Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Whatever the Weather - Grade 2s connect worldwide

A couple of weeks ago I was in a Grade 2 planning meeting when the teachers were talking about their upcoming unit How the World Works. Students are looking at the weather and the central idea is that weather affects life on Earth. They had some suggestions about experiments they could do to record the weather we are having in Switzerland, but for me I wanted to connect and communicate with schools around the world to see how other children think the weather affects them. I suggested they use skype and email to connect with other students worldwide, and have our students describe their learning in a VoiceThread that they could the share with the students in the schools that participated. Having made this suggestion, it was then up to me to find 4 schools for each of the Grade 2 classes to connect with - as we have 4 Grade 2 classes that meant I needed to find 16 schools in total.

I started with the Around the World with 80 Schools project set up by Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano (Langwitches blog), and then set about connecting with schools in very different parts of the world. We wanted some southern hemisphere schools - so that the students would see that they are having summer right now - that their hottest months are January and February as opposed to here in Switzerland where our hottest months are July and August. We wanted the students to see that while we are tramping through the snow here every day, students in other schools in places such as Cape Town are wearing bikinis and swimming in the sea in the evenings because it is so warm there. We hoped that this would prompt the students to question and inquire into why there is different weather around the world, and then how the weather affects us: the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the sports we play and so on.

Having found 16 classes who were willing to take part in our project, it was then time to divide them up so that each of our Grade 2 classes had schools in a variety of climates and a variety of time zones. Some of the schools are 10 hours ahead or behind us in time here in Switzerland, therefore it was only possible to contact them using email. Where we had a time difference of about 6 hours we decided we would try to skype - it would mean we would have to do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon in order to fit in with the times the other students were in school.

So far our Grade 2 students have emailed students in Alaska, Canada, Thailand, Australia, Hong Kong, Hawaii and Tanzania. We have also had 2 skype calls, with 6 others planned for later this week and next week. Our first skype call was yesterday with a school in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The teacher there had already sent us several photos of the students in the class, and our students were ready with their questions. It was fantastic - the students were so excited and found out a lot of information. Today was our second skype call with Jacksonville in Florida. Again the students were excited and motivated and as well as investigating the climate, housing, animals, plants and food they also learnt how to say "Thank You" in Hebrew. We have more skype calls set up to schools in Cape Town in South Africa, Madrid in Spain, Chennai in India and New Jersey in the USA. The students are involved in authentic learning and investigations - they check the daily weather reports from the towns where "their" schools are as well as looking at the temperature around our school in Switzerland, and we are hoping that when they look at this information and compare it with where the schools are on a world map that they will be able to draw their own conclusions.

Having collected all the data, they will then start to put this information onto a VoiceThread. We have already started adding photos and have made maps using Google Maps to show the location of the schools. The fairly "dry" topic of investigating the weather around the world has really started to take on a life of its own!

Photo Credit: Double Bows by Nicholas T


  1. Maggie, that is fantastic and so inspirational for such young students to be undertaking a global collaboration. With this sort of connection the world is definitely getting smaller!

  2. I love that you have the students looking beyond their backyard and collaborating with students around the world to learn about weather. The learning experience is exponentially expanded and enriched when students complete these types of projects!

  3. Hi Maggie,

    I also teach Grade 2 in a PYP school. We are located in the north of Thailand. I would love for my class to connect with one or more of your classes. We're doing our Sharing The Planet unit right now. It sounds like you have it all sorted, but if you need another class to communicate with let me know and if you have a class that would be able to answer questions about the ecosystems in Switzerland - that would be great!

    Email me at ajahnkate@gmail.com - if you are interested!