SEVERAL INITIATIVES AT THE FLETCHER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL ARE TAKING STUDENTS OUT OF THEIR CLASSROOMS AND TRANSPORTING THEM AROUND THE WORLD.
Preschool Postcard Exchange
In preschool, students are participating in a global postcard exchange. Fletcher’s three and four-year-olds have begun corresponding with eight other preschool classes in various locations around the world including New York, Oregon, Bermuda, Pakistan, Texas, Belgium and two parts of Canada.
The project began with the installation of a world map in the preschool classroom. According to preschool teacher Nancy Hurt, the map serves as a “provocation” for students and elicits their questions, curiosities, and interests. The students began by identifying Vermont on the map, as well as locations the children have visited. They have also discussed how the colors on the map represent land or water.
The Fletcher preschool is one of approximately 150 preschool programs worldwide to participate in the postcard exchange, which will also include sending some mementos that represent Fletcher students and Vermont. As the students receive postcards from their preschool counterparts from around the globe, they will discuss the locations and mark them on the classroom map. While the project is comprised of mostly preschoolers, there are a few two-year-olds groups and kindergarten classes around the world that are also participating.
The Fletcher preschoolers have chosen to send one large mailing envelope to each of the eight partner programs they have been assigned. Each envelope will contain one Vermont-themed postcard from each of Fletcher’s three preschool groups, photos of the preschoolers harvesting their class garden, and a few small art projects, including colorful fall leaves painted on linen.
“It is important to raise children’s awareness that the world is far greater than our Fletcher community,” Hurt said. “The process of writing postcards has encouraged our children to reflect on things they enjoy doing at school as well as what they wonder about the groups receiving our messages.”
The preschoolers’ first correspondence was with a class in New York City.
Second Grade Indonesian Pen Pals
In second grade, a pen pal project that is connecting Fletcher students with students in Jakarta, Indonesia, is the collaborative effort of art teacher M.C. Baker, librarian Emily DiGiulio and second-grade teacher Rebecca Cardone.
The project aims to connect literature, writing, geography and art into a learning project that affords each student their own year-long pen pal from across the globe. The goal is to build cultural competence and international friendships while gaining increased writing fluency and art skills and appreciation.
The Royal Primary Academy, in Jakarta, Indonesia, is comprised of 85 students in first through sixth grade. About 50 percent of the students are Indonesian, while the other students come from countries such as Australia, Canada, the U.S., Japan, Korea, the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, U.A.E., Spain, China, and Singapore.
Based on the children’s book, Flat Stanley, Fletcher students will have a photograph of their pen pal and will take photographs of themselves doing everyday events alongside their international friends. The students will use the photographs as writing prompts to describe life in Vermont and to discuss global similarities and differences.
“We live in a very rural place,” Cardone said. “Global projects like these broaden students’ horizons and take down borders. Even if students can’t travel, we can still provide a cultural experience.”
The students will use art classes to discuss art materials and techniques that are native to Indonesia, as well as to create culturally-related works.
Fifth Grade Global Read Aloud, IVECA, and Farm Tour
The Global Read Aloud project was created in 2010 with one goal in mind: to connect the world using a single book. Starting in early October and lasting for six weeks, teachers worldwide select a book to read aloud to their students. This year, Fletcher’s fifth-grade teacher, Cassie Underwood, has chosen the Roald Dahl classic, The BFG, the story of a ten-year-old girl who teams up with a Big Friendly Giant to help rid the world of his not-so-nice counterparts.
Classes from around the world connect via the Internet platform Edmodo to discuss the story and complete projects to share along the way. To date, more than a million students from 60 countries have participated in the Global Read Aloud project.
Fifth graders have also begun to participate in the Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities program, also known as IVECA. The program is an online exchange of ideas for K-12 students, aimed at bringing cultures together in a learning atmosphere via the World Wide Web. Classes engage in weekly activity topics and complete projects that are suggested by IVECA staff. The classrooms exchange feedback and ideas each week via Internet conferencing . The goal of the program – this year Fletcher’s fifth graders are connected with a classroom from Korea – is to promote an understanding of various cultures and support students in living and working together with their counterparts in another country for the greater good of the global community.
IVECA leaders aim to educate students on the many cultural differences around the world and support students in developing respectful, courteous interactions.
“When students become more aware of other cultures, they are more respectful of their ideas and traditions,” Underwood said. “The IVECA program begins to break down prejudices and stereotypes that might exist between my class and our partner class. We hope that this type of acceptance for difference also transfers to our own classroom, school, and community.”
Fletcher’s fifth graders held their first live internet session with their Korean partner classroom on October 17th. Simultaneously, their families were invited to attend an Internet safety and appropriate use workshop with Emily DiGiulio, the school’s librarian and technology specialist.
Underwood’s fifth graders also recently participated in a virtual field trip using Discovery Education. Based on the class’s study of sustainability last year, students took a virtual tour of the Hertzfeld Poultry farm in Grand Rapids, Ohio. Using Discovery Education’s interactive online format, students were able to ask questions of the farmers and learn about how the farm has reduced its carbon footprint.
“The key to making this engaging for kids is to make it interactive,” Underwood said. “Not only do they get to see and hear what is happening on the farm, but they get to ask questions of experts that they wouldn’t likely otherwise meet.”
Sixth Grade Digital Promise Global
Sixth-grade students in Fletcher have begun to work with Digital Promise Global, an initiative that supports innovation by providing students worldwide with cutting edge technology to solve real-world problems. The goals of the program are to accelerate innovation and increase opportunities for students to learn.
The program is based on four guiding principles: (1) connecting students with people and ideas (2) inspiring ideas and action (3) informs, grounds and supports decision-making and (4) motivates learning for life.
The Fletcher School received a 3D scanner, 3D printer, 10 HP Notebooks, a large format printer and large format display to create a Learning Studio in the classroom. Students use the equipment to participate in tasks provided by Digital Promise. The initiative is part of a study that looks at how teachers use technology in the classroom. There are currently just 60 Learning Studios across the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The effort is part of HP and Microsoft’s Reinvent the classroom initiative, which aims to provide and support next-generation learning, international collaboration and the “maker” movement in education.
Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU maximizes flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom and fostering creativity, innovation, and personalized learning opportunities for all.
Indicators of Success: (1) Staff, students, and community embrace digital, social, mobile learning styles. (2) Flexible learning environments are the context for collaboration and extend beyond the classroom. (3) Students and staff integrate technology to redefine educational experiences.
Action Steps: (1) Provide students with access to content, resources, and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls. (2) Develop opportunities for students to demonstrate transferable skills in authentic settings.