Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Defining Moments

At the end of every year at MRHMS, 8th graders create "defining moment" videos using their narrative essay they wrote in communication arts as their narration.  Students spend the good part of two weeks in both social studies and comm. arts storyboarding, recording, collecting pictures and videos, creating animations and graphics, and putting it all together (in iMovie) to create their defining moment.

For anyone outside of MRH, you may be wondering what exactly is a "defining moment."  The students helped create this short video explaining just that.

Now that you know what a defining moment is, it is time to share some of the amazing, heartfelt, moving, and passionate defining moments these group of 8th graders created.

All year in social studies students have created videos and done projects showcasing history, but they have never gotten to showcase their history...until now.  These videos combine all of the "techie" qualities the kids have displayed throughout the year with their own story--their defining moment--that are truly moving and inspiring.

After you watch these, take a minute and thing about: what is your defining moment?  What point in time caused your life to change?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Year Favorites from Ms. Pepin

As we approach the last day of the 2011-2012 school year, I'm wrapping up with asking my students what their favorite projects were, what they've taken away from this year, and what has "stuck" with them from 8th grade social studies.

As those answer filter in this week, I thought I'd start off with some of my favorites from this year...and can you think of a better way to do it than a TOP TEN list?!  I couldn't...so here it is!

10. Getting to hear Rev. Billy Kyles speak at MRH.  This was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had.  To hear a man speak who was so close to the most influential man in the Civil Rights movement?  This is something I don't know if I'll ever get to top.

9. The variety of digital projects we did this year, especially things like a one-class period video challenge, or a twitter challenge, I've loved the different projects that the kids have put out this year.  It really showcases in a whole new way the things their learning and the cool means they can show that off.

8. The immense amount of service this 8th grade group has done: from helping clean up Forest Park to tagging storm drains for MSD, these kids love to serve and give back.

7. Having my students' voices published in The Patch.  8th graders speaking out about things that are important to them and having their voices heard?!  Pure awesomeness.  I hope these girls never stop speaking their mind and motivate others to do the same, regardless of their age.

6. C-SPAN StudentCam Project...this was an awesome project that one of my classes got to participate in.  Even though none of them were "winners" by C-SPAN standards, they all were in my book.  All of their videos were incredibly researched and phenomenally put together.  Make sure you check them all out here if you haven't.

5. Being a Google Certified Teacher.  This was hands-down the coolest experience I've ever had the opportunity to be invited to participate in.  Even making my application video and having my students "ooooh" and "ahhhh" over it was awesome, but to be chosen and get to spend a week in London learning about all things Google?! Priceless.

4. The students are great, but having an amazing staff makes coming to work even more awesome each and every day.  I mean, how many schools do you know where the staff (& even some students!) devotes an entire day to celebrating the awesomeness of our former assistant principal TKA?!!

3. Bellefontaine Cemetery Expedition -- this was a great expedition and has really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities for mobile learning via mobile devices.  I LOOOOOVED this!

2. Dauphin Island Expedition was ah-mazing.  Re-read my previous post or watch some of their amazing reflection videos.

1. This 8th grade class is my favorite, and will always have a special place in my heart.  They're my first "loop"--having had the pleasure to teach them in both 7th and 8th grade--and they'll always stay ingrained within me as my starting kiddos at MRH.  I love this group so much...they've taught me a lot, and I hope I've done the same for them!  I'm sure going to miss them!  And, if any of my MRH kiddos are reading this, DO NOT BE A STRANGER!  Come visit me!...and often!!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bellefontaine Cemetery: A Mobile Device Civil War Expedition

Yesterday was our Bellefontaine Expedition that I had recently posted about.  After worrying about it for a while--worrying about if the iBooks would work, if the kids would be able to find the graves, if the iBooks were written easily and had appropriate cemetery tasks and easy to follow--the expedition was definitely a success!

First off, we had a gorgeous morning--it wasn't too hot or raining.  We separated the 8th graders into two groups to tackle the two clusters (hence the need for 2 iBooks) they took off in pairs to complete this mobile device scavenger hunt expedition.  This was my first expedition I've planned using solely mobile devices (iPods, iPhones, or other smartphones) as our only "journal"-type documentation (usually we give the kids a journal book and pen and paper...not this time!).  The students could use their own iPod touch, iPhone, or smartphone as long as it could do the following:

  1. Take pictures and videos
  2. Be able to open and read PDFs
  3. Be able to get the pictures and videos off of your mobile device once we get back to school (meaning, if you're planning on using your smartphone, make sure you bring in your connector cable so you can upload your pics and videos to your computer)

We also had our 20 school iPod touches to use too for the kids that didn't have their own device.  Once we got to the cemetery the kids set off, using their iBook and mobile device, to locate as many of the 26 Civil War figures they could.

At each located gravestone the students had to perform a task based upon who was buried there and that person's legacy.  Sometimes it was taking a picture, other times it was reenacting a battle scene that person fought in.

After several hours at the cemetery, we headed back to school to complete the second half of this mobile device expedition.  All of the pictures and videos the students took would be used to create a movie detailing how Bellefontaine Cemetery is important to the legacy of the Civil War and the people buried there.  Students were given a set of instructions and set off the rest of the afternoon to create their video.  

In just two short hours, the students blew me away again!  They created some amazing informational videos detailing about Bellefontaine Cemetery and its connection with the Civil War.  Below are some of the videos the students created.

This really turned out to be a great expedition and really fun to both plan, prepare for, and for the kids to participate in.  I know they learned a lot about not only this cemetery but the people buried there...and I think these videos below showcase that very well.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Bellefontaine Cemetery Expedition: iBook Challenge

In a week we are going on our final 8th grade expedition to Bellefontaine Cemetery in north St. Louis.  This cemetery has oodles of history buried within (literally!).

However, this is not going to be a typical expedition--instead, we are taking this expedition 2.0, or going digital.  Students are going to be in groups of 3 or 4, and each be assigned an iPod touch.  On the iPods are two iBooks I created that are scavenger hunt type books for each of the historical Civil War people buried at the cemetery.  Students will have to first read about the person, then follow certain directions that include locating the person's grave, and performing certain tasks at each grave using the iPod touch.

After we spend the morning at Bellefontaine on our Civil War grave scavenger hunt via iBooks and using the iPod touches, students will then have to compile all of their digital evidence from their scavenger hunt from their group's iPod into an iMovie in the afternoon when we return back to school.

I'm so excited about this expedition and really hope that the students will be too.  It's right up their "digital" alleys, and I hope it works out just as planned.  I'll post a follow-up blog after the expedition next week with some reflections, photos, and hopefully the iMovies each group makes from the expedition.

Until then, here are the PDF versions of the iBooks I created...if you're heading to Bellefontaine Cemetery soon, feel free to use them for a Civil War scavenger hunt challenge.  There are 2 books for the 2 different clusters of the Civil War people buried there.  Enjoy!

Causes of the Civil War Websites

Recently social studies students were given the task to create a website that documented the top 4 causes they believed were the most important and influential in contributing to the onset of the Civil War.

Students were first shared a Google Doc with the directions for their site challenge on it.  Students had to research (or go back and "re-research" since we had already covered these topics) the various topics and come up with the 4 they felt were the most important causes of the Civil War.

Once they had come up with their 4 and completed a pre-website planning sheet, they then used the the site template (which had directions for each of the subsequent pages) to make a copy of and start building their own site.

I guess I can't say it enough, but once again I was super impressed with what the students came up with both in their website creation and analysis of why they chose those 4 causes as the most important.  Below are several of the student's websites...check them out!  I'm sure you'll be as impressed as I was!  (FYI, the "discussion questions" section for each won't load for you...since these were internally created websites only people at MRH can see that part...sorry!)

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