By Linda Moehring & Deb Vail
On a chilly day in March, fourth and fifth graders from Des Moines’ Downtown School warmed up and dove deep during an exciting scuba diving experience. The students were able to do one-onone diving with certified instructors, and following the dive, launched their own blogs by writing about this unique and fun learning experience. The project was a collaborative effort between two Heartland AEA consultants, Linda Moehring (Professional Learning & Leadership Consultant/JO) and Deb Vail (Instructional Technology Consultant, /JO), and two Des Moines Public Schools teachers, Teri Arbogast and Tracey Donovan.
Moehring, Vail, Arbogast and Donovan have become a powerful collaborative team, working together to support the development of a classroom blog as well as the individual student blogs. The scuba diving experience provided a great opportunity to develop a project-based learning experience and generate excitement for the students to launch their personal blogs.
As a certified diver, Vail had the experience and connections necessary to set up the project. The fourth and fifth graders spent the morning scuba diving in the Des Moines Public Schools’ Central Campus pool. Students were paired with one of four certified divers including a Des Moines police sergeant, two divers from Leyden’s Dive Shop and Vail. Students were fitted with the necessary gear thanks to Leyden’s. Each student worked alongside a certified diver to learn how to breathe underwater and explore using the strange feeling and sounding apparatus.
Support from Aaron Cook (Video/ Multimedia Technology Support Specialist/JO) was invaluable. He swam among the participants taking both above surface and underwater photos and video clips, recording the sights and sounds students experienced. His photos and videos added an incalculable dimension to the blogs.
The afternoon of the dive, Vail and Moehring returned to the classroom to provide support as students blogged about the event. Armed with Cook’s photos, video clips and their own personal experiences diving, students began their blog entries. Blogs were the perfect medium for student writing as they provided authentic audiences.
The experience was a blend of rigorous academic content, real world experiences, authentic technology integration and just plain fun.