Eyes lit up with each ring ring of each Skype call. They grew even wider when they saw the faces on the other end. Many of those faces looked the same or familiar while others looked different, but one thing that they all had in common was they were kids eager and ready to learn and exchange.
This was nothing new to some students, calls like this happen everyday in our room. We exchange video messages & letters, blog, and participate in Skype sessions with students all over the globe throughout the year. What was unique about it was happening for continuously for 24 hours.
As I started a new year of planning another Skype-a-thon, I looked back to things that went well last year. One positive that came out of it was Nickels for Nepal, our fundraiser to provide aid to our friends in Nepal after the earthquake. Students had the opportunity to learn much more about the environment, culture and global issues surrounding Nepal due to the project. While doing Nickels for Nepal it hit me that my students were not aware of the global issues affecting Nepal and they expressed an interest in knowing more about problems that their peers faced around the world. It was in doing Nickels for Nepal the students at Pine Valley Elementary actually started thinking beyond their everyday lives. They learned about the limited amount of time they have access to water during the span of a day, the amount of poverty in Nepal, the land forms and much more.
With that spirit in mind, once the new school year started, the students listed questions they wanted to learn about during their 24 hour journey. Ironically the questions were heavily intertwined with their concerns over the environment, water, hunger and poverty. It became clear they were eager to learn why kids in Africa didn’t have clean water and other kids didn’t have electricity or the right to go to school, but more importantly they wanted to find solutions to these problems that affect them and their peers everyday.
There were many highlights for me this year. Seeing familiar faces of both educators and students we talked with last year made this journey more special. In addition we connected with many new classrooms that we now proudly refer to as our “our new friends in____ .” Not a day has gone by when we don’t refer to, think about, make a connection, or acknowledge exchanges between all the diverse faces we spoke to during those 24 hours.
With each session, the revelation of new information captivated us on our journey. For instance in Serbia we discovered dentists are a part of the staff at each school, Iceland uses the underground volcanoes to warm their water and El Nino is an issue impacting the country of Venezuela, causing alligators to come closer to houses and villages while India recycles their water. In New Zealand for instance we had the chance to reconnect with a few students who we met last year. One of which, Ashley, shared with us that she now has a toilet trained goat. Seriously ! (Check out this vimeo of Ashley, Aroha and Snowy the Goat.) During our stop in South Korea we finally were able to meet our video Mystery Skype buddies face to face. The moments and special connections were priceless and honestly too numerous to list.
Security was surprisingly one of the topics brought up repeatedly from children in Venezuela, Mexico and California. The students passionately expressed a need and a want for a safer place to play during school. This really hit home with students on my side of the camera as I saw their heads drop on several occasions as they realized the kids in time zones close to them had issues that were extremely different. At the same time, the students shared many similarities. These conversations keep the students in both countries thinking, comparing, and contrasting.
One of the most memorable ones for me was our skype session with Nepal. Emotions were high even before we started the skype because we had well-formed connections in the school. During the skype session we connected with older students who were actually part of the rebuilding process since the earthquake. Our students took turns sharing how they raised money last year through bake sales, during car drop off and pick up at school and even their own piggy banks. The students in Nepal shared what a blessing it was in the days after the earthquake to have the support from hundreds of organizations and people around the world. The Nepal students were thrilled to be able to actually see the students in our classes who had helped fund drinking water for their school. That was a special moment!
During the day, the students participated in various global ed lessons and activities thanks to the wonderful staff and educators from Pine Valley Elementary and the Watson School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. They rolled up their sleeves to make this day special for all the students that participated in a Skype session. One of the activities was a Thinking Wall where students posted several questions they could ponder throughout the journey.
— Beverly Ladd (@BevLadd) April 18, 2016
— Beverly Ladd (@BevLadd) April 18, 2016
Building this global mindset can and should happen spontaneously and intentionally every day. All it takes is a will and a webcam and instantly the only purpose for walls around a classroom is to keep the bugs out!
Again, an event of this magnitude would not be possible without the assistance and support from my wonderful colleagues and parents at Pine Valley; Dr. Tim Markley, our superintendent; my administration who encourages teachers to follow their passion in creating these “out of the box” events. And no techy educator would be successful without the wonderful technology department of New Hanover County Schools. This department always finds creative solutions for all the tech needs to ensure that teachers can integrate meaningful technology into the daily curriculum.
In the end, it’s not a matter of the duration of the call, but it’s about building the mindset that differences make us great. We need to embrace and celebrate the diversity of our classrooms and our schools and take the opportunity to show our students how beautiful and diverse the world is. It’s imperative that the children learn that they can be a part of making the world a better place. It begins with the first ring ring… the first Skype session…
During the 24 hours, students raised $1495.00 from pledges for every hour they were awake, to increase awareness for the American Red Cross and to bring aid to places in need. This money will benefit our new friends that we met around the world during our brief time together through Skype. The information we shared and learned can possibly be the catalyst to fix the global problems that we discussed. Lots of information was shared during the 24 hours with 37 classes around the world.
Awareness is the first step in creating plans to improve global issues.
“Skype classrooms” are aware, are you?
View the @storify from our 24 hour journey here.
Pine Valley’s 24 Hour Skype-a-thon https://storify.com/beverlyladd/pine-valley-24-hour-skype-a-thon-57116e4b12a20b661b0b7923 via @bevladd