On the morning of March 9, 18 kindergarteners from Burton Street Elementary traveled to the United Kingdom, without leaving their classroom. At 8:30 a.m. Computer Technician Becky Fuller and teacher Lisa Smith established a connection with the Woodlands Community Primary School and transported the students 3,320 miles away, to Cwmbran, Wales.
While Cazenovia schools have conducted numerous video conferences with schools across New York State and America, this transmission marked the district’s first collaboration with a classroom on another continent.
“It’s nice that the kids have the opportunity to reach out to students in another country,” said Burton Street Principal, Mary-Ann Macintosh. “I also think it’s great that we don’t have to get on a bus to go on a field trip, we can go a lot farther with distance learning. It’s neat that our kindergarteners have traveled farther than anyone in the building.”
Completing their science unit, Cazenovia kindergarteners had prepared a number of facts about Antarctic penguins to share with the Cwmbran students. Smith and her students had even written an educational song about the penguins, set to the melody of “I’m a Little Teacup.” Children in Wales offered information about their country and customs, as well as a song in both Welsh and English, showcasing their bilingual abilities.
Curious to find just how similar they were, children from both schools called on each other to compare names, ages and class sizes, as well as bed times, breakfast items and favorite pets.
During the 45-minute conference, some Cwmbran students donned leeks and daffodils with 18th century garb, explaining that Wales had just observed St. David’s Day on March 1. Cazenovia students noted similarities to the upcoming celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, with the prominence of four-leaf clovers and tradition of wearing green garments.
At the start of this school year, video conferencing equipment was introduced to the Elementary and High Schools thanks to a grant from the U.S. department of Agriculture. Since then, dozens of educational connections have been established through CAPSpace and Two Way Interactive Connections in Education; internet social networking tools that currently link 8818 educators in 34 different countries.
“The networking possibilities are endless now that we’ve established a connection in Wales,” Fuller said. “The technician there has been communicating with China, and the school has made many out-of-country connections which we can benefit from.”
Recently, during the week of March 2, classrooms around the country participated in the National Education Association’s 13th annual “Read Across America” campaign, to promote literacy and celebrate the birthday of one of the nation’s favorite authors, Dr. Seuss. In Cazenovia, a fourth-grade classroom connected with students in West Virginia and a first-grade class video conferenced with students in South Carolina.
In the future, Cazenovia Central School District teachers and administrators are planning connections with classrooms in California and collaborations with scientists from NASA.