Saturday, July 20, 2024

Get Schooled: Students Use Twitter to Advocate for the Bay

Students at Queens Lake Middle School recently became teachers to the world at large, crafting tweets to educate their followers about the Chesapeake Bay.

The seventh-graders were participating in the Chesapeake Studies for Virginia Middle Schools program, offered by the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (CBNERR) at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

The program, which started in 2005, aims to teach students about their local environment and culture, while satisfying the Virginia Standards of Learning for life science.

Students participating in the Chesapeake Studies program get to enjoy one full-day field experience at VIMS, a pair of visits to the classroom by Education Specialist Jaclyn Miller and classroom supplies to conduct their own experiments.

I had the good fortune to spend a day at VIMS’ Gloucester campus with a Yorktown Middle School class in 2011 (read about it here) and it was really neat to see how literally pulling on waders and collecting specimens helped them make connections to what they learned in the classroom. Those kinds of connections not only help them ace the SOLs, but help them feel a personal attachment to the Bay.

As the program drew to a close this year, Queens Lake teacher Jaimee Buckley came up with the idea to spread her students’ enthusiasm to a much larger audience using Twitter, a social media site allowing users to “follow” the tweets of other users. Twitter seemed perfect to Buckley because it allows users to categorize their tweets using hashtags, tools that group messages with similar content.

Sample tweets sent by Queens Lake seventh-graders for their Chesapeake Bay studies.

“At each step of the Chesapeake Studies program, the students were reminded the program was established so that teachers and students could pass on the information that they had learned and share it with others,” Buckley said in a press release. Twitter was the perfect avenue to fulfill that mission.

Buckley’s students tagged their Chesapeake Bay-related tweets with the hashtag #qlmscbv (Queens Lake Middle School Chesapeake Bay VIMS). Their tweets were quickly shared, or “retweeted,” by the accounts for VIMS and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, reaching their combined audiences of 8,939 followers. Soon, their teachers and principal were tweeting at them and engaging in conversation.

Some tweets pleaded with followers not to litter, while others shared tidbits about aquatic life. One tweet said, “Oysters filter the water! Take care of them!” Another taught me something new: “Eutrophication is the overproduction of algae, which causes sea plants underwater to get no light for photosynthesis.”

“My students were so excited to use social media in the classroom,” Buckley said. “Every time they would get retweeted by VIMS or the hashtag would get mentioned by people they didn’t even know, you could see and feel the excitement in the classroom. Many of the students said they felt like they had been heard and thought they’d made a positive impact on Chesapeake Bay.”

Buckley’s idea to use Twitter in the classroom is an inspired way to satisfy program goals without sacrificing fun. It also gives students a taste of advocacy, and speaking out about something they believe is important.

York SB to Discuss Budget, CIP on Monday

The York County School Board approved its 2014 budget on March 18, but the board will continue to discuss the budget at a work session Monday.

The work session agenda includes updates to the Capital Improvements Program and the operating budget. The board will also discuss a draft of a Request for Proposals to contract a firm to study the division’s salary scale for teachers.

The session will begin at 6 p.m. in the East Room at York Hall.

HRA Students Tour Colleges

Hampton Roads Academy’s juniors spent March 22 and 23 touring six colleges and universities with the College Counseling staff. The tour aims to help students begin the college search process, addressing their concerns about applications and course selections as they go.

The tours included informational sessions with admissions officials and campus tours, as well as meals in the dining halls with HRA alumni.

Armed Forces Association ‘Adopts’ Tabb Middle School

Tabb Middle School has been selected by the Armed Forces Communication & Electronic Association (AFCEA) as a STEM Adopt-A-School.  The AFCEA will provide resources to our school in support of STEM initiatives and activities.

AFCEA representatives and a representative from IBM presented Terry Guthrie with a check for $4,025 to engage students in engineering concepts and enhance critical thinking skills.  Guthrie will be purchasing iPads and wind generators, and participating in a STEM Engineering conference this summer.

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