As the alarm bell sounded, you could hear the students yelling “Gas! Gas! Gas!” as the students in Mr. McKenzie and Ms. Balmes’ eighth-grade social studies classes learned about life in the trenches during World War I. The students were filled with high anticipation as they entered a mock Trench Warfare Simulation. Some students, armed with their homemade gas masks, were very prepared after reading selections of the book “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Remarque. They learned about the turmoil endured by the soldiers and left class that day with a greater appreciation for those who served our nation during that time.
This year’s Snowflake event at Middle School South was a great success thanks to the help of 55 adult facilitators, 40 Vernon Hills and Libertyville high school students, 400 parents, and many volunteers. More than 370 seventh and eighth grade students from Middle School South, Middle School North and Oak Grove School attended this annual event, which encourages adolescents to make good choices and lead a healthy lifestyle.
The event was broken up into large group sessions, in which the students watched performances and presentations, and small group sessions, in which they engaged in activities led by high school students and adults. This year, Bizar Entertainment provided a musical production that conveyed positive and inspirational messages. During another large group session, motivational speaker Brad Hutig spoke about the challenges he faced when he lost both of his hands in a work-related accident. He had been a three-sport athlete and was eventually able to return to the football team. He told students that they could do things if they really wanted to do them, and encouraged them to find their way.
Toward the end of the evening, the parents attended a presentation from defense attorney Elliot Pinsel, while the students joined a dance. Mr. Pinsel reminded parents that they are accountable for underage drinking in their homes, he encouraged them to talk with their children and know what they are doing in order to prevent law suits and other negative consequences.
At about 10 p.m., students and parents were all smiles as they celebrated the close of another positive Snowflake experience.
On September 8, the eighth-grade students in Ms. Balmes’ and Mr. McKenzie’s Social Studies classes learned about the immigrant experience. The students enjoyed role playing processors and immigrants as they made their way through the checkpoints of “Ellis Island.” Many students were able to pursue the “American Dream” and were welcomed as new citizens, while others sadly were deported for reasons such as health or character flaws. All in all, the students truly enjoyed this hands on step back into time and gained a lot of insight as well from putting themselves into someone else’s shoes.
Hawthorn eighth graders have been reading a book about the Auschwitz concentration camp. Teacher John Reid uses his iPad to flash onto Google Earth to view the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. He hands off the iPad to a student who can then highlight key passages in a book they are reading. After a brief geographical tour, Mr. Reid switches to an Apple TV documentary that the teacher airs from a supply of PBS documentaries on his iPad. This is the way of fast paced classrooms in Hawthorn School District 73. Like movies today, teachers must capture students’ attention with a quick paced classroom lesson using many multi-media tools.
The District 73 Board of Education invested this year in three key technology resources for every classroom. These tools allow teachers to engage students in learning by using interactive math and writing applications, three dimensional tours on Internet sites like Google Earth and access to Smithsonian and PBS documentaries that bring their lessons to life. These tools are an iPad, Apple TV and a projector.
“These technology resources are timely and relevant for students,” said Lisa Leali, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Dr. Leali sees so many educational uses for the iPads and Apple TVs. “Teachers can move around the room to ensure they capture students’ attention. They can use the devices to project students’ work onto a screen. To engage students in the back of the room, teachers can allow students to use the devices to answer math problems or correct grammar in sentences,” she said.
“These technology tools keep kids focused and alert. I switch back and forth with different apps instantly showing them where Auschwitz is on Google Earth. Then, we zoom into the book they are reading and then switch to a video clip of life in a concentration camp. This type of teaching allows me to reach many students who many have different learning styles from auditory or visual,” Mr. Reid said of his Middle School North students.
Added Townline teacher Kaitlyn Brennan, “The students are more engaged because they enjoy being on the iPads and visually seeing what they are learning. The students enjoy the creative ways that they can learn from having the Apple TV in their room.” She added that she believes it helps students retain information because they see concepts visually.