IMS/MN Center students ‘voyage’ to Great Barrier Reef

By Patricia Peterson

District 911 Teacher

Seventh grade students at Isanti Middle School and the Minnesota Center traveled approximately 8500 miles to The Great Barrier Reef in Australia on March 18. The students took part in a videoconference where they “dove” into the Great Barrier Reef Aquarium environment with a diver. They also participated in a presentation and interactive discussion with members of the aquarium staff in Australia.

IMS students created a Great Barrier Reef presentation of their own in their science class with Mrs. Salo after studying and researching marine life in the reef environment. Art students in Mrs. Peterson’s class created an oil pastel of a life form that lives in the Great Barrier Reef. These art projects were displayed along with the science projects the night of the videoconference.

The students returned to school at night for the presentation since there is a 16-hour time difference between Isanti and the Reef area. The students were encouraged to invite their families to the videoconference, and 280 students, parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members attended the event. After the videoconference coffee, juice, and cookies were provided by the Isanti Middle School Parent Advisory Committee.

The conference began with an explanation by two presenters in Australia at the aquarium that explained and described the reef area and the creatures that live there. There were also two “live dives” where the students observed a diver in the water within the reef environment of the aquarium. The diver explained the fish, sharks and other marine life that the students were observing first hand.

The presenters engaged the entire audience by encouraging them to answer the presenters’ questions and then encouraged the audience to ask their own questions of the presenters. The audience was attentive and did a wonderful job.

It is the goal of the Isanti Middle School and The Minnesota Center to have all students participate in at least one videoconference each year in school. This type of experience brings the world into the students’ learning arena and encourages them to be open to new and different learning activities. It also provides an opportunity for students to be aware of different areas of the world they might not be able to visit or see during their middle school educational time.

Memories and quotes from the students about the event:

Abby T.- “I liked interacting with the presenters. I also liked learning about all the animals that live in or near the reef.”

Ellie S.- “It was worth going to because you could see where all of the creatures live.”

Rebekka A.- “You could ask a real question and get a real answer. It was very interactive, and I liked the gestures and motions that we were taught to represent a turtle and a shark.”

Cullen O.- “I liked how you could see the diver right there in the water next to the sharks!”

Adam B.- “The videoconference had a lot of interesting facts about The Great Barrier Reef and all the animals and sea life in it.”

Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Salo would also like to thank the students and family members that night for their time and enthusiasm.