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Connecting Students Globally to Investigate How Humans Impact the Environment
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By Rhoda Goldberg
Cypress-Fairbanks ISD


Project Overview

During the 2014-2015 school year, students from a fifth grade class in Houston, Texas took their learning global when they engaged in a project based learning activity with a cooperating fifth grade class in Guayaquil, Ecuador.  Students from each class were placed in small groups and worked together both synchronously and asynchronously to learn about human impact on the environment.

Step 1: Planning

Many things were considered during our initial planning stage:

• Time zone differences

• Available Technology

• Best technology platforms to use for all steps of the project

• Student permission slips for video, Internet and photography

• Identifying content objectives including layout and timeline of the project

Step 2: Introduce the Students to the Project

As the classroom teacher in Houston began talking about the project with her students it became apparent that students did not know anything about Ecuador.  To ignite their interest and make the experience more relevant, we created a QR code scavenger hunt about Ecuador to ignite their interest.  


Step 3: Virtual Handshake

The project began with a “virtual handshake” in which groups from each side created videos introducing themselves.  A virtual whiteboard was created for the project using Padlet which would store the videos and other common resources that both classes would need access to throughout the project.  The project was becoming real for the students.  One student commented, “I am very excited to do this project.  I really hope the people in Ecuador feel the same way.”   Another said, “I am worried that they may not understand or like our group.”  Concern about how the students in Ecuador would feel about them seemed to be a common emotion.

Step 4: Teaching Netiquette

We used resources from Common Sense Media to teach students how to be safe of the Internet.

Step 5: Placing Students in Groups on Edmodo

Students worked within cooperative groups in their classrooms.  Additionally, each group had a partner group in Ecuador that they communicated with through Edmodo.


Step 6: Google Doc

A Google Doc was created for each group to record data for their research.  A copy of this document was linked to each Edmodo group.  Student research was completed asynchronously.   Students from both sides of the world added information about the ways that humans in their area impacted the environment, the effects it had on the organisms that live there, who was responsible and ideas for solving the problem.

Step 7: Synchronous Meeting through Skype

Students completed a form to prepare for their meeting and were given a protocol to follow to assist them in their collaboration efforts.  Student groups met synchronously one at a time to discuss their research and collectively choose a plan to help the environment.  In one conversation a student group in Guayaquil wanted to try to save an area of land on which an indigenous group lived.  Their Houston counterparts were concerned about endangered species here.  The groups saw the connection, saving endangered organisms, and decided to make that the theme of their plan.  Many of the students noticed that humans were affecting the environment very similarly in both countries.

Step 8: Implement Plan

Students worked in their respective countries to carry out their agreed upon plan to help the environment.  


Why participate in a project like this?  Students have a lot of fun while learning both content, and 21st century skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and technology skills.

Joshua stated, “I would like to do another global collaboration project because meeting new people is fun and getting to work with them to brainstorm/think of ideas to stop humans from harming the environment is even more fun!”  
Josephine replied, “Communicating took some time because they live in another country. I would like to do another global collaboration project because it was an interesting way of learning.”  

Alexandra said, “For me personally, it was fun because we get to share our ideas, communicate what we think about it and get to see what we are like through those ideas through technology.”

This turned out to be an amazing experience for all of the students involved!

The Science Teachers Association of Texas



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