Suquamish students reach out to classrooms statewide

Kids take part in teleconference between schools from Bellingham to Fife and Kelso.

POULSBO — A visitor to the North Kitsap School District headquarters on Caldart Avenue may have done a double-take Wednesday afternoon if he or she happened to wander by the conference room.

There wasn’t a group of administrators there, hashing out budget questions, or a group of teachers undergoing grueling training.

Instead, there were 20 fourth-graders, wearing (mostly) serious expressions, huddled around a pair of television sets. They were participating in a teleconference.

The students were Suquamish Elementary teacher Megan Watson’s class, and were communicating with four other schools from across Washington state.

The teleconference was sponsored by Learning Space, a state-wide, non-profit organization that helps teachers blend technology into their classrooms.

But the point of the teleconference wasn’t just communication; the students were learning, too.

As the teleconference started, none of the schools participating revealed their name or location.

Instead, one at a time, they presented a series of facts about their school. One school revealed that George Vancouver had landed there.

Another gave its population (18,500).

A third told of activities that kids liked to do there.

When it was Suquamish’s turn, the students lined up — a camera mounted on top of one of the televisions broadcast their movements — and revealed similar facts about Suquamish, careful not to give away the community’s identity.

They talked about Chief Seattle’s Grave; they revealed the nearest major state park (Old Man House State Park); they said what kids there liked to do for fun (baseball).

As they talked, they displayed posters they had made; one showed a Washington State Ferry pulling away from the coast.

When all the groups had presented, the students went to nearby maps of Washington State and laptop computers with Internet connections and began their research.

Using the clues, they tried to find out where the other towns were.

“It’s kind of a game. A game to get it set up, and a game to be there and be part of it,” Watson said later. “It was fun instead of tedious.”

The Suquamish students proved to be deft researchers; they correctly named all the other school locations: Mukilteo, Kelso, Fife and Bellingham.

Not all of the other schools named Suquamish.

Watson said the activity helped kids work on presentation skills; improve their map-reading ability, and sharpened their skills at using computers to conduct fast, accurate research.

She said it was a lot of fun, too.

“The kids loved it,” Watson added. “They’ll remember it for a lifetime.”

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