Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Incredible Premiere of the Epic Romeo and Juliet Project

Today I went to Van Meter School to see a play that our students wrote, directed, produced, and advertised. The play is Romeo and Juliet. However, this one was very different than any I had seen before. The freshman at Van Meter and their incredible teacher Shawn Hyer have been working on this play for several weeks to create a modernized version of Romeo and Juliet.

And to make it even more unique....The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project was created with the freshman at Grosse Pointe South in Detroit and their amazing teacher Nick Provenzano. Nick and I met last year at ISTE 2010 in Denver, Colorado. We had a great conversation and brainstormed about several different things. One of the projects....a virtual, collaborative, modern Romeo and Juliet.

For weeks, I have watched the students write, film, collaborate, create, and connect to produce this incredible project. I know that it was stressful and crazy at times, but WOW was it worth it! As I sat in the activity center at Van Meter today, I was so proud of what everyone had accomplished.

Nick, Shawn, and all of the students at #VMGPS (the hashtag where you can follow our collaborative work).....You are rock stars! Thank you for inviting us all to share in your journey.

If you missed the premiere of The Epic Romeo and Juliet Project, you can VIEW IT HERE.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Raising Their Voice from the Edmodo Blog

This was my second post on the Edmodo blog as the VOICE of the Library. It is entitled Raising Their Voice.

Last week I had the honor to present with Julia Albaugh and Emma Durflinger at the Iowa 1:1 Conference in Des Moines. I have collaborated with both of them before and have helped them prepare for other presentations as well. When I spoke at the Follett User Conference in March, Julia, Emma, and two others Skyped into my session and told the attendees how social media is used in education and how they have developed their own voice.

Yesterday, on Emma’s blog, We Talk, she posted about “Presenting” :

Presenting is something I do for fun and for school purposes. I have just lately presented at the 1:1 conference in Iowa. I have also presented at many other places. I got involved with this last year when I was in 5th grade. My father Mr. Deron Durflinger and my mother Mrs. Amanda Durflinger said that I could start presenting and creating a blog after I got their permission. I love presenting. It makes me feel good because I can teach the teachers in multiple ways. It has made me smarter with Web 2.0 tools and made me more experienced. I LOVE PRESENTING!!!”

Does she sound like a person who is passionate about presenting and teaching others? Does this person want to make a difference? Does this sound like a 6th grader?

And how about this quote from Julia, who is a senior...

“Mrs. Miller has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone, getting me involved in National Honor Society. She also has helped me have a voice, through my PLN, and through Twitter. She is always so supportive, and helpful.”

Do you encourage your students to connect to their passions? To use their voice?

I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people. I wanted to empower them to have a voice through creating, collaborating, and connecting. I was inspired by one of my teachers and she changed my life forever.

Art has been my passion since I was a little girl. My Mom always supported my love for art. In the summer she would get my sister Heather and me giant refrigerator boxes and let us paint on them in the grass. She would buy us endless art supplies and save every possible paper roll, piece of tissue paper, and little crafty items so we could create. She took me to art classes in a city close by. She loved sharing our work with others and put it up in our house. Mom let me create, be messy, and express myself.

When I was in 6th grade a new teacher came to my school. She was young, super cool, and best of all....she was the art teacher. Ms. D, as we all called her, quickly realized the passion and talent that I had and began to spend extra time with me. She would give me books to look through, let me dig through her amazing portfolios, and was never the first one to end one of our conversations.

I will never forget the day that we were given the assignment to draw our hand. Most people took their paper and drew it life size or perhaps a little smaller. I sat off by myself, took the biggest piece of paper I could find, a new piece of charcoal, and drew my hand so large that it almost spilled off of the paper. Ms. D came over and stood by me. At first, I wondered if she was upset I took the big paper or perhaps that I used charcoal instead of the pencil. She lifted up my paper and looked at what I had drawn. She “really” looked at it. And then she looked at me with a big smile on her face and I knew from that day on she would become not just my teacher, but also my mentor, friend, and fellow artist.

As I went through junior high and into high school, Ms. D, along with my family and friends, encouraged my passion for art and continued to find opportunities for me to express myself. I spent every moment I could before, during, and after school in the art room. I entered art and photography shows. I worked on other projects throughout the building and created art during the summer for 4-H projects with Ms. D’s guidance and encouragement. I got accepted into the Design College at Iowa State University and planned for a career in art. She expected a lot from me in all of my classes and extracurricular activities. And most of a person.

Ms. D made a difference in my life and the lives of so many within our school. She came to Shellsburg and created a change. She encouraged us to have a voice, to connect to our passions, and to express ourselves in different ways. By being a passionate artist and teacher, Ms. D showed me that I could also be a change and make a difference in the world.

Now that I am a teacher, I have over 600 students and others in classrooms around the world who make a difference in my life every day. I love seeing the excitement in their faces when they create something wonderful, teach a new concept or Web 2.0 tool to a friend or teacher, or when they have over 100 adults in the room hanging onto their every word because they are the voice of our future.

As you walk into the library, you will see this quote by Mahatma Gandhi on my wall:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

We can all be that change. Today, I want you to “really” look at your students’ work. I want you to “really” listen.

Today, let your students have choices, let them teach your class something new, let them give you ideas, let them present with you, let them be heard.

And most of all...let them know that you think they can be the change that we need in our world. Let them know that they have a voice.

My dear friend and mentor, Diane Cordell, who has enjoyed watching Emma and other students at Van Meter develop a voice, wrote in the post Emma and the Perfect Storm on her blog Journeys, “Emma isn't merely posting chatty Twitter updates. She is using her connectivity to stretch her wings and expand her horizons but with adult supervision and parental permission. Emma is learning to ride the winds of change.”

As we give our students the chance to develop their passions and voice, we are giving ourselves that same chance: to find meaning, to have a voice, to be the change.


Cordell, Diane. "Emma and the Perfect Storm." Journeys. 21 Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. .

Durflinger, Emma. We Talk. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. .

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Day That Van Meter Dropped Everything and Read

It was a very special day of reading in schools, libraries and homes today.

We were all celebrating D.E.A.R. Day! On this day we "Drop Everything and Read."

D.E.A.R. is always celebrated April 12th on Beverly Cleary's birthday. To make D.E.A.R. even more special, one of her book characters, Ramona Quimby, is the official spokesperson responsible for spreading the word and the love of reading.

There are amazing activities and resources on the official D.E.A.R. website . On the front page page you can even read an online version of Beezus and Ramona from the Brown and HarperCollins Children's Books website.

And my favorite part of the D.E.A.R. site....You can send your friends an email card to tell them about this day.

All throughout the day we found students, teachers and parents reading at Van Meter. These are just a few of the photographs we got on this very special day.

We asked teachers and students to email their photographs to the Van Meter Voice. As I get these images of how everyone spent D.E.A.R. day, I will add them below.

Thank you for sharing and find a little time each day to.....


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bring a Dream to Life Today!

If you have a dream, make it a reality and change the lives of others.

Today is the Dreams to Life celebration!

The Van Meter National Honor Society has been planning this celebration for months and it is finally here. At 4:00pm at Drake University in Des Moines 5th graders from the I Have a Dream program, the board and staff of the I Have a Dream Foundation, Van Meter faculty, NHS members, families and others will gather together to celebrate the Dreamers. There will be a silent auction and the Dreamers along with their Van Meter friends will be sharing projects they created together.

Please visit the RandomKid website to support this amazing project that will bring so much to the lives of the Dreamers. Together we can all make a difference.

I have reposted a post explaining our passion for this projects and the impact that it has made on so many people.

Be A Dreamer Too on November 24, 2010.

Last week the King Dreamers came to visit Van Meter School for the first time. The Van Meter National Honor Society have become mentors and friends to this amazing group of 5th graders. The Dreamers are part of the I Have a Dream Foundation which adopts classrooms of inner-city, high risk kids in first grade, providing tutoring, mentoring, and personal support along the way. Upon successful completion of high school, financial assistance for college is guaranteed to each Dreamer.I posted A Story of Hope last February on the Van Meter Library VOICE, which tells how our journey started with the Dreamers last year.

We usually travel to King Elementary in Des Moines, but this year we have decided to host the Dreamers at least once a month for connecting, creating, collaboration, and a lot of FUN! With this being the first visit to Van Meter, our students showed the Dreamers around our school and introduced them to Mr. Durflinger, Mrs. Arentsen, Mrs. Wesselmann, the Van Meter cheer squad, and a few of our other teachers and students.

It was inspiring to walk around the library and computer lab to see all of them talking and working together. There were groups of kids that were Skyping across the room to one another and using Photo Booth to take crazy pictures to share. One Dreamer was using Google Earth to show their Van Meter friend where they lived in Des Moines. On the far side of the library, The Cupid Shuffle video was being watched on YouTube while two Dreamers danced for their Van Meter friends. After looking at instruments in the band room, two friends were creating their own music using Garage Band. It was so special to see how their interests and differences were coming together and the friendships were developing even more than last year.

I recently contacted Random Kid and Youth Venture to figure out how the King Dreamers and Van Meter NHS members can raise money to purchase iMacs, Flip video cameras, and other technology for their space at King Elementary. After Thanksgiving, Danny Heggen from Youth Venture is coming to speak with the NHS members to brainstorm ideas of how we are going to make this dream a reality. On December 15th at our Christmas party, we are going to be able to share this plan with the Dreamers. Together they will make this dream come true and it will give the Dreamers a chance to make a difference in their own lives too.

The King Dreamers and the Van Meter National Honor Society members inspire me every time we get together. I am thankful to have the chance to work with and know each and every one of them. They are a gift in my life and in each others. I am very thankful for what they have taught me.

Yesterday I heard Imagine by John Lennon. The lyrics in this song say it so well....

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one.
I hope someday you will join us,
and the World will live as one.

The moments I spend with the Dreamers and NHS members, make me realize how we can change the world.
It is moments like this when I think about the difference anyone can can make regardless of who you are, where you are from, or what resources you have.
We have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those around us.

If you have a dream, make it a reality and change the lives of others. Be a dreamer too!