I am very lucky to be part of an incredibly supportive network of worldwide educators called the #bfc530. We meet every day on Twitter at 5:30 AM and chat about one question for 15 minutes. While I have never met these fine people, I am proud to call them my friends.
One such connection is Michelle Finn. We are both a part of this group and chat every morning. Last spring, we decided to try a Mystery Skype. Since she is in Maine and I was in Connecticut, it was fun to Skype someone so close.
Then, this summer, she reached out again to me on social media, I believe Instagram this time and said she was going to Egypt on vacation and would I like her to Skype with my class?! WHAT?!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Skype from Egypt?! How cool is that? Yes!
Now, back to the classroom. I knew that in order to make this Skype meaningful, we needed to do some preliminary work. We had just started learning about the world and understanding our place on Earth. The kids all have Global Notebooks. In these notebooks we track on maps places we have made connections with. That was a start. We found Egypt and noticed basic things; such as continent and the Red Sea. Then using Reading A to Z, I found and printed for each child a book on Egypt. That gave us a basic understanding of the country.
Then, we used Epic. Epic is an online library of books free for teachers. Students spent some time researching Egypt and taking notes in their Writers Notebook. As we developed an understanding of this amazing country, we began to wonder and question. I began to push their thinking and printed off another book from Reading A to Z; this one about Ancient Egypt.
Then the big day came. My students were nervous and excited. Michelle could not have been more welcoming. Right when she called, my Smartboard was filled her big huge smile. She introduced herself and had every single child stand up and say their name. She was outside of her hotel room right near the Red Sea. She took us on a little tour of the area and pointed out landmarks. Then she taught my students. And she answered questions. She Skyped with us for about 40 minutes. It was incredible. We learned about the Red Sea, and tombs, and crumbling pyramids. Students learned about coral reefs turning white (which lead to another discussion later) and scuba diving. We learned about the climate and how they one time didn’t have rain for 5 years!
When she was done, students took out their Writers Notebook and they wrote and wrote and wrote. They wrote whatever it was they wanted to write about this Skype. You could hear a pin drop they were so busy.
When Reading Workshop came, many still could not leave Egypt and now coral reefs behind. They needed to learn more. So, many went on Epic and armed with their Writers Notebooks continued their learning. At the end of the day as we were processing this once in a life time experience, students told me that they had gone home and were studying Egypt on their own!
Michelle, there is no way I could possibly thank you for all you have given my students. You introduced them to the amazing country of Egypt. But it was so much more..you taught them to wonder, to be curious. You taught them that learning is amazing. You gave them spark.
Then this morning, I woke up to this picture!