Monday, December 21, 2009

Another fun e-missions day

I had the pleasure of visiting a 6th grade class today as they experienced the Montserrat E-missions activity. And, to top off the day I got to work with the Hurricane team and help them out a bit. These sixth graders were in the Cedar Crest Middle School. Their teacher, Ms Brown, and their technoloogy Integration Specialist, Ms Schomp, had them well prepared. This wasn't the first time a team from this school had done this mission, so they had large laminated versions of the maps and the students were writing on them with erasable markers. They plotted the hurricane's path on the large map and used protractors and rulers to help them find the distances. But then, how to find the speed? The knew how far it had gone since the last reading, but how to figure speed was eluding them. Once they had that part figured out, they were off to the races.

What was fun was seeing them question the results of their calculations when, for example, it showed that the hurricane had changed directions or had slowed down. Or when they began to see that it was drifting northward and would miss the island. "Are you sure?", someone would question. "Yes, I'm sure. Write it down. Hurry!", would be the response.

I watched the communication team start off rather timidly, but ended up in control, sending messengers to the various tables to get data or to give the latest news. And when Mission Control would ask for their attention so she could share some videos, all eyes were on the screen. Or when Mission Control described Volcano bombs starting fires, or ash piling up six inches, all eyes and ears were on alert. "That will all turn to mud. The cars can't drive in the mud." And when Mission Control reported that the Evacuation Team had successfully managed to get all residents of a particular town to safety, the rest of the class applauded their success.

What a VERY COOL activity that is. It's not new, by any means, although some missions are newer. If you've got access to some video conference equipment it's great. If not, they'll use Skype. Either way, this is an activity that you REALLY should look into. The website  has all the information and materials that the teacher would need. This page gives more information about how to prepare. And here is another good informational video. Don't let the part about having four weeks of curriculum scare you away. It's not what you may think when you hear that phrase.

There are several different kinds of missions, from this island disaster to a Space Station to Mars, and more. And, the targeted grade levels range from elementary to high school. There is NOTHING in here that's NOT to like. From communication skills to math skills to to probem solving and collaboration skills, this has got it all. And, it's SO MUCH FUN!

Teachers - worried that you won't know what to do or how to manage the technology, sign up for a free training session here. Once you experience it I know you'll want to do one of there for your students, as well.

Trust me on this one. Science and Math teachers can collaborate to do this with a class. You wouldn't want to combine classes, though. Then the teams would be too big and not every student would necessarily be involved. Treat yourself and your students to an e-mission. And, if you're relatively local for me, invite me in to see it in action. I can't get enough of them.

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