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SOESD / Learning Matters / Newsletter Archive / April 2009 / Doing IVC Right—one teacher's story

Doing IVC Right—one teacher's story

Why I Teach:
Eleven years ago I decided to go to college for the first time, to become a teacher. I was 34 years old (with four children and a husband) and had held many classified positions at Evergreen Elementary School in Three Rivers School District. This school is located in a low socioeconomic area, with all of the students receiving free and reduced priced meals. When I was the office manager, I spent a lot of time removing head lice from students. I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up and frequently the answer was “nothing”, “I don’t know”, or “a mom”. Few students had dreams beyond our community. What motivated me to become a teacher was that I wanted to help students find their dream. I wanted to help students realize what other opportunities are available to them, other than those in our small community.

My Introduction to Videoconferencing
In the 2007-2008 school year, I began incorporating virtual field trips into my lessons. I earned money (eBucks) for virtual field trips through Southern Oregon Education Service District by doing online activities, most of which came from training other teachers. Our district also had grant money with which we could purchase supplies for pre and post activities for virtual field trips.

One of our virtual trips was to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to study owls in preparation for owl pellet dissection. Students learned about predators, prey, habitat, food webs, etc., which reinforced my classroom science lessons. 93% of my students passed the statewide assessment in science!

We also took several virtual trips to other schools in our district and worked on collaborative projects. During one of these virtual trips, The Author’s Chair, my 5th grade students wrote stories, published them into mini-books and read them using the document reader and projector to 1st graders in another school in our district. Best practices support students writing for an audience. Although I don’t have specific data relating to this virtual trip, I do know that students were more excited and conscientious about their writing.

Another field trip took us to the Cleveland Museum of History where we learned about Ancient Egypt. Some of the pre and post activities for this virtual trip included using math to design and build a pyramid out of clay, learning hieroglyphics and making cartouches, which was facilitated by Learning through the Arts.

Sharing Our Adventures
On November 14, 2008, at the request of Jay Matheson from SOESD, my class and I connected with him and school board members in Portland to explain what I had done last year for virtual field trips. While the majority of this year’s students have never been on a virtual field trip, I do have three (3) students in my class from last year’s 3rd and 4th grade Gifted and Talented program who had participated with us. They were excited to tell about what they had learned. I was surprised by how much they remembered. In fact, two students remembered how to write their names in hieroglyphics and were ecstatic to be able to write it on a big piece of paper and show it to board members in Portland. As a teacher, this reinforced my belief that virtual field trips have a powerful impact on student learning.

Research supports that when an emotion is linked to learning, students retain more of that information. Incorporating virtual field trips in my class is not simply a stand-alone activity. All of the pre and post activities surrounding the trip make the actual event meaningful and memorable.

Moving Forward
Now that I am feeling more confident about virtual field trips, I have planned many virtual field trips for this year. I have decided to fine-tune my virtual field trips to directly align to state standards. I want to enhance my teaching and students' learning by making it memorable. When I’m designing pre and post activities for these trips, I am striving to integrate other subject areas across the curriculum that directly relate to state standards. Additionally, I am purposefully planning projects using Bloom’s Taxonomy to engage all learners in higher-level thinking.

This year’s trips include:

  • January 2009: My advanced math class will be creating projects using Google Sketchup and Scratch It and presenting them to a fifth grade class in China. In turn, the students in China will be working on the same projects to present to us.
  • January 29, 2009: Students will go on a field trip to explore the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Some of the pre and post activities include doing a research report on an animal indigenous to that area, giving an oral report on that animal, using globes and time zone maps to find Australia and calculate the time difference, and making a 3-D display about the Great Barrier Reef. All of these activities are tied to state standards. The research paper and speech will be scored work samples. We have invited parents to attend the event and to enjoy a display of our 3-D projects. Additionally, 3rd and 4th grade Talented and Gifted students have been invited to participate in all activities for this field trip.
  • February 2009: Students will visit the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey to learn about alternative forms of energy.
  • April 2009: Students will visit the New York Hall of Science to learn about light refraction and reflection by watching the dissection of a cow’s eye and. Pre and post activities include making a periscope and doing an experiment with disappearing crystals.

Conclusion
Virtual field trips have opened up the world to my students. They have enhanced my teaching. I have learned the value of creating lessons that lead up to the virtual trip as well as culminating lessons to tie it all together. Being able to plan units of study around a virtual field trip, and having the funds available for supplies that support those lessons make it all worthwhile.

In conclusion, there is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “A child’s life is like a piece of paper on which every passerby leaves a mark.” When students leave my class, I hope they have discovered a dream for the future and a passion for learning. I hope they never forget that one day they will be making their mark on someone else’s paper.

About Tammy
Tammy Griffis is a fifth grade teacher at Evergreen Elementary School, Cave Junction, Oregon, which is part of the Three Rivers School District. Tammy has been in education for 24 years.  During this time she has worked as a classroom assistant, office manager at Evergreen Elementary School, and administrative assistant in the Curriculum/Title I Department at Three Rivers School District office.  She has been teaching 5th grade at Evergreen Elementary School for 5 years.




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