Mystery Skype!

What a great opportunity we had today–we did our first Mystery Skype!

Because of the connections I’ve made on Twitter, I’ve been exposed to many new things that seem right up our alley, and Mystery Skype was one of them.  The basic idea is that you Skype with another class–somewhere in the world–only you don’t know where they are (ok, well I knew where they were, but the kiddos did not)!  You ask each other yes or no questions that help you narrow in on the location of the other class.

We waited patiently until 10:35 when they called–Ms. Venosdale’s 6th grade class.  We answered the call, with nervous but excited feelings in our stomachs.  I had already set it up so that they would lead, since we’d never done it before, and so they asked the first question.  They asked, “Are you near a major body of water?”  Our answer, of course, was yes–the Mississippi river is just a hop, skip and a jump to our east.  Our first question was (we hoped) a good one, too–“It’s 10:35 here, is it the same time where you are?”  We had been having a conversation about time zones just before we answered the call, and so they thought this one would help narrow down (and so eliminate) much of the world  if their answer was yes.  And it was!

I wish I had grabbed the list of all the questions, because we kept one, and I wish that we had a picture to share–but we didn’t take one.  We had coordinated “jobs” before we got started: some were charge of the map, some were in charge of writing down what we learned from our new friends, some were in charge of writing down the questions we each asked (so that we could look at them for ideas for the next time), someone was in charge of asking the questions and the rest of us worked to synthesize the clues and figure out what to ask next.  It was really cool how a room full of about 20 people could all be involved in the same conversation in such different ways.

In the end, we found out that our new found friends were actually calling us from very close by in Missouri!  Hillsboro, actually.  That was surprising to them, too, because they’re used to chatting with people from much farther away!

All in all, we had a great time, met some new “friends” and figured out that we need to brush up on our Missouri geography a bit.  🙂  We already have our next Mystery Skype on the calendar for next Friday and are VERY EXCITED for it!  I’m interested to see the way their questions change and improve each time, and for what it will be like when we talk to someone from a place where we’ve never been.  It’ll be very cool to learn what life is like in that other next of the woods!

Until then–have you every been a part of Mystery Skype?  Who did you “meet?”  What suggestions do you have for us as we try again with another class?  Tell us your story–we’d love to hear from you!


Today our class went geocaching!

First we had a reminder lesson about latitude and longitude, and a how-to with the GPS devices.  Oh, and we talked about what GPS was, too. 🙂  We needed our plan and our GPS devices:


Then we were off!  And how lucky we were they today’s weather broke just before we were scheduled to go outside on our hunt.  We’d been watching it rain all morning out our windows, but it was reasonably dry by 1:00.  Yay!


The cache we were looking for was hidden across the street from our school at Meramec Community College and was put there by a College for Kids class that learned about geocaching a couple of years ago.  We went walking in that direction, checking our GPS’s as we went.


Then we new we were getting close when lots of kiddos started to gather around this tree.  Their directions were to just stand there if they thought they found it–rather than yelling and screaming and spoiling it for everyone else.



We found it!!  Can you see it there?  Even though we didn’t need it, there was a clue on the directions to help if you got stuck.  The clue was: the container is a camouflaged plastic jar.


Now, to open it!

Yeah, I know–horrible picture! But inside we found a log book, directions and an explanation, and lots of little trinkets that other geocachers had left before us.  We signed the log book, and I showed them all the other goodies that were inside.


We logged in: 9/17/12 Robinson 5th Grade 2012.  We saw that lots of other people had been there since the cache made in 2010.  One entry was from the  Trailblazers group at our school on June 29, 2011, and one was even Anna’s family!  I took a picture of the log book to prove it, but alas, it was blurry, too.  Believe me, her dad signed it with song lyrics! 🙂

I know–corny pic, right?  This one was a card that the person made solely for the purpose of using it to geocache.  He was San Diego, CA!  All the way to that geocache in Missouri.  Very cool.
So after we found this one, Keelan and I took the class to the geocache that Trailblazers (a science/technology club that our librarian, Mrs. Meihaus, and I let the last two years) had created and placed.  We were originally going to hunt for that cache, but we couldn’t find it when we searched for it online. BUMMER!  We took them there and found another huge bummer.

Looked great on the outside, but the bummer was what we found on the inside of our cache:

Half of the things we put in there were gone, and it was all wet and moldy!  YUCK!  This will definitely take some tender-loving-care to get back to the state it was in when we hid it last year.  Boo. 😦


Ok, now a few more fun pics that were taken when I gave Fiona the camera, and a group shot.

Say cheese!


What a great afternoon of geocaching fun with friends! I know I wish I learned about geography like this when I was a kid. 🙂

Have you ever been geocaching before?  Do you have any suggestions for any good caches we could find? Tell us your stories!

Kids Have the Best Ideas

Remember this? We started this map a little bit ago and have been so excited to watch the pins get added to mark all the connections we’re making!

Friday was class meeting day, and so the thing that everyone wanted to talk about was our Making Connections Map.  I thought that was odd at first, because I didn’t know what there was to talk about with it.  But that’s what’s really cool about how our class meetings work (if you haven’t read about them yet, check it out here): they’re in charge of what they want to talk about, and usually their ideas are WAY better than what I would have suggested anyway. It’s there classroom, too, after all, and they know what issues are bugging them as well as I do (sometimes better!).

So it ended up that they wanted to talk about the process of putting the pins on the map.  And they wanted to talk about how I shouldn’t have to do it all by myself.  Somebody even said, “Come on, guys, Mrs. Bearden was nice enough to not give us any homework, and so we should be nice to her and take care of this ourselves.”  Love it, right?  Then they decided that since the Manager’s job (maybe I should post about our classroom jobs some day soon) to check in homework, and they don’t have that responsibility anymore, then the Manager should be the one who is in charge of adding new pins to the map each week.  Which actually makes perfect sense, since we want the map to be interactive and usually I am the only one interacting with it!  Loved the idea of how it meant they could each get their paws on it, and be responsible to find the places for the pins.  I actually though, “Duh, Mrs. Bearden.  You probably should have thought of that initially–it’s kind of the point of the whole project.”  But now it’s even better because it was my 5th grade friends who reminded me of this fact.  Thank you, friends.

Another decision they made–which I agreed with again–was that our map was entirely too small!  We had so many pins already and they were all on top of each other.  Just St. Louis alone had about 6 or 7 because we marked them as each individual town.  So we found a bigger map and hung it up and we LOVE IT!  Check it out:

They decided to move it to the other side of the room to that big wall by the door.  It’s easier to get to, and it’s somewhere we’re always walking by, so we could look at it and talk about it really easily, too.

Most of our pins right now are in the US and Canada, and our new map makes them much easier to see.

It might look like we have a lot of blog followers in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (or like my map friends don’t know where Missouri is!), but those are actually linked to a pin that’s on St. Louis.  We had a really interesting conversation about how we could label our own hometown in all of those ways.  So far we have blog commenters from St. Peters, Florissant, Fenton, Webster Groves, Crestwood, Kirkwood, and Bel Ridge–all part of the metropolitan St. Louis area.

But this still might be my favorite pin.  Courtesy of Judy McKenzie in New Zealand.  Check out her class blog here. 🙂

Are you connected?

Today I was at school all by myself.  Ok, not all by myself, but without any students there.  It was a work day for teachers before students return tomorrow.  And it’s definitely a nice way to ease back into the school routine slowly.

I had a couple of goals today, one of them being this new bulletin board:

It’s right at the front of the room, behind the rocking chair I sit in for read aloud and much of our carpet time.  I hope it becomes a place where we can have daily conversations about the world, specifically about the people and places we’re connecting with via our blogs.  The plan is to mark the places where visitors (and those who leave comments) to our site are from.  I anticipate some really rich conversations around culture and geography will spark from this map–thanks to you, our readers.  Can’t wait to see how full the board becomes as the year goes on.

Will you help us?  We’d love to set the goal of getting as many different pins as possible on our map! Be sure to leave us a comment after you read and tell us a little about your town and yourself.  My kids would love it if you did the same on their blogs, as well, which can be found at

Can’t wait to see who we will meet this year!

Monday, Monday…

Remember the other day when I told you that learning is messy?  Well yesterday was another day when that happened in our classroom.  But the reason I’m writing about it again is because besides being messy, it was again really successful.  Only this time, it was in Social Studies.

Mondays are very unusual days in our classroom.  At some points during reading you can look around and only see 5 or 6 kiddos, because of the schedule of pull-outs and other things.  And for whatever reason, Social Studies on these days always seems to be really hard for our class.

But this was not one of those days!  We’re studying Ancient West Africa, which is hard for many of us to wrap our heads around, since it was so long ago and so far away.  We’ve tried at least 3 or 4 different structures and plans to make this unit work for us, but it still seemed like we’d get to the end of the Social Studies time and feel like we weren’t any farther than the day before! Well, today we tried something else.

We’re working on creating class charts–think murals or collages–that highlight all of the things we need to remember for the kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Songhai.  The thinking is focused around the 5 disciplines of Social Studies: history, economics, civics, culture and geography.  Here’s some that were made for the Cahokia unit:


Well, this time around the idea was the same, but I changed some of the specifics.  Instead of working in groups completely on their own to read, take notes and then create their representation, we met in small groups during Reader’s Workshop to do the reading and research part.  I went through the text with each group (each was responsible for a single discipline, all related to Mali), and we read and discussed what we thought was important.  A recorder took notes for the group, then before they left the table, we made a plan for what their group was going to make.  We decided right then who would do what, and then their group left to get to work.  Instead of squeezing this project into just one Social Studies time (I know–crazy, right?  I’ve had several good friends tell me how stupid I was to expect it all to get done in 45 minutes!), we used part of our reading block and added on our Social Studies time, too.  Altogether, they were able to work for about an hour or more one day, then finish this part today (Tuesday).

I’m not really sure exactly what part worked out the best, but I know for sure it worked.  Every group was busy and quiet and focused for the entire time.  And when we were finished and I said my usual, “May I have your attention please?”, they knew what I was going to say.  This Monday, unlike many others, we were all going home in a good mood, having learned a lot.  They knew it was a good time; it just felt different. Our buckets were full and so were our heads–with concepts about Ancient West Africa as well as how to work together towards a common goal.  And they came back today determined to figure out how to make it happen again.