Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"That's a "RAP"...almost

I wish I could say that with finality but the truth is there are two classes that still need to videoconference with their match schools in April. However, 6 of the 8 classes I registered for Read Around the Planet did get to meet and share with their partner schools so I think I can call it a "rap"... almost. The connections so far have been amazing. Our NYC students have met classes from Michigan, Texas, Arizona, Upstate New York and Western Canada. They have videoconferenced with rural communities whose town populations were less than our school's student population. They have met students whose afternoon chores were rounding up cattle. They have seen just how different their lifestyles can be but they have also learned how much they have in common. They have been introduced to new books and reading activities. They have also shared their stories and projects. All in all it has been as it always is, incredible. A glimpse into the lives of other kids whose geographic locations they have only seen on maps. Those moments when you realize how important these connections are for learning a little bit more about our world. Students have had penpals for generations but seeing and talking to your videopal in real time is really special. The challenge is can this wonderful connection continue beyond this videoconference. Usually the videoconference ends with the classes vowing to keep in touch but the truth is these "Read Around" conferences are usually a beginning and end unto themselves.

Except in the case of the Mary McGuire Elementary School in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. Their 5th/6th grade class videoconferenced with a 6th grade class at our BELL Academy. The students had a wonderful time. The students at BELL put on a skit about Harriet Tubman. The Michigan students shared a story. They learned a little about each other's respective school and community. Shared their goodbyes and it was over or so we thought. A few weeks later two big boxes arrived from the school. Accompanied by a letter from the teacher Buck Buchanan telling the students at BELL how excited his students were for being a part of their school year. The boxes were full of things donated by the Saginaw Chippewa Nation and a beautiful scrapbook of the Mt. Pleasant Community which Mr. Buchanan called "small rural but friendly". The class at BELL is already working on their scrapbook for their friends at Mary McGuire. I think this Read Around the Planet VC has some "legs". Making a connection is one thing ... keeping connected is another.

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