A recent trip to Palm Springs, California afforded me the opportunity for five site visits over two days! The first involved a stop at Sitting Bull Academy in Apple Valley on February 13. There I visited the classroom of Susan Cooper, a fourth grade teacher who has been using The Walking Classroom since August of 2015.
Sitting Bull Academy’s Story
In addition to its being named a California Distinguished School, Sitting Bull Academy was recently identified by character.org as a 2018 State School of Character for its dedicated focus on character development. Led by Principal Phyllis Carnahan, the school has over 1,400 students in grades K-8. The enclosed campus is expansive and includes separate middle school and elementary school buildings divided by a courtyard.
Starting Out . . .
After a scenic drive north, during which I got to experience the (literal) ups and downs of the varied California terrain, I arrived at the school. I was warmly greeted in the office and directed to Mrs. Cooper’s classroom by an obliging middle school student.
We had some time before our walk, so I told the students a little bit about The Walking Classroom’s history and answered some questions about my travels. I learned that by visiting them, I was at an elevation of about 3,500 feet and thus, in the high desert, where the weather was more moderate and the temperatures cooler than they had been in Palm Springs!
Selecting Podcasts . . .
As our talk turned to podcasts, the students shared that Mrs. Cooper aligns the podcasts to topics they are covering in class. They quickly provided me with a list of those podcasts to which they’d recently listened.
• Robert Frost (4-#23, Combined-#33)
• First Person vs. Third Person (4-#44, Combined-#19)
• Mountains (4-#77, STEM-#21, Combined-#136)
• Volcanoes (4-#76, STEM-#19, Combined-#138)
The podcast selection for the day of my visit was Idioms, a podcast present in both Program 4 and Program 5 (4-#7, 5-#3, Combined-#3), and consistently topping the list of students’ most favorite podcasts.
To prepare for the podcast, Mrs. Cooper used one of the adopter resources provided by The Walking Classroom – a PowerPoint slide deck, which she projected onto the SmartBoard. She shared a podcast summary and key vocabulary, and the students were ready to go!
. . . and We’re Off!
We made our way outside, with the “pace cars” leading the way. The morning was beautiful – clear and bright, though a bit cool (as could be expected from the high desert)! It was the perfect day for the scheduled 9:00 a.m. walk.
Fortunately, the terrain of the walk was much flatter than that of my earlier drive! We headed out the classroom and turned right, walking alongside the building then continuing towards the middle school, where we followed the perimeter of the basketball court, then went back in the direction of the elementary school.
Dialogue and Discussion
After pictures outside, we headed back to the classroom for additional discussion. Mrs. Cooper followed up with the final slide in the PowerPoint, a recap summarizing the big ideas of the podcast. Students shared their favorite idioms from the podcast and were challenged to think of some other idioms on their own.
. . . and Time for Me to Fly (figuratively speaking!)!
I ended my visit to Sitting Bull Academy with some photos of the class and shot a brief video message for Mrs. Fenn and the folks back at The Walking Classroom. Then, I hit the trail to head south to Moreno Valley for a site visit (and some different temperatures!) in the low desert!