December 2017 Newsletter: IB in Action—Eighth Graders Collaborate with Third Graders Over Earthquakes

Eighth Grade science teacher Chris Oryl and Onaway third grade teacher Jim Sweeney learned last month that not all student screen time is created equal. Especially when there’s collaboration involved. 

The two teachers, with some insight and planning from instructional coaches Jen Weisbarth (at the Middle School) and Kristin Clark (at Onaway), hosted the District’s first Google Hangout video collaboration for students in the two classes. The idea was for the older students, who had just completed a unit on earthquakes, to communicate and share their learnings with the younger students. The third graders, in turn, reflected on what they’d learned and used their newfound knowledge to build earthquake-safe structures made from toothpicks, marshmallows and gummy bears. 

The feedback from adults and students alike was 100-percent positive. “This may have been one of the best things I’ve done as a teacher,” Mr. Sweeney says. “Every student was completely engaged and learning.” 

Mr. Oryl was equally encouraged by the experience. Some of his students brought in props to share with the third graders and others sent a package of Oreos to Mr. Sweeney’s class ahead of time to coach them through a fun demonstration. Already, his students have asked whether a another Google Hangout with a High School science class would be possible so that they could learn from their older peers. 

“It was great to see how much my students actually knew about earthquakes. I didn’t know what to expect at first, but it was so well received. It was refreshing to see the students that excited and engaged about doing something meaningful,” he says. 

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