A second B.R.I.D.G.E. grant will boost learning for students in the West Street School, HWS education students, and students from the Colleges studying in Vietnam
November 12, 2001
Geneva, NY – For the second year in a row, Hobart and William Smith Colleges have received a grant in support of the B.R.I.D.G.E. program. Through BRIDGE, local elementary school students experience an enhanced curriculum by interacting online and in the classroom with students from the Colleges, some of who are studying abroad. The grant, for $10,000, was awarded to the Colleges by the Independent College Fund of New York, in cooperation with the John Ben Snow Memorial Trust.
In its first year the project, Bringing Relevant Internet Dialogue to Geneva Education, established an ongoing program for third grade social studies, linking the local youths to both Hobart and William Smith students studying in Senegal and to others involved in the education program at the Colleges. This year the program is expanded to two fourth grade classes, and the internet conversations will be held with the HWS students studying in Vietnam. The subject area is also changed-this year the focus will be on the science curriculum, and its connection to social studies, art and language arts. The program has been dubbed “Vietnamese Food for Thought.”
With the assistance of HWS students located both in Geneva and in Vietnam, the classroom teachers and HWS faculty will design an inquiry-based curriculum that will enable fourth-grade students to pose questions and find answers about the connection between how people live and the natural world. Students will investigate the connections between the natural environment and daily life in Vietnam and back home in Geneva.
Before leaving for her semester abroad next spring, Sarah Schoettle, a William Smith education student, will visit the fourth grade classes of Marlene Young and Margaret Francis to conduct a number of lessons. She will engage the students in various activities to provide background information about Vietnam. Once she arrives in Vietnam, Schoettle and the other students assisting her will present a series of between four and six “mysteries” – structured invitations for student inquiry. To initiate a mystery, Schoettle will compose a presentation containing a photograph or children’s artwork depicting some aspect of daily Vietnamese life, accompanied by a question, and by an invitation for the fourth-graders to direct the HWS students to ask further questions in order to solve the mystery. An internet conversation and learning experience is established between Ms. Schoettle in Vietnam and the fourth grade classes in Ms. Young’s and Ms. Francis’ classes. Upon returning, the HWS students will visit the fourth-grade classes to discuss the students’ questions and the findings from their research.
Family members of the West Street School students can follow the progress of the project in a number of ways. Those who have access to computers can simply visit the web site established for the project. Those who do not have computers at home can follow the progress of the project on any computer with access to the internet.
At the year’s end, the mysteries, the students’ questions, and the HWS correspondents’ transmissions will be down-loaded and gathered in book form for circulation in the classroom and school library. There will also be an evening exhibit at the elementary school for students’ families.
Scott Brophy, HWS professor of philosophy, will lead the project again this year, but notes that, like last year, this will again be a team effort. The project brings together some who have worked on international projects in education, technology specialists, and many from both the West Street School and the Colleges education department, students and professors alike. “This is an exciting collaborative effort designed to involve the
elementary students in an inquiry-based approach to learning,” said Lilian Sherman, from the HWS education department. “Student questions will guide Sarah’s internet mysteries as they learn to reason and support their conclusions. It’s an incredibly valuable experience for everyone involved.”
The technological aspects are important, and the computers are used creatively to enhance student learning and sharpen research, analytical, and communication skills. The project is also designed to “bridge” technology and traditional instructional materials, and monies from the grant will be used to purchase books, atlases, and art supplies in addition to computer software. These traditional materials inform the students’ use of the internet, and the internet enlivens their use of these materials.
Last year’s program so deeply enhanced not only the young students’ study but also the HWS students’ educational experience, that the Colleges have decided to contribute funds for the continuation of the Senegal link in Ms. Bergstrom’s third grade class. Equipment and some classroom material purchased with last year’s grant money will also facilitate the long- term sustainability of the Senegal initiative.
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Note: Photos available upon request