Ms. Higginbotham, a first grade teacher at Arundel, used funding from the SCEF Educator Innovation Grant to take her outer space unit to the next level: to the moon to be exact. Thanks to SCEF, Ms. Higginbotham was able to invest in a webcam and a subscription to Nepris, a company that virtually connects classrooms with math and science professionals for interactive discussions. She then transformed her classroom into a makerspace and tasked her students with creating a moon colony. Students worked in small groups to build different parts of the colony, including: living space, a recreation area, space for plants and food, a laboratory, and vehicles.
As part of the students’ research and brainstorming phase for the moon colony, Ms. Higginbotham used Nepris to virtually connect with a San Francisco-based astronomer whose specialty is the future colonization of Mars. Via the webcam, Ms. Higginbotham’s students interviewed the astronomer, asking: “Can I bring my family to the moon?” The astronomer replied, “Probably not because it isn’t clear how babies would tolerate the environment.” The group researching food for the colony asked, “Can we bring cows to the moon?” The astronomer answered, “Cows require a lot of space and energy. Goats would be a better choice as a source for milk.” Ms. Higginbotham’s students experienced technology-infused project based learning first hand. Armed with knowledge from a true expert, they innovated, designed and built a moon colony that took into account real life variables.
With these new tools, Ms. Higginbotham is now able to implement powerful approaches to 21st century learning, such as creating a greater emphasis on relevant, real-world, global curriculum, and expanding the definition of “educator” to include community-based and worldwide resources. The possibilities for bringing experts into the classroom via Nepris and the webcam are endless, which is truly exciting for Ms. Higginbotham and her students.
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