Jack Alvin spoke into the iPad sitting on his table at Stoner Prairie Elementary School, saying he “really liked” a design he had just seen from a peer.
That peer was in Australia, and Alvin was responding to a video made by the student there to share their design of an animal in a program called Makers Empire. The students use a program called Flipgrid to watch videos and then record their own in response.
“(I like) that I get to talk to someone so far away,” Alvin told the Press. “All of their designs and everything they do is super cool.”
Alvin and his classmates in the multiage Partners Actively Learning (PALs) program at SP are working in the same program and designing their own animals, which will eventually be 3D-printed. They often send videos back and forth with the Australian students to update each other.
“I really like their designs,” said June Swanson. “It’s so cool.”
Educational technology coordinator Karie Huttner first got the school’s students involved in the Global Design Challenge last year, after raising money for the Makers Empire program at the annual back-to-school block party in Fitchburg. She agreed to participate in the challenge “not knowing what it actually meant but excited about the opportunity for our students to connect with other students around the globe,” she wrote in an email to the Press.
She then connected with an art teacher in Adelaide, Australia, and found “commonalities” in the curriculum they had for students. That created connections for fourth- and fifth-graders on projects about transportation and history.
“Students researched and shared how transportation or history events were similar or different between the USA and Australia,” Huttner explained.
This year, Huttner and the Australian teacher decided to focus on aquatic animals, and Huttner worked with the PALs teachers to “best fit the diverse learners in their classroom.”
“Through this process, students have learned more about where they live as well as about the many things that are the same in Australia,” Huttner said. “They have also learned about animals and foods that don’t exist here like vegimite and kangaroos.”