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December 19, 2013

Virtually there: Parkwood students in Clarksville take electronic field trip

Weather Underground headquarters was online destination

CLARKSVILLE — Not to worry, the Grinch will likely get snowed in from a blizzard, preventing him from filling the stockings of good boys and girls with coal. But the forecast for Santa is just fine for gift-giving.

Kindergartners at Parkwood Elementary School took a virtual field trip to Weather Underground headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Wednesday. Jeffrey Masters, director of meteorology for the company, showed expected weather conditions nationwide for Christmas.

Sarah Jacobs, 6, said she’s relieved that the Grinch won’t ruin Christmas for her family and others.

“I know the Grinch isn’t coming and Santa will get to our house because it won’t snow around Christmas,” Jacobs said.

Sabrina Lage, a kindergarten teacher at Parkwood, turned off the lights and turned on her SMART Board for the trip.

As budgets for school districts have tightened the last few years, Lage said the virtual field trips give her students a chance to apply some of what they learn in class.

“I like that it’s something fun and raises their level of engagement,” Lage said. “To them, it’s something they can relate to.”

She said the trip tied into their weather-related lessons, including vocabulary and some reading from “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.”

Students also got to see other children in schools across the country during the trip.

Katie Hutchinson, one of the e-learning coaches helping with the trip, said giving students a chance to see other children just like them is also good.

“It benefits them to see that kids around the world are different, but also want the same things as them,” Hutchinson said. “It allows them to apply the skills and vocabulary they learn to the real life world.”

Hutchinson said the district will provide other virtual field trip opportunities to all of its schools, but hopes to make trips monthly for the kindergartners.

After winter break, she said middle schoolers will get the opportunity to talk to classrooms in Japan in real time.

“It allows them to build a background knowledge and put new experiences with information they already have,” Hutchinson said. “When they see someone who does this sort of work thing, it adds a lot as well as giving them someone to talk to and interact with.”

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