Saturday, June 2, 2012

Flat Classroom Project

For the past few months my class and I have been involved with a Flat Classroom pilot project titled Flat Classroom K-2 Building Bridges.  This project involved over 40 K-2 classrooms from around the world.  We were broken up into several different sub groups, each with a slightly different focus.  For me and my class we were part of Group 2 and our focus was "Making a Meal".  We were grouped with a kindergarten class in the USA, and a prep (kindergarten) class in Hong Kong.

When I signed up I had very little idea about what this would involve.  I saw a tweet on twitter inviting interested k-2 teachers to apply to join in.  As any one who knows me at all, I have a bit of an addiction to Twitter these days, and I am  loving the connections - both local, national, and global - that I have made because of it.  I figured getting my students more globally connected would be a pretty cool thing to do too.  Together with my class we signed up.

At the time when I signed up, and found out that I was accepted in the pilot project I  wasn't really thinking about the fact that my student teacher would be returning after Spring Break and would start taking over my teaching role.  I figured I'd find a way to make it work, without adding the extra pressure of this program to her already stressful new teaching role.

I have to admit our group (Group 2) got off to a bit of a rocky start. My province is facing some political unrest and we were on strike for the first week.  The next two weeks I was on Spring Break, and then when I returned the other two schools had their breaks too, but on different weeks.  So our reality was that it was six weeks into the project that we were all back in our classes at the same time.  At this time my student teacher was also teaching close to 60-70% of the time.

E-mails flew back and forth between Theresa Allen ( the tech coordinator at the school in the USA), Stephanie Kaput (the teacher at the school in the USA), and Deb Pih (the teacher at the school in Hong Kong).  What did "Making a Meal" look like to us?  As teachers of young students we had to figure out a way to allow our students to "Make a Meal".  We all deal with different constraints but wanted to come up with something we could all try to do, in our own way.

It was decided that we would all attempt to cook with our students, share our cooking with one another, and if possible attempt to cook our friends' food too.  With that we were off.

My school is a very multicultural school which is one of the true joys of where I work.  I wanted to get the parents of my students involved in this project too, so I invited them to come into the school to cook with my students.  Since at this point in the project my student teacher was doing most of the teaching I let our families know that I would be available to help with the cooking, and that we would only cook with a group of six students.  I also stressed how special our school is because we represent so many different countries.  After a notice home, and some selling of the concept during our twice a week community read, I had a couple of parents on board to come and cook with us.  As you can imagine I was pretty excited.

The first parent who came to cook with us was the mother of one of my Korean students.  She came in with all the supplies needed to make GimBap - a Korean roll that looks a lot like Japanese sushi. She was worried about her English but really she had nothing to worry about.  The six children that cooked with her were excellent students and were so excited to make this special Korean dish.  The rest of the children in the class were happy to try their cooking.

This first video created a lot of excitement, particularly when Vicki Davies (a co founder of Flat Classroom) tweeted, blogged, and added it to her Pinterest board.  Our class blog traffic went up a ton that week as visitors from around the world came to check out what we were doing.  It was certainly one of the most exciting weeks we have had on our class blog.

The cooking continued and so did the videos.  I made it my job to create a video every time we cooked.  I tweeted out the videos and added them to our class blog too.

Making North American Dirt and Worm with Paul's Mom

Making Filipino Adobo Chicken with Brooklyn's Mom

Making Sri Lanka Coconut Toffe with Merura's Mom

Making Iraq Baclava with Cream with Lawrence's Mom

Making Canadian Crepes with Ms. Will's Mom

But we didn't only cook with our parents, we also cooked the dishes that our two group schools cooked too.  As a whole class we made applesauce, salsa, and jam.

Making Mrs. Kaput's Class Applesauce

Making Mrs. Kaput's Class Salsa

Making Ms. Pih's Class Jam

I have to admit the cooking was a lot of fun, and for many of my students it was the first time that they had been involved with cooking.  I love how my students were willing to try one another's foods, and how awesome my parent community was in supporting our project.  But the project went way beyond the cooking.  We were connecting with other children from around the world, and while we all live far away from one another we all connected through our cooking.

Near the end of the project we had the opportunity to skype with the class in the USA. This was the first time we had ever skyped as a class before and it was a great experience.  We loved asking questions of our friends in the USA, and I think they liked talking with us too.  This project has helped my students see that there are other children, just like them, all over the world.  I'm hoping I've broadened their view of the world.

Professionally it was a fabulous project for me too.  Although I was part of Group 2 I met several other inspiring classroom teachers also part of this pilot project.  They taught me several new things.  They also provided my class with other global classrooms to connect with.  Take for example Kathy Cassidy, a grade one teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.  While my class had already connected with her class, this project allowed us to connect even more.  She shared a video about where they learned, and we were excited to make and share our own video with her too.

This is Where We Learn Class Blog Video

When I posted a question on our Google Group people from around the world were keen to help provide me with answers.  I feel like I've made many new teaching friends from around the world.  And while Twitter has also been a fantastic place for me to connect, this project helped introduce me to some incredible global educators that I may not have found on my own on Twitter.

One of the main components of this project is that each group creates a collaborative project.  We made two - a collaborative video, and a collaborative voice thread.

Our Collaborative Video

Our Collaborative Voice Thread

We also contributed to a K-2 Buiilding Bridges group blog.

Before I forget every group contributed to a YouPublisher project that highlights a View From Our Window.  While I haven't seen the final project yet, I know it will be a fabulous creation from almost all of the 40+ classrooms involved in the project.

As the program has come to an end, I know that the connections are here to stay.  I feel pretty confident in saying that our classes will be connecting again in the the new school year, and I will be more than likely be connecting with other classes in this program too.  I also know that I have added some pretty incredible educators to my constantly expanding professional learning network.

Thank you Julie Lindsay and Vicki A. Davis for creating such a wonderful opportunity for me and my students. I can assure you, we will be back.


  1. What an awesome experience and opportunity for you and your students! The videos created are excellent. So glad I happened upon your blog. I am your newest follower.


  2. Welcome and thanks for the positive feedback. The project itself was a ton of fun and I'm s glad I took part. While I still have four more weeks of school left in this school year, I am already starting to think about some of the exciting things we can do next year. Karen

  3. Thanks Karen for this wonderful blog post sharing your experiences in our project. As a pilot project for the K-2 level for Flat Classroom we are very excited about the synergy created between teachers and students all over the world and plan to run this again next year! See you then!