Friday, October 8, 2010

The Power of the FIRST Connection With Merton Community School!

On Monday morning before school, 2 kindergarten teachers, 2 second grade teachers, 2 third grade teachers, the Merton technology teacher, the Van Meter Elementary principal, and the Van Meter teacher librarian sat down to talk about how they could start connecting their two schools and the different classrooms. The meeting was so exciting and everyone enjoyed the conversation of how the two schools could connect, learn, and create with one another. The unique piece of the meeting is that we were over 300 miles apart in two different towns.

On this day, Van Meter Community School in Van Meter, Iowa and Merton Community School in Merton, Wisconsin were collaborating through Skype and taking their students' learning outside of the school walls. Lisa Morowski, Merton's technology teacher, and myself, the district teacher librarian, connected on Twitter a few weeks ago and soon after started planning our first activity to kick off this new partnership. We shared the idea with the teachers, collaborated on times that would work, and set our plans into motion. What an exciting week this would be!

Today was the first day our students connected! It happened in the two kindergarten classrooms. As I watched our kindergarten students being read Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak from the classroom in Wisconsin, I could feel the connections starting. The students were engaged, excited, and sharing. It was hard not to smile as I watched them meet their new friends. And I loved it when one asked, "When are we going to get to go and visit the Wisconsin students?"

I have had people ask me before, "What is the power in these Skype connections? What do students really get out of them?"

After school my son Hagan, who was one of the lucky kindergarten students at Van Meter today, came up to the library and got a new book from my desk. Hagan and I had read it together last week and he knew there was a map of the United States inside the front cover. Hagan got up on a chair where I was working and said to me, "Mommy, I can show you where our new friends live on this map. They live in Wisconsin. It is right here by Iowa."

There is your answer! Our students are gaining knowledge, experiences, and relationships that they might not have had before. Hagan not only learned where Wisconsin and Iowa were on the map, he was now able to make a personal connection to this knowledge. And he also has a whole other classroom full of wonderful children and teachers that he will be learning with throughout the year. This is something that I want for not only my own children, but for all the students at Van Meter and around the world.

That is the POWER of the first connection!

You can follow the story of these two schools throughout the year at the Van Meter Merton Connect blog!

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