Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Geography Classes Skype with National Parks

Several months ago, I wrote about ways to connect your library with Skype. If you haven't read that piece, take a moment to get familiar with Skype in the Classroom and the cool connection possibilities they offer. Since writing that article, I have had the opportunity to have some wonderful virtual tours with National Parks around the United States. I would like to share how we did this with several 9th-grade Geography classes during the spring semester of 2017.

The Need

Geography was offered to 9th-grade students during the second semester of the 2016-2017 school year. Two of the teachers that would be presenting these classes came to me because they knew we frequently connected via Skype in the library. They asked if we could help them connect to National Parks around the country as part of their classes. The teachers knew this would be a wonderful way to expose students to different land forms and places around the country in a new way. I was very excited to assist them with this endeavor!

How We Set Up The Sessions

I visited the Skype in the Classroom web page to see what parks were available through virtual field trips. I selected which sessions the teachers wanted, and put our available dates with times. It didn't take long for national park rangers to email me confirmation times. We typically connected the day before each session to test our connection and equipment.

What Happened

Below are brief descriptions of each park session. I made Facebook Live video broadcasts and put them on YouTube to share here.

Badlands National Park is located in South Dakota. The ranger did a great job talking about the landforms and wildlife in the area. My favorite part of this video clip is when he turned the camera around to show the students snow on the ground. The entire room reacted with a unanimous sigh. It was one of those moments that reminded me why we should connect our students to the world outside of our classroom!

Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming, Montana, and parts of Idaho. We enjoyed hearing about geysers, hot springs, and other natural phenomena during the session.

Joshua Tree National Park is located in Southern California. I recall that the park ranger Skyped outside with a desert background! It was a wonderful experience for our learners.

Student Reflections

"What I liked about Skyping the Badlands National Park was that he showed us fossils of animals that used to live in that area."

"I LOVED the whole experience! I have one suggestion though, maybe students go one at a time and ask their question/ questions? But loved the whole experience. Maybe we could Skype with the White House."

"The Skype was very good. It gave us information and something for us to look at and see that what we are learning is happening around the world..." 

"I think the Skype call was fun, and I liked how he showed pictures and fossils and stuff to show the animals that were actually there. I think he did a good job explaining everything, and I thought he knew the material very well."

Final Thoughts

I think this illustrates an important way the library can help connect teachers and students to the world outside of the school building. Teacher librarians often have a flexible schedule at the secondary level. This allows us to locate and schedule events like this for teachers that may not have the time or confidence with such connective technology. This is definitely a future ready practice we can all bring to the table. What are you waiting for? It's time to connect! Be sure to add your memorable connection moments in the comments below.

Other Posts That Might Interest You: 

Are you listening to student voice?

Connect your library with Skype.

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