Using garageband, flipped learning and research to synthesize learning in Grade 6 Thompson's class
Grade 4: Vista Trails in the News
By Erin Yablonski, Ashley Orlando & Stephanie Garrett
Every morning at 8 a.m., Westborough 4th through 6th graders flood the halls of Mill Pond School. Their eyes are just getting used to the bright day as their backpacks tug at their shoulders. At recess, they plunder through the soil, laughing with their friends about their next classes, plans for the weekend, and plans for the day. However, buried deep below the back of Mill Pond School, right outside their classroom window, is a fascinating treasure from the past.
The school is relatively new-- situated between conservation land, Mill Pond was only built in 2001. It was when yellow construction trucks dug into the earth mysterious objects began to be discovered; among them were petrified wood, fern fossils, and remnants of pottery. As plans for a beautiful future school took action, more and more seemed to be revealed about the past.
On December 14th, 2016, Alan Leveillee, the lead archeologist from Public Archeology Laboratory spoke with two of Mill Pond's fourth grade homeroom classrooms. Alongside him was the passionate and knowledgeable Sue Speckman from the Westborough Historical Commission. Together, they transported students and staff to a time where indigenous tribes made their lives in the lush green of the forest.
Suddenly, an entirely new image of the past was painted alongside a landscape the students had always known. The soil that stuck to the bottoms of their sneakers at recess suddenly was the vehicle that transported them 5,000 years ago, and into a time surrounded by the beauty of nature, a time when communication was verbal, and not through a screen. Both Alan Leveillee and Sue Speckman helped the students uproot the thousands of stories buried deep below the surface.
Inspired by the appreciation for the land around them, Mrs. Yablonski and Mrs. Orlando's students are currently developing a Project Based Learning unit called "Vista Trails" where they will bring Mill Pond's past to life by building an interactive natural and human history learning trail for all community members. Stephanie Garrett, Mill Pond's Technology Integration teacher, has become an integral part of the project and has shared her love for nature and technology expertise with the students.
With her help, the students hope to construct an interactive walking trail with QR codes linking up to the students' research by the end of the year. Each code can connect with a student's research, poem, iMovie, podcast and more! The sky's the limit.
Students will use good old fashioned researching and solid writing skills to explore and report on such topics as the history and culture of the Nipmucks, glacial rock beds, flora, fauna, and animals of the SuAsCo Watershed region combined with 21st Century skills (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication) using their iPads.
With important moments of history mostly seen through glossy pages in textbooks, Mill Pond's fourth graders now get up in the morning with a newfound appreciation for the land the school was built on.
Now, freshly implanted in their minds, they know they weren't the first to step there and most importantly, they will be sharing their research and stories with the community so Mill Pond's history comes alive again.