Amelia Students Call Californians Classmates:

Amelia students call Californians classmates

By Cindy Kranz • ckranz@enquirer.com • February 26, 2010

AMELIA – When Lori Van Eman’s kindergartners first learned that Olympic snowboarder and gold medalist Shaun White is nicknamed “The Flying Tomato,” they giggled and laughed.

The Amelia Elementary kindergartners are still giggling about the reference to White’s red hair.

It’s the favorite fun fact they’ve learned about the 2010 Olympic Winter Games – and they learned it while Skyping with other kindergartners in White’s home state of California.

Since the Vancouver Olympics began nearly three weeks ago, the Amelia kindergartners have been Skyping – seeing and hearing each other over the Internet – with The Village School in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Haultain Community School in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

They also Skype daily with Joe Stahl’s kindergarten class at Withamsville-Tobasco Elementary and have Skyped several times with Mary Lou Van Eman’s third-grade class at Mercer Elementary in Anderson Township. She’s Van Eman’s mother.

“We want to see the learning at home connect to the learning at school,” Van Eman said. “It’s letting them know they can go home and Skype anybody you want. It’s forming that friendship and that eagerness to learn what others are doing, what others are seeing.”

The kindergartners have been Skyping once a week with the California and Canadian schools since the Olympics began two weeks ago. Sessions last around 8 minutes, which is about their maximum attention span, Van Eman said. During that time, they exchange information about athletes and events, plus track medals won by the United States.

On Thursday, Van Eman’s students Skyped with their California friends. The first time Van Eman’s students Skyped with the California school, they couldn’t understand why they were wearing shorts.

“The kids could not get over that the climate was different there,” she said.

To give their new friends a taste of snow, Van Eman’s class made a video outside and threw snowballs at the camera.

The students also keep Olympic journals and graphs of the number of gold, silver and bronze medals won by the United States, which allows Van Eman to test their language and math skills.

Van Eman writes a classroom blog, which is now populated with photos and information about the students’ Olympics lessons.

After the Olympics, she and her students have an appointment to Skype with Kelli Stack of Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, a member of the silver medal-winning women’s ice hockey team.

Although the Olympics end Sunday, Van Eman’s class will continue Skyping with their new California friends. Plans are to become reading buddies with the children.

A year ago, Van Eman didn’t have any of the resources that she does now.

“I can honestly say that it has changed my students’ learning 100 percent,” Van Eman said. “There is little need for redirection when we are working with the SMART board technology or Skyping because the students know that if anything is going to happen it is going to be happening on our board.”

“Their eyes are always glued to see what is coming next.”

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