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Floyd Elementary teacher using social media to teach geography

A teacher at Floyd Elementary School is bringing geography from the textbook to the Internet for a real-world experience with her third grade class.

Kayla Sprague is using the social media application, Skype, to teach what she calls a ‘Geography Hunt.’

Sprague learned about an online community known as ‘Mystery Skype,’ where she uses Skype to connect with another third grade class somewhere in the United States.

The purpose is for students to find out exactly where the other class is located by asking a series of closed-ended, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.

The class who comes up with the other class’ location first is deemed the winner.

“I have a friend who teaches a third grade class in Georgia, so I thought why we don’t do that with her?” she said.

Unbeknownst to her students, Sprague was referring to Samantha Mays, a third grade teacher at Shirley Hill Elementary School in Warner Robins, Georgia.

Sprague said due to the difference in time zones, the project had to take place at 11 a.m. Pahrump time.

“It took a little planning because Georgia is three hours ahead of us which is why we had to do it in the morning,” she said. “Before this all got underway we did a lot of practicing and we first had to learn north, south, east, and west directions. We started using maps and I would ask them what state is north of Kansas and after that, we just used those same skills down to the city until they were able to do it on their own.”

Once the project was underway, students at the respective schools asked questions to narrow down a particular region, state, city and town to determine which school the students attended.

Both schools utilized standard paper maps as well as the Google Maps application to essentially create a ‘process of elimination’ formula, as the students began getting closer to each other’s campus.

A big smile came to Sprague’s face when the students from Georgia asked Pahrump students, “Are you guys west of Charleston Peak?” which was an obvious reference to southern Nevada’s Mt. Charleston.

Once Floyd students responded with a collective “Yes,” the Georgia students’ first guess was Manse Elementary School on the valley’s far north end.

“We used yes or no questions only, because we didn’t want responses such as ‘maybe’ which doesn’t really give them a good picture of where they need to be looking on the map,” Sprague said.

Floyd students, meanwhile queried whether the town of Macon was at or near their counterpoint’s campus.

Turns out, the two towns are 19 miles apart.

Though Floyd students were closing in, it was the Shirley Hill students who were first to ask, “Do you guys go to Floyd Elementary School?”

The question elicited a resounding “Yes” among Sprague and her class.

The timing could not have been better, as the Floyd’s noon time lunch bell rang just seconds after the Floyd campus was identified.

Sprague noted geography is a regular part of her classroom assignments under the umbrella of social studies.

“It’s a lot of fun and a lot of learning and even though our class did not find their school before they found us, they were really happy and excited to take part in this,” she said. “The students were excited and I wanted to integrate some sort of technology which is why I had two students on the computer using Google Maps.”

Though the students were not able to continue their discussions with their counterparts 2,109 miles apart, Sprague said both classes would resume their Skype session the following day.

“For our second Skype session, the students created a list of five questions that they will ask the other students, including their local culture, what their school colors and mascot are and what happens when they get into trouble and stuff like that,” she said.

Additionally, Sprague indicated that the exercise may become a regular part of her curriculum in the future.

“I think this may be an ongoing project with my classes,” she said. “Now that I have done it once, I will branch out and start doing the mystery Skype community and we might get a classroom from somewhere in Europe perhaps.”

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com.

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