The following is a guest post by Buncee Ambassador Stephanie Suter, a third grade teacher in the Southold School District who is dedicated to expanding her students’ minds. Find her on twitter: @ssuter4
I’ve always wanted to have my third graders participate in a Mystery Skype. Mystery Skype is a guessing game played by two classrooms who connect via Skype. Each class has to guess the location of the other by asking a series of questions. However, I wasn’t sure how to find a partner class to work with and get it off the ground and running, but in steps Buncee! Through Buncee’s “Buncee Buddies” program, which connects classrooms from across the world who use Buncee, I was introduced to a fabulous Buncee educator in Bulgaria, Rositsa Mineva. Since we were both Buncee Ambassadors who implement Buncee whenever possible in our classrooms, we were a perfect fit! After a few brainstorming emails back and forth, we decided to meet each other by participating in a Mystery Skype while using Buncee as the “pen pal” piece to introduce the students and build the excitement. Wow…did it ever!?
To begin, both teachers created Buncees to educate our students about what a Mystery Skype would look like and what the etiquette of such an exciting endeavor would entail. Before getting started, the students learned the roles they would participate in to all be actively involved. The excitement in the air was palpable as the students prepared for our first Mystery Skype session. The rolls were given: greeters, question keepers, inquirers, mappers, photographer/videographers, and closers. The students were all a buzz, practicing what these roles would look like on our ‘Big’ day. They took on their assigned roles, acting out their parts and researching our hometown of Southold, NY….just to be certain we were experts. This way, we knew we’d be confident and able to effectively answer questions when asked. Each and every student took their roles with such pride and enthusiasm. They got right to work! It was hard to tell that there wasn’t a class on the other end of the Skype camera!
When the day of our Mystery Skype came, which was also Dr. Suess’s birthday, we were prepared! I mention the birthday because our school dresses up in theme for this day. When no one walked in wearing Cat in the Hat like apparel I was confused. I questioned one of the students and their answer was priceless – they wanted to be dressed up for our new mystery friends! Of course they did! What was I thinking!? They were so proud.
The time of the call had been coordinated between our classes through emails back and forth (the teachers were equally excited!). The time difference made it so that we had to do the call around 9:15 am EST, so that it would be the end of their session in Bulgaria. The classroom was set up with work stations for all roles. The students were enthralled by the large world map spread across the floor, crawling on it carefully and noticing places they had never noticed before. The inquirers were studying their questions, while the question keepers were developing the system they’d use to effectively get the mystery buddies’ answers passed along to the mappers. The photographers were practicing their angles. We were ready!
As we tried reaching them and the phone rang, we sat with huge smiles on our faces. When they didn’t answer at first, the students were nervous but wouldn’t let their smiles leave their faces. They wanted to be ready. Then our call was answered! WOW!! We connected! I have to say, going into this call, I too felt confident! I felt like I knew the host teacher as we quickly become friends/collaborators through our correspondences to set up the Skype. Due to the language barrier, she had to do most of the communicating and relaying of information between the students there and here. What I saw next take place took my breath away…
The greeting didn’t go how they anticipated due to the language difference (We neglected to take that into account. Maybe we were just so excited!). Because of this, I saw perhaps the most important outcome of the entire session…COMPASSION. They weren’t frustrated or disappointed that they didn’t get to say hello and read their parts. They just went with the flow with grace and poise. The students were so well prepared that, without a hitch, they fell right into place to do what they needed to work on.
Back and forth the questions went, trying to determine the location of each class. Of course they guessed us first, but we were expecting that and knew our job was most likely going to be a little more arduous. As the questions became more narrow and focused, the roles of the students switched. The mappers became the ones developing the questions, as they began ruling out countries based on the information they were receiving. The question keepers reversed their running and began delivering the new questions to the inquirers. Quickly, they narrowed it down to just two countries (One of them was correct!). My heart was filled with pride as I tried not to give it away with my smile. They nailed it! When their guess was confirmed, our room lit up with cheers!
The students gathered around the camera and back and forth the hellos went. With HUGE grins we must have exchanged hello at least ten times in chorus. Them…then us, them…then us….priceless!
When we regrouped and marked our maps to indicate where we were both located in relation to one another, we shared a little bit about where we live. Next, we sang together the chorus of You’ve Got a Friend in Me from the movie Toy Story. Both classes had only briefly prepared to do this prior, but it worked. Together we were singing from two very distant classes. Sadly, after this it was time to say goodbye. But knowing we’d be in touch again in the near future made it alright.
As you can imagine, the rest of the day was a blur, as all we could talk about was our visit and new friends. Moving forward, we have monthly projects to do together. First, we will be making Buncees titled, “All About Me.” In these Buncees, each student will be introducing themselves and sharing some personal fun facts. Next, we will be creating a Buncee all about our town, community, and country. For the month of April, we will take part in the Buncee Earth Day Project. This will help connect our global communities as we focus on how we take care of the earth in our part of the world. For this we will create a collaborative Buncee that reflects our ideas and send it to our new friends. In between we will be setting up more Skype visits.
Working on this global endeavor has enhanced our classroom in countless ways. Taking our learning out of our seats and around the world without leaving our classroom has helped to heighten our global awareness, compassion, motivation, enthusiasm…the list goes on. Our class feels connected across the world. We are eager to celebrate what unites us and, at the same time, embrace our cultural differences! All of this magically happens while meeting ELA and Social Studies standards. This real world learning is what I hope to infuse whenever I can. The time spent with our Buncee Buddies is worth its weight in gold.
Check out some more of Stephanie’s classroom global adventures in the Buncee below.