Friday, March 11, 2011

I heard them say, love is the way

Welcome! Please visit the updated version of this post here:

A few weeks ago, we started a new project in my classroom: Kindergarten Around the World. I will spare you the minute details (hit me in the comments if you want to know more), but it is, basically, a virtual exchange between our class, and a partner class overseas. For my 20 Canadian munchkins, we found a partner group in East Borneo, Indonesia. Both classes have created an imaginary friend, who attends our partner school. (For the curious, our imaginary friend is a little girl named Ella. She is 6 years old, she has blond hair, brown eyes, and brown skin. Her gender and name were decided by vote. Her age and appearance were drawn at random.) We use Twitter to ask research questions of our partners, and the answers allow us to write stories documenting our imaginary friend's experience in another country. Each child has a journal for the project, where they record things they have learned. It being kindergarten, the recording mostly takes the form of drawings. The children dictate text to go with their drawings, and then copy that text onto their pages. We are working on a Prezi presentation to share our learning with parents and other classes. We have made a video to teach our "Indonesia friends" about snow and how to get dressed for recess when it is very cold.

When my team conceived of this project, I knew it was going to be cool. As mentioned in my previous post about Twitter in kindergarten, I love love LOVE that my students are building real connections with other children their own age. This project brought it to another level, by pushing them to imagine themselves in a completely different setting. (As we graph the often FIFTY degree difference in our daily temperatures, I often imagine MYSELF in a completely different setting, too!) I knew that this project was going to take us in unexpected directions, and there is no doubt that it has. In the 3 weeks since it started, we have learned:

  • That  a map is  picture of a place, taken from up high, and helps us see where things are.
  • That blue parts of a map are always water.
  • That when we are at school, our Indonesia friends are sleeping, and vice versa, and that that is because the Earth is rotating, and Canada and Indonesia can't face the sun at the same time.
  • That voting is a fair way of making decisions as a group, and that just because something is "fair" doesn't mean that everyone is happy about it.
  • That orangutans eat more fruit than any other animal.
  • That baby orangutans stay with their mothers for 6 years.
  • That adult male orangutans live alone, but still visit their mothers.
  • That orangutans can yell so loud you can hear them from 1.5 km away.
(We REALLY got into the orangutans. Our partner school is located close to an orangutan preserve, and once we'd had a virtual fieldtrip using a link they sent, it was all orangutans, all the time...)
  • That, shockingly, not only can kindergarten teachers be men (as we have learned from some other Twitter friends), but music teachers can be men, too.
  • That in warm climates, many schools have outdoor swimming pools RIGHT AT SCHOOL, and that this is possibly the very coolest thing about Indonesia.
  • That "temperature" tells us whether it is hot or cold, and that "weather" tells us what the sky looks like. 
  • That "Fanta" is another word for "orange pop."

Every single time we log in, we learn.

And, then, today, we learned about tsunamis. 

Some of my students had heard about the events in Japan on the news, and that Indonesia was among the countries facing a tsunami watch. They were curious and concerned:

What is a tsunami, Mme? It's a big big wave, bigger than you can imagine, big enough to wash away cars and buildings. 
Is it dangerous? Yes, it can be very dangerous.
Could we have one  here? Probably not, because we live a very long ways from the ocean. 
Our Indonesia friends can see the ocean from their classroom, could they have one? Yes, it is possible that they could have one, but the people in charge in their country are watching carefully, and they will evacuate if it looks like a tsunami is coming. 
What is "evacuate?" If something dangerous like a fire or a tsunami or a really bad storm is coming, the police and the army will help people move to safer place until it is okay for them to go back home. 
Where would they go to be safe? They would go somewhere further away from the ocean, probably somewhere higher and drier, until it was safe. 

Can we tell them to come here? They are our friends, we can take care of them, they will be safe with us, and they could go to our school. There's only 6 kids in their class, we have room for six more. Can we please tell them to come here...?

I knew this project would be amazing. I knew it would make me proud. I knew my students and I would learn things I never expected, and that there is magic in learning TOGETHER. 

I didn't know it would be the thing that made a faraway tragedy into something real. I didn't know that it would leave me humbled by my students' simple statements of generosity. I didn't know how REAL those 6 little people, on the other side of the world, were going to become to my 20 little people. 

They are our friends. We can take care of them. They will be safe with us. We have room.

I didn't know that this project would lead me to think that the world might be a far better place if foreign aid and international disaster relief policies were written by five-year-olds. 

They are our friends. We can take care of them. They will be safe with us. We have room.


  1. Thanks for the uplifting post. Yes indeed, K kids would help every living thing. Where does that go as we get older?

  2. I loved reading your post almost as much as we loved being part of the project. I can't wait to share it with my fellow teachers.

  3. @KinderPris - Thanks so much for jumping on board. So blessed to have you and your munchkins as our friends!

  4. hello! i am just beginning to dip my toes into the twitter/blogging/PLN world. i've done mostly looking around and collecting thoughts...but after reading this post, i just HAVE to write and press you for those minute details you mention. do you mind sharing the details on how you started this project? i'm completely that sunday-night -dreamy-feelings about all the wonderful things i hope to do in my week of kindergarten :)

  5. Hi there,

    Loved this post! I am actually currently working on a Web site specifically for women in Canada and one of the features of the site is to profile interesting things that Canadian women have done. I would love to include this posting and maybe a little profile on you if you would be interested. The site is still about six months from going live but we're trying to secure content now. Either way, I love what you're doing!

  6. How spectacular! You sound like an amazing kindergarten teacher to allow your students to explore something so real! I am mother to a kinder student so I know just how much they absorb and love to learn. :)

  7. Hi Amy,
    I really loved your post. I found out about it (and read it) in the Emerging EdTech site. I felt compelled to write my own post about it which can be read at
    I am now following your blog... thank you for the inspiration.... well done.

  8. This is wonderful! You have such rich inquiry taking place and your kids are learning in a way that wouldn't have been imaginable not that many years ago. I wish I could inspire the early years teachers at my school to try things like this. Hmmm, maybe I can! Would you be willing to add an Australian class, if I can convince any of them? (Your year is probably over, I realise, but ours goes till December...)

  9. I am a second grade teacher/grad student in CathyMath's class (instructional technology). LOVED your article! Here is my response:
    I'd like to know how you partnered up with the school in Indonesia. Soemthing I'd like to do in my own class!

  10. I am in cathy math's class and I am sending you a link to my response on your blog. I enjoyed reading your blog!!

  11. Hi Miss Night! I teach third grade in an Immersion school (We have French and Spanish.) in South Carolina. CathyMath introduced me to your blog. Your blog inspires me to want to interact with Twitter within my own classroom. How did you find your sister class in Indonesia? I would love to Twitter my own class. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  12. I am a K5 teacher and a grad student in CathyMath's class. I loved your article and activity! I'd like to know how you partnered up with the school in Indonesia! Here is the link to my response on your blog:

  13. Hey Miss Night! I am in Cathy Math's instructional technology class! I loved your article and can't wait to implement twitter into my kindergarten class! Here is a link to my response on your blog: Thanks for sharing! :)

  14. Ms. Night, I enjoyed reading your post on using Twitter in the classroom. I am especially impressed that you are using tools in the classroom with K5 students that some teachers would shy away from. It makes me excited as a fourth grade teacher to think about what my 9 and 10 year old students can do. I posted a response on my blog called "We Log In, We Learn." Check it out!

  15. This from Child at Street 11, a not for profit children's Centre in Singapore.

    We are looking at connecting with a Kindergarten class in Canada so Street 11 children can make some connections with our different realities and unique contexts as combined project.Thanks Miss Night- your idea is sure to take roots in many more classrooms!

    Email me at to explore possibilities