One Southside High School Spanish teacher and one Sunnymede Elementary School second grade teacher are using modern-day technology and old-fashioned rubber duck toys to introduce their students to one another. The collaboration could not be more perfect. Anna Love’s Spanish III students need practice speaking and writing in Spanish. Elizabeth Buergler’s students, many who are learning English as a second language, benefit from the interaction with older students who can communicate in English and Spanish too.
The idea for the joint project began to form when Love and Buergler met at a technology conference in Wichita, KS. Love explained that each year students in her Spanish III class adopt rubber ducks and create websites in honor of their rubber web-footed friends. Each duck is given an identity and a history, which is posted to the site in Spanish and English. Pictures of the duck’s “life” are also posted. The photos include duck adventures, duck travel, and stories of the individuals that the ducks encounter along the way. Journal entries chronicling the duck’s experiences accompany the photos. Buergler immediately recognized the immense possibility for instruction in her classroom.
Love and Buergler agreed that early in the school year, Love’s Spanish III class would “adopt” Buergler’s second-graders as little brothers and sisters. They would communicate with one another with letters and online video messages. The rubber duck characters would be the basis for storytelling and other projects as well as periodic meetings through the year.
Love and Buergler, who were among the first teachers in the District to receive classroom sets of mini laptop computers, taught their students to communicate via Skype (a free video/voice call system that allows the students to see one another). The high school students offered introductions in English and in Spanish, as did the bilingual elementary students. Following the first meeting, Buergler sent Love pictures of each student. The Spanish III students then selected one of the younger children to be his or her little brother or sister. Paired, each big brother or sister sent a little brother or sister a card. Those in the class who “adopted” a bilingual sibling penned their message in Spanish and English. The second graders returned the favor, designing cards for their big brothers and sisters.
The Spanish III class then recorded a video of personal messages to the little brothers and sisters thanking them for the cards. At the same time, the high school students introduced their rubber ducks and announced that they (and their ducks) would visit Sunnymede. They posted the message to the duck website and invited their little brothers and sisters to watch it. Buergler’s noted that her students were so enthralled with the video she allowed them to watch it several times.
Southside students, true to their word, visited Sunnymede in mid-October. Every student was anxious to visit with his or her brother or sister. When they met, they talked about each other and they talked about the ducks and their recent adventures. Love’s students then surprised each of their young siblings with specially selected duck of their own.
Buergler and Love have many more activities planned for their students. Since all the younger students have a duck now, Buergler plans to use them for writing prompts and to incorporate them into another projects and class activities. The two classes will continue to communicate with another using both the laptops and through face-to-face projects and letters.