A few weeks ago, we started a new project in my classroom: Kindergarten Around the World. I will spare you the minute details (hit me in the comments if you want to know more), but it is, basically, a virtual exchange between our class, and a partner class overseas. For my 20 Canadian munchkins, we found a partner group in East Borneo, Indonesia. Both classes have created an imaginary friend, who attends our partner school. (For the curious, our imaginary friend is a little girl named Ella. She is 6 years old, she has blond hair, brown eyes, and brown skin. Her gender and name were decided by vote. Her age and appearance were drawn at random.) We use Twitter to ask research questions of our partners, and the answers allow us to write stories documenting our imaginary friend’s experience in another country. Each child has a journal for the project, where they record things they have learned. It being kindergarten, the recording mostly takes the form of drawings. The children dictate text to go with their drawings, and then copy that text onto their pages. We are working on a Prezi presentation to share our learning with parents and other classes. We have made a video to teach our “Indonesia friends” about snow and how to get dressed for recess when it is very cold.
When my team conceived of this project, I knew it was going to be cool. As mentioned in my previous post about Twitter in kindergarten, I love love LOVE that my students are building real connections with other children their own age. This project brought it to another level, by pushing them to imagine themselves in a completely different setting. (As we graph the often FIFTY degree difference in our daily temperatures, I often imagine MYSELF in a completely different setting, too!) I knew that this project was going to take us in unexpected directions, and there is no doubt that it has. In the 3 weeks since it started, we have learned:
- That a map is picture of a place, taken from up high, and helps us see where things are.
- That blue parts of a map are always water.
- That when we are at school, our Indonesia friends are sleeping, and vice versa, and that that is because the Earth is rotating, and Canada and Indonesia can’t face the sun at the same time.
- That voting is a fair way of making decisions as a group, and that just because something is “fair” doesn’t mean that everyone is happy about it.
- That orangutans eat more fruit than any other animal.
- That baby orangutans stay with their mothers for 6 years.
- That adult male orangutans live alone, but still visit their mothers.
- That orangutans can yell so loud you can hear them from 1.5 km away.
(We REALLY got into the orangutans. Our partner school is located close to an orangutan preserve, and once we’d had a virtual fieldtrip using a link they sent, it was all orangutans, all the time…)
- That, shockingly, not only can kindergarten teachers be men (as we have learned from some other Twitter friends), but music teachers can be men, too.
- That in warm climates, many schools have outdoor swimming pools RIGHT AT SCHOOL, and that this is possibly the very coolest thing about Indonesia.
- That “temperature” tells us whether it is hot or cold, and that “weather” tells us what the sky looks like.
- That “Fanta” is another word for “orange pop.”