Tuesday, November 1st was our last official day together as a group. The time went too fast and we all could have stayed longer to learn more. The morning session was a visit to St. Cyprian's school, a private school for girls. They said that the closer to the mountain you were, the richer you were and this school was pretty much as close to the mountain as you could get. The students here pay 64,000 Rand a year (over $8000 USD) to attend. There are scholarships available and they also have students who are boarders.
This school was absolutely amazing! We were greeted in every hallway by smiling people who all wished us a good morning. The atmosphere was happy, light, and positive. The rooms had great windows and amazing pictures that were the size of their walls based on what type of class was taught in that room. I am actually trying to find images that I can use in my room to ask if they would purchase one or two for some of the grey wall space in my lab.
They converted a gym space into a media center. In the center is a spiral staircase that leads to a loft area that holds giant bean bag chairs. There is wi-fi in this area, so they said that many of the girls find their way their in their free time with their laptops to sit and work. This was probably the first library that I've seen that I would even spend time in. One other feature of note was that they had thin clients in their media center and were putting 5 or 6 thin clients in the classrooms for quick research. The teachers said that they are wonderful to use to look something up while class is in session. I wish my teachers would use those that they have in our classrooms in this way.
When we moved down to their lower school, we went into a grade 1 classroom (I believe) where they were all actively participating in learning centers. There were girls standing on chairs in the back of the room at the word wall copying their vocabulary words down, others working on some sort of writing activity, and a group at the front of the room using Mouse Mischief with the teacher at the SMARTBoard. I have to admit that I had heard of Mouse Mischief awhile back, but hadn't taken the time to look at it. Now that I saw it in action I am plotting ways to get my teachers to use it in their classrooms. What a great tool to keep kids involved!
They also took us on a tour of their music department. What an amazing place this was! They have practice rooms for every instrument family and a rock lab! One of the instructors has a strong rock background and they have, I believe, two performing rock groups amongst many other performing ensembles. They are also starting to use iPads to assist in teaching guitar. Hopefully St. Cyprian's will be a new part of the Rock Our World team for next season! They would be an amazing addition to the team.
Before we left, we were introduced to some of the students that were involved in their award winning Phantom Tollbooth project. I'd try to explain it, but I think they did it better. Here is a link to their story in their words.
Our last professional meeting was with Mark Horner. He is involved in a project called Siyavula. Siyavula is a Nguni word that means “we are opening.” The goal of this group is to share teaching resources and benefit from the use of technology. This group has written several textbooks that are available online through a site called Connexions. The textbooks can be printed for use in the classroom, used online, downloaded and adapted to meet different situations, and shared with everyone around the world. Their end goal would be to have texts written for every subject that are used online in classrooms and adapted to meet the needs of the students.