Our first EAST Night Out is in the books and the road to conference begins. It’s been a wild ride since my last “A Day in the Life…” submission.
Our biggest obstacle was our official school dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for our new building. Sonora Elementary in Springdale, Arkansas was officially dedicated to the community on October 13th, which EAST played a huge role in making this event happen. One of our 4th grade teams displayed our school’s mission, Innovate to Educate, by using Prezi and Final Cut Pro to portray the innovative programs and technology that exists in our school. Another team showcased their findings of “The Historical Sonora School: A 2-Room School House” to the school board, the district admin, and several state legislatures who were in attendance.
This historical documentary is being developed by a 5th grade team that has interviewed many of the alumni of this school that opened just before the Civil War and that closed down during the mid-1950s. They plan to submit their findings to several local historical societies and museums.
The entire dedication event was even emceed by two EAST students, Keenan and Samantha, which their stage presence and enthusiasm did not disappoint. EAST student, Isaac, also gave a personal testimony about how Sonora and EAST is different than anything he’s very participated in before and how it’s quickly changed his life. You will be able to see the entire dedication ceremony, our Prezi, and the trailer to our documentary on our official YouTube channel – SonoraEAST. The day was capped off with Matt Dozier coming to check out the EAST classroom. Melanie Bradford from the ADE also made an appearance. Both guests put the cherry on top of a very special day for our program.
Along with dedication, our kids attended their first EAST training. We teamed up with CAST at the University of Arkansas to learn out ArcGIS and community mapping. Dr. Robyn Dennis and Hayley Hames were AMAZING with our kids. If you have not utilized their talents in student training with GIS/GPS and community mapping, I strongly recommend you get involved with one of their training sessions. We had two young elementary students in a class of several older High School EAST kids – Robyn and Hayley never let our two girls fall behind for one second and kept their attention throughout the entire class. Elementary or secondary, these two educators are great with our EAST kids.
Local meteorologist, Dan Skoff, from NBC’s KNWA station came by in early October to show the kids a few tricks of the trade with utilizing the green screen and audio/visual technology. Later, our 4th grade teams plan to teach the rest of their classmates about weather patterns, different types of weather fronts, and how changes in air pressure can really stir up some severe weather. The kids were featured on the 5 o’clock weather broadcast and have been invited to tour the KNWA station and rejoin Skoff to help forecast a few weather predictions. This was our first taste of working with a seasoned professional in the local community.
EAST Night Out at Sonora was a success as well. We tried to not reinvent the wheel with our Open House event, which we modeled a lot of the successes that Har-Ber and Springdale EAST programs have used in the past. We had well over 250 in attendance and several special guests that checked out our kids’ projects. I was a little skeptical of how the event would go down, but I was most impressed with the high level conversations our kids had with the parents and local community members. Our EAST kids really have learned a thing or two, if at least how to speak to adults properly and share their innovative ideas. The highlight of the night would have been our video guestbook that the kids implemented during the event. Parents were able to give a shout-out to their children and wish them well. The kids also sent our guests on a world tour, using the green screen to send them anywhere in the world that they would like to go. You can also check out our virtual guestbook below.
As a facilitator, I also had the opportunity to reunite with some of my Phase I buddies last month at Phase II. It was so much fun to share projects successes and even failures to my fellow facilitators. Many of us were going through the same struggles and it was nice to feel that we were all in the same boat. The major theme for me at Phase II would be learning how to push the kids to be more sophisticated. Our program has a lot of really “cool” projects and some that are even spectacular. But how does a team make their project sophisticated? That’s been the real trick during this last week or two. How do you turn a typical Historical Documentary into a sophisticated GIS project? How do you morph an ordinary Google SketchUp Greenhouse project into a sophisticated community changing program? How do you facilitate kids to promote their Holiday Food Drive idea into something more sophisticated that will help prevent homelessness or decrease poverty in the area? I always tell the kids “I have no idea” – but we’re getting there; we’re getting sophisticated. The kids aren’t becoming more proficient with the technology…that’s not sophistication. They are becoming more proficient at higher order thinking and they are developing better problem solving skills. Its fun (and sometimes frustrating) to watch, but it’s what keeps the kids going.
What’s ahead? Our kids plan to host a few fundraisers for conference, a booth design committee has been formed, and Phase III is right around the corner. We also plan to hook up with the Har-Ber EAST program on Nov. 11th to observe the “Hour with a Hero” project that they’ve perfected for Veterans Day. More project ideas are in the developmental stages, including a GIS project involving fish migration/spawning patters and some sort of talk about a solar powered car. I don’t know what they all have planned or where they’re going with it – I just sit back and enjoy watching it happen. So many projects… so little time.