Earth Day projects span science, Spanish, technology in Lower School
At Mirman, a fully aligned curriculum means that faculty have opportunity to collaborate in ways that give rise to some exciting and unique projects that reach across any given classroom or subject and engage students in larger discussions. According to Lower School Technology Integrationist Amy Heppe, one such opportunity for collaboration made itself clear during an inservice day in which she worked alongside Lower School Teachers Peter Krejcarek (science) and Rose Bachtel (Spanish).
"Mr. Krejcarek said he'd be talking about animal habitats and life cycles later in the year, and Ms. Bachtel was working with Spanish terms for animals," Ms. Heppe said. "So we decided to expand that to incorporate Earth Day and use technology to tie it all together."
The project kicked off in science class, where students worked with recycled materials to make small models of their animals. What had once been a plastic water bottle became the midsection of a narwhal. A snail took shape out of pieces of paper and plastic. "In using recycled materials to represent the animals, we were also saying: 'these are the things you are protecting when you take care of our planet,'" said Ms. Heppe.
Once the animals were put together, students wrote a script in Spanish about the animals and their environment, which they then had to translate back into English. Ms. Heppe began to work with the students to capture still frames, audio, and visuals for the video portion of the project, using green screen technology to incorporate the students and recycled animal models in front of the creatures' natural environs. Students who had time were also able to learn about editing and adjusting sound levels in their videos, including adding musical scores to lend emotion to their messages of conservation.
For a lot of students, it was their first exposure to the behind-the-scenes aspect of green screen technology — something that many of them had only experienced by watching superhero movies.
"The teachers were really excited at the prospect of working together. It makes it easier to collaborate on projects later on as well," said Ms. Heppe of the benefits of the cross-curricular effort. "And you could see the excitement and engagement with the students, too. A lot of them looked at the project as a puzzle, and they became less compartmentalized about what they were learning. They would share things with me that they did in science, or in Spanish. That's such a neat thing to see."