The Story of an App, Some Books and a Cow?

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Background: Apps, Books and Cows… you are probably wondering what these things have in common.  It all began back in February when we had two back-to-back non-fiction texts in our Harcourt Trophies reading book, At Home Around the World and Me on the Map.  As you can probably decipher from the titles these selections had a geography focus.  My passion, as you know is utilizing educational technology, so I wanted to find a project that would incorporate technology and geography.  I always wanted to do a Flat Stanley project, so I started exploring my options.  I found there was an iPad app that was free and and Edmodo app that cost $20.00.  I figured I would try the iPad app out first to see how I liked it.

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App:  I sent a letter home to my parents asking for them to email pictures from trips they had taken from around the world.  My parents really came through for me, and sent me some lovely photographs.  My students created a flat boy, who they named Flat R.J., and a girl, who they named Flat April.  We began the project by creating photos using the ones parents had emailed me.  Students enjoyed creating photos and finding the location on the map, but so far we had been lacking interaction. We tried sending our Flat people to other users, but we didn’t really get a great response.  I was disappointed because, the news feed was filled with kids taking selfies with their Flat friends, and the emphasis on learning about geography was missing.  Then one day I saw you could send your Flat people to Heifer International sites around the globe.

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Books:  When I previously taught 3rd grade, my coworker had told us about Heifer International, and she organized a Read to Feed project for our students.  I decided to send one of our Flat people to Heifer through our iPad app to see what kinds of pictures we would receive, and I was really impressed with the results!  I shared the pictures with my first grade class using our Apple TV and they were enthralled.  Then I continue to send Flat April and Flat R.J. all over the world to Heifer’s sites in Peru, Haiti, Kenya, Malawi, Armenia, Romania, India and Cambodia.  In the meantime, teachers in my school were planning a Story Walk with an “Around the World” theme which will take place this Friday after school.  Students will visit different classrooms that represent a different countries, and each room they will hear stories and participate in activities that will help them learn more about different cultures.  Students will be given passports that they will have stamped in each room.  I approached one of our Title 1 teachers who was organizing the Story Walk to see if she would be interested in helping me implement a Read to Feed event school wide that would coincide with the Story Walk.  She loved the idea, so we pitched the idea to my principal, and gave us the go ahead, so we got to work!

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Cows:  With the Read to Feed program, students will get friends and family to sponsor them for each book they read.  The more books students read, the more money that will be donated.  Once all our money has been collected we can use these funds to purchase a cow, goat, llama, chickens etc. for a needy family some where in the world.

Watch these videos to learn more about the Read to Feed project:


Heifer International Read to Feed: Official Video from Heifer International on Vimeo.

Today we had an assembly to introduce our students to the Read to Feed campaign, and we set our building goal at $500, enough to buy a family in need a cow!  Students were sent home with a letter explaining the project, and a envelope to record pledges and collect money.  People can also donate money to our campaign via our donation website.  In our presentation we included videos, and we incorporated the photos from my 1st Grade class’s Flat Stanley project. You can view this presentation here.

Here is a video of the story Beatrice’s Goat being read.  This children’s book is based on a true story about an African family that received the blessing of a goat, and how it had a positive impact on their lives:

Final Thoughts: As teachers we often get caught up in teaching to standards, but this project made me remember that we should strive to create students who have a love of reading, passion for helping others, and an understanding and appreciation for all the cultures in our big, beautiful world.   I hope that our Read to Feed project gets a positive response, and I will keep you posted on how it turns out!

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