Friday, May 23, 2008

What do poetry, veterans and aquaculture have in common?

This week in three days one of my schools partcipated in three very different and interesting videoconferences.

On Monday, a group of teachers and poet mentors videoconferenced with a like group of teachers and poet mentors in another school district as part of a staff development about poetry performance. This year is the fourth year that we are participating in poetry slam using videoconferencing to facilitate the competition. Our five schools and 10 classes will have their poetry slam next week and our teachers have been having workshops in teaching poetry writing and performance. The opportunity to have them join another group of teachers and their workshop was very beneficial for not only our teachers but for our poets as well. Getting new ideas and techniques from other educators and artists without having to leave your own school is, I feel, one of the many great opportunities videoconferencing provides. Our teachers were asked to write a poem that was a recipe for something. Then they were asked to be coached by three of their colleagues on lines, expression and movement. The teachers were modeling what they would go back and ask their students to do in order to prepare for their poetry slam. Very often when a slam team is chosen, the rest of the class is left just watching the team. By giving the students meaningful coaching jobs they stay involved in the process.

On Tuesday an eighth grade class participated in an ASK program with Viet Nam Veterans. The students read the book "The Wall" by Eve Bunting. This provided the students with a springboard for them to begin a discussion of the Viet Nam War and the soldiers that fought in it. The videoconference was with four veterans who served in Viet Nam. The students asked the veterans questions ranging from their experiences in Viet Nam to their thoughts about the War and even about the war in Iraq. The teacher from our class was himself a Viet Nam Vet and in a touching moment he asked a question of his fellow vets. I think the students came away from this conference experience with an understanding that we study wars to hopefully learn lessons from them. That war should always be a last resort. That our veterans sacrificed a lot for our freedom and deserve our respect and appreciation. Veterans are true heroes. And in the case of our New York class, they learned their teacher is a hero too.

On Wednesday we were off to Hawaii to learn about the fishing industry in Hawaii. This was a very special program.
A group of high school students prepared a wonderful presentation on aquaculture. They made powerpoints about ancient Hawaiian fishing and fishing vocabulary in Hawaiian. They made videos of local fish markets, fishing boats and a fisherman catching fish with a net. They had plenty of interactivity through questions and answers. They had the students stand up and catch fish using an imaginary net. Our students practiced their Hawaiian by repeating fishing terminology. Mahimahi is a dolphin fish. It was a great experience for our students. I just want to say, MAHALO to the wonderful students in Hawaii and their teacher, Lynn Sueoka. To see the students and their website go to: