I was delighted to read John Bennett’s RRR post about his RRR mini-grant. I have been wanting to visit his classroom to see the excitement with my own eyes. He promised me that we could SKYPE if I found it impossible to visit. John claims that Skype will be the next best thing.
Skype is a new technology that I just learned from another participant. Roni Yaxley called to tell me that Ohio author, Shelley Pearsall, agreed to return to her elementary school in Euclid, Ohio. Shelley had been there last year as a part of Roni’s mini-grant. Shelley had met with parents and teachers in an after-school workshop. The students had read Shelley’s book, TROUBLE DON’T LAST, and they had created a blog about what they’d learned about the Underground Railroad. Shelley was impressed with their work, and wanted to encourage the students to keep reading.
Roni asked Shelley if she would agree to Skype with the students. Shelley said, "I don’t have any idea what that is." Roni explained that Skype was a free software that allowed real time and voice "chats." In addition, with a camera hooked to the computer monitor, Skyping parties could also see each other. Shelley said she thought that would be fun! I did, too, and I immediately set up my own Skype account so that when John Bennett is read to call me and show me his classroom complete with the train track, I will be set to hear his students and see their work.
Recently, my husband and I took our bikes to the tow path in Akron near the Mustill Store. That’s where we fortuitously and happily met Steve Testa and Karen Grindall and their students. The two teachers had authored another collaborative mini-grant linking Steve’s high school class from Nordonia Hills with Karen’s sixth-grade class from Akron. How surprised Karen and Steve were to see us. They invited Tony and me to join them for pizza picnic along the tow path.
Tony and I witnessed high school students sitting with sixth-grade students engaged in conversation. I heard first-hand about the great field trip they’d been on that day. They’d been to see the new lofts that overlooked the Ohio & Erie Canal. From there, the students could see Akron spread out below them. The students also visited the Hope 6 buildings. "The student saw the difference between private money and public money," said Karen. At the Mustill Store the students learned the importance of the canal in making Akron what it is today.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you," said Karen. "We began our field trip in John Bennett’s room before we loaded the bus. I’d told my students that RRR grant money paid for their experience today, and I’d told them that Mr. Bennett used his grant money in a different way. Of course, they wanted to see it. I wish you could have seen the first-grade students proudly showing off the train track in their room to the sixth-grade students."
Regular readers of my RRR blog entries will recognize this as a magic moment for me. Connection! Connection! Connection! John Bennett’s class connected with Karen Grindall’s class and Karen Grindall’s class connected with Steve Testa’s. Roni Yaxley’s class connected with Shelley Pearsall, and I am now connected to Roni’s class and John’s class via Skype. All of this happened because of the RRR grant. For me, it doesn’t get much better.
Steve Testa’s note of thanks arrived several days later. It was the icing on the cake. He wrote, "Your presence made this the best field trip ever!"
Ah! Life IS beautiful. Who knew the RRR experience would be so wonderful?