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MHS Students Road Trip To 'Inter-dependence'

December 1, 2012

Moreland Hills Elementary School fifth graders took a road trip; one that spanned the entire country and offered endless educational possibilities. Yet they never even had to leave their classrooms.

“I loved this intersession!” effused fifth grader Marvin Davies, as he sat in the boat he and fellow classmates had created to represent the Eastern region and its leisurely activities. “It’s so much better than just doing plain class work because it’s a hands-on, fun opportunity while you’re learning…which is the best way to learn!”

The fun opportunity Marvin was referring to was part of a Next Generation Learning initiative that gave these MHS students an innovative opportunity to tackle out-of-the-box thinking when addressing certain topics. In this intersession, students focused on “Interdependence” as it related to the "Regions of the United States”, a required fifth-grade standard.

“An intersession is when you have a question to answer, research topics, make projects, and then present them,” said fifth grader Maren Rosenberg, who focused on state symbols in the Midwest region. “I thought it was so cool because I had never done anything like that. Having people learn something from me and them actually be engaged in what I am doing and me actually focusing on learning while doing something fun is wonderful!”

The Orange City School District is one of only three districts in Ohio and six states nationwide initially selected to be a part of the Next Generation initiative, with the goal being to provide all students with personalized learning experiences to help them achieve world-class knowledge and skills. And the engagement factor was a key element for those who coordinated this endeavor.

“We wanted to focus on a big idea such as interdependence, which might not be the easiest for the students to understand, and to try to teach it in a new and engaging way where each student would have both a choice in what they are learning and a voice,” said teacher and co-coordinator Scott Hastings. “This shows them that social studies can be really engaging and fun, while at the same time covering our standards.”

Preparations began about two months before the actual presentation day. Students filled out a Google form, answering questions about which particular region they wanted to study and, within that region, what area they would like to focus on from the economy to the culture. Once they chose their area of study, the students developed research questions related to that area and created unique ways to present their information to parents, teachers, community members, and classmates.

“We made a boat because one of the top leisure activities in the Eastern region is swimming and boating, so we chose something creative with oars and a sail, kind of like artifacts for it,” Marvin said. “The best part was staying late after school to finish it.”

Fifth grader Nick Russo combined modern technology with old-fashioned fun as he created a Midwest farm project. He developed a video to showcase his research along with a small farmer’s market, replete with food 'for sale', and a nearby farm filled with stuffed animals representing their live counterparts.

“I learned that my family members were farmers and that the Midwest has a lot more farms than I would have thought. There are 72,200 farms that offer corn, soybeans, dairy, and wheat and those are just the top ones,” Nick said. “The research was one of the best parts…two of my three sources were books, but I also found on-line sources that were very helpful that I would recommend.”

The research aspect especially appealed to the dozens of parents who attended the presentations.

“I like the fact that they are doing this intersession because they are learning how to research,” said Stephanie Schleifer, whose daughter Bryanna researched the top 10 fashion schools in the country as part of the culture of the Eastern region. “I think the biggest thing is understanding how to use Google and to pick and choose what information you’re going to read and how you’re going to pull it off of the computer.”

Use of the technology along with creativity in an intersession such affords students the opportunity to think outside the box .

“Providing highly engaging, unique experiences for academic exploration allows students to have opportunities for personal enrichment and engagement and allows our Orange staff to make essential connections with our students,” said Jennifer Felker, District Director of Educational Programs.

Fifth grader Sejal Sangani eagerly explored a topic that was very personal to her. She has relatives in California and was curious about the large population there. Using technology like Xtranormal for the videos and Animoto for digital slideshows, Sejal showcased why the Western state is so popular.

“I learned that a lot of immigrants come because of the economic opportunity and a lot of retired people come because of the climate,” Sejal said, adding that the presentation side of it helped her develop her social skills. “First I was nervous because I’m not very good at talking to people, but having the opportunity to present my research to classmates and parents prepared me for the presentations I will have to make in middle school and high school.”

The parents got a lot out of it, too.

“I had a great experience. It was wonderful to see the creativity of the children, what they came up with, and how they were so proud to present it to the adults,” said Steve Horan, father to fifth grader Niko. “I think that participation and their interaction and coming up with their own ideas is a great learning experience.”

Co-coordinator Mike White noted that the amount of time, effort, and teamwork that went into planning such an ambitious endeavor certainly paid off for the students, adding that the Orange community is fortunate to have the variety of resources and support to do something innovative like this intersession.

“If you look at what our 21st Century goals are and combining that with our Working on the Work goals with the Schlechty Center, I think it’s very much embedded in what we’re trying to do in terms of the level of student engagement, tools, and resources that we’re utilizing within the classroom; but then also with the ‘anytime, anywhere learning’ outside of the classroom and really trying to connect that to the world at large,” White said. “I think we’re onto something. I wouldn’t say that we have perfected it at this point but I think with any new endeavor there’s always that trial period and we’re very excited.”

So are the students.

“I consider myself lucky because my older sister always brags about how she does things, and I don’t get to, but now I got to do something that she didn't!” Marvin said, smiling. “Learning can be fun and this proves it!”



To view a slideshow from the intersession, please click on the photo below:

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32000 Chagrin Blvd
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