What so you get when you take 24 grade 5 students, 5 parent volunteers, 1 student teacher, and 1 slightly crazy classroom teacher and lock them in a school over night? You get one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as a teacher.
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We started by Skyping with two classes in Canada. The idea was to start close to home and talk to other Canadians about the excitement building around the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver in February. We spoke with @Hafy2009, Jodi Hafenbrak of Balmoral Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She was one of the Canadians I traveled with to Brazil in November for the Microsoft Innovative Educators Forum. Then it was @zbpipe, Zoe Branigan Pipe, in Hamilton, Ontario. We Skype with her class quite often, and she was the first teacher I ever videoconferenced with! This got the kids off to a great start, and two VC’s down during school time, before the craziness of staying late after school started! Part way through the afternoon I got an email from my parents, who have been in Hawaii. They are both retired teachers. I thought Hawaii would be a great stop as we headed west with our Around the World trip so I gave my Mom a quick Skype call and we connected! In a happy accident moment, I managed to plan our sleepover on Pajama Day at school, so the kids were very prepared for our sleepover, and wore their PJs (me too!) all day! After school we got into some of our activities, including incorporating the Winter Olympics theme. We painted our faces and made flags for our team countries. We had teams from Norway, Sweden, Germany, The Netherlands, and Great Britain. They students were very patriotic. As the host of the event, I was of course Team Canada! Some of our Olympic events were in the gym, or hallway. We had a figure skating event, which was the Michael Jackson Thriller Dance, which we learned and performed at Halloween. Each country had to perform and see who could best remember or make up new steps the fastest and work as a team. We raced bobsleds (in the form of two students sitting on scooter boards) down the hallway, it was one of the highlights for me. The students loved it! Other events we played on the Wii, including ski jumping and curling! We used the game Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics We met with @robinthailand, Rob Newberry, and his class from Thailand. They were shy, but we talked about weather, different sports in the two countries, food, and beaches! After speaking with Thailand it was time to run around outside! We went geocaching in the dark. It was our “torch” relay. Each cache was a different city across Canada that the torch visited and they had to name the province or territory it was in. They used their flashlights or “torches” to guide the way Next on the agenda was a Skype call from Austraila. Rob Sibaglia, an IT specialist met with us, and had a colleague read us our bedtime story which was about how the kangaroo got its tail! Just before bed we got a second call from @zbpipe. It was Zoe’s second time to talk with us, but this time she was in Philadelphia! Nothing like having the same person meet with use from two different countries! The students thought it was fantastic! Then it was off to bed! The kids did not sleep….well maybe about 2 1/2 hours! The girls’ room was full of giggling and gossiping. It was especially interesting when they thought I was asleep. The boys’ room was full of, well, methane! We even remembered to brush our teeth, and the parents were really great about organizing healthy snacks, fruit, cheese, crackers, and meat! There was a healthy supper of lasagna, salad, veggies, bread, meatballs, rice, and perogies! Not all of the toothbrushes made it back home, I found this casualty on the hallway floor! The next morning at 5:30 I was up and energetic, but the kids were a bit…sleepy! With the worst bedhead I’ve ever seen, smeared face paint, and questions about when they got pancakes, we met with @gillpenny, Gillian Penny, and Gavinburn Primary School from Scotland. This was the one connection that didn’t use Skype. We used Glow, the Scottish VC Intranet system. @olliebray worked very hard behind the scenes to get everything going on both ends. Thanks to my tech department for opening ports and solving a few last-minute snags. We had a bit of sound trouble, but we worked around it, and did get everything connected in the end. We shared all about the Olympics as Gavinburn is working on a big unit all about the Winter Olympics and are using Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics as well! There may have even been some curling rivalry talk! After pancakes and some very Canadian maple syrup, we had our last connection of the day with @bligoben, Mags from Wales and the year 6 class. We walked all about weather and what we had in common, and what was very different. My students enjoyed hearing that even students in Wales like Justin Bieber, a Canadian Pop Singer! After cleaning up and sending all the kids home, it was time for me to head to Vulcan (the town, not the planet) for a professional development/teacher meeting day. It was kind of a blur, with a great deal of coffee. I did bring the Wii and Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics with me so other teachers could try it out and several plan to use it with their class. We were looking at it for measuring with decimals to thousandths. Thousandths are a hard concept, and timing of races was almost the only context we could think of that they were used, which our students would find relevant. Not only do Grade 5 student have to use and understand decimal places to the thousandths, but they have to order and compare them as well. What better way to order and compare that collect race times on the luge, bobsled, skiing, or snowboarding runs, then compare and order them to see who won, and the order of the competitors! The night was a huge success, thank-you to all the parents, our Skype and VC partners from Around the World, my student teacher Mitchell for putting up with the boys all night, and to the students for having a fun, safe time!