they watch and some of the weather events they have personally experienced. She also talked about the kinds of equipment that meteorologists work with from computers to satellites and of course the trusty weather balloon. The students were also introduced to the NOAA Education Resourcesat the NOAA website that are available for students and teachers by educational specialist Cheryl Latif.

Of course the students had the opportunity to ask questions. How do you get the 5-day forecast? Why do hurricanes have names? How much money does a meteorologist make? Are just a sampling of some of the questions asked. From the attention and interest the students paid to these meteorologists I could tell they are even at the ages of 11 and 12 seriously considering their future careers. This wonderful opportunity to hear and question these leading scientists are really made possible through the technology of videoconferencing since the physical distance of their location as well as their busy schedules make a classroom visit difficult at best. You can see a wonderful video called Tornado’s Hero: A Meteorologist Roll over the video section and pick interview with meteorologist.
Finally a few comments on some technical and scheduling glitches. These always point to the importance of planning, planning and more planning. On our end we lost a class and our audio for the second program. The teacher was unaware that her class was scheduled for the program and until the class was located more than half the time was lost. The loss of audio lead to our writing notes on a dry erase board for communication. This is a reminder of the importance of a phone at each site for communication.