Of course, many images like this comes to their mind!
In any case, the love for science is already there! 5th graders are natively the best scientists around. So, I feel that the best thing I can do for them is to CONNECT them to other scientists. My task then becomes giving them a forum to continue their conversations, ask questions, learn together, create and build representations of their learning and ideas!
Skype offers this forum. I can connect my students to other classrooms of scientists around the country! The possibilities are endless. Right? Right! However, I wanted to do this well. So, like any activity I want my students to do well, I scaffold the experience giving them opportunities to practice, experience success, and expand on the activity.
How? This is how I approached it with 100+ students in a day...
*We started SMALL!
I set up short 15-20 minute Mystery Skypes with other 4th and 5th grade classrooms that I had connected professionally on twitter. (You can find out a TON about Mystery Skypes and the roles students perform during these skypes by doing a simple google search.)
I was able to give the students pre-Mystery Skype practices by calling another one of my accounts with a student in another classroom. Or, my classes called other teachers in my building or my friend, Gary in Oregon. Just giving them an opportunity to do a quick run through made ALL the difference when the Skype calls really got rolling!
These Mystery Skypes allowed me to have conversations with my students about the content we were sharing (geography, science, map skills, etc) AND the manners and behaviors required of a this type of connection. We talked about clarity of voice, eye contact, asking follow up questions, and showing interest in the other class.
Side note---the content my students shared became SO ingrained in them because of the practice and sharing sessions. Information about our ecosystem, geography, economy, and culture was repeated over and over...pretty cool!
*Spreading our wings...
After my students gained confidence in the Mystery Skype mode, we were ready to spread our wings and expand our delivery of content. Enter...science skypes!
We used our classes that we had connected with to share other science content that we were learning. Our calls to our partner scientists ranged from:
*performing investigations for each other
*singing and dancing our science songs
*showing our water cycle model
*sharing our NASA moon and meteorite samples
*playing game shows with our science content
These skypes always ended with smiles and high fives amongst my students. They scurried out into the hall sharing with the incoming students about how awesome our partner classes were! Science conversations continued all day long.
*Ready for more...
With our science learning including great videos from TED Talks and The Symphony of Science, my students were ready to talk to scientists around the country. I didn't initially know if any scientist would respond to my emails. But, I was SUPER fortunate to not have one scientist respond...but two!
After watching Phil Plait, @BadAstronomer discuss meteor impacts on a TED Talk, my students had so many awesome questions. So, I contacted Dr. Plait through the TED Talk profile pages, and we set up a time to Skype. WOW! He was awesome! So kid friendly, patient, and excited...the skype was phenomenal. My students had created and voted on questions to ask. They stood before the camera with the most respectful, professional manners. And, it was truly a moment of pride for me! At the end of the Skype, the kids were cheering, and I gave away a couple of his books.
This success gave me the courage to send an email to another scientist, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. My students had listened to several of his videos. They were singing along to Symphony of Science, Onward to the Edge. They were hooked! So, it seemed logical to send a request his way.
I didn't think that we were going to be able to connect because he is a REALLY busy guy! But, when I read the email from Dr. Tyson's assistant confirming a Skype meet up, my hands were shaking with excitement!
This was the grand finale to the year for us! The students were ready for this. I was MORE than excited. We were all nervous. But, when the skype call got going, it was amazing how poised, confident, and inquisitive the students were.
Video of Tyson Skype
I truly believe that this experience was so powerful for many reasons:
*Dr. Tyson is just AWESOME!
*The students had control over the science conversation.
*The students were practiced, seasoned Skypers through the scaffolded interactions through the year.
So, this was my process. I'm sure I made some mistakes, but I'm positive that next year I'll be ready to embark on this journey with another 100+ fifth grade scientists. And, we will learn together.