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Rock Our World: Brandon students go global



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November 28, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- Students in two classes here shared an extraordinary school day Nov. 16 with students around the world.

"Are you ready to go global?" asked district music teacher Mike Medvinsky to students gathered in the ITEC (Instructional Technology Exploration and Collaboration) Center.

The answer was a resounding "Yeah!" from Rachel Carman's fourth grade Oakwood Elementary class and Jason Miller's sixth grade class from Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School.

On the numerous big screens around the room, students from Clear Sky Elementary in Colorado appeared and a video chat between the Brandon kids and their counterparts across the country began. Students here also used iPod Touches, iPads and netbooks as part of the project.

The chat was one of several that the Brandon students participated in that afternoon over the course of about two hours. Besides the students in Colorado, they also connected with ones from California, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, Poland, Australia, Indonesia and New Zealand.

"We are basically famous around the world," said Joe Prentice, a sixth grader in Miller's class. "It was really cool to see what schools put together for 'Rock Our World'—pictures and videos of what they're like and their culture and how they live."

All the students were participating in a project known as "Smiles in 100 Languages," put together by the "Rock Our World" organization. Rock Our World was founded in 2004 by educator Carol Anne McGuire. The goal of the organization is to connect students and teachers in an international collaboration, "composing original music, making movies, and meeting each other in live video chats."

Medvinsky applied in late August to be part of the collaboration, submitting an essay on why he wanted Brandon students to be part of the experience. Only two classrooms from here participated, as Medvinsky explains, "it's quite an involvement."

Students from Miller's and Carman's classrooms began composing musical tracks at the beginning of the school year and also composed tracks to music from other students in the collaboration. As part of the project, they also took pictures keeping in mind the theme this year of "Smiles in 100 Languages." The idea was to convey the human condition through sound and photographs.

Medvinsky and the Brandon students knew it would be contrived to have a staged group shot, so instead, photographer Jeffrey Bennett came out and set up a mobile photo studio to capture more candid shots of individual kids as they made each other smile. The students also composed their own drum track and worked with other schools for several weeks, culminating in the "family night" Nov. 16, in which 18 schools from around the world submitted 1-minute videos and had a question and answer session with the California hosts.

"What I liked about today was that we got to see what different countries did for Rock Our World, and it was really cool," said Sarah Andrus, sixth grader. "Everyone had different music, that was unique… I also liked how they interviewed the schools so you could see what they did and things we did the same."

"I would like my learners to understand we are part of a global community and our actions ripple," said Medvinsky. "When we can express our emotions through song and visual arts and send that out, we are sending positive vibrations to the world. One of the realizations for these kids is we are part of a bigger picture, and that helps push us in bigger directions."

For more information, visit rockourworld.org.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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