Seven pupils from Tonto Basin school wrapped up the year with a trip to Canada. They flew over 1200 miles away to meet 64 of the other students they had been communicating with throughout the past school year as part of the Connections program.
"The trip was awesome," said teacher Annetta Carpenter. "It was very well organized."
Carpenter was one of seven sixth-grade teachers (she also teaches seventh graders) selected by the Smarter Kids Foundation to participate in the "Connections" program. While all of her pupils did not get to go to Canada, during the school year they were able to post class projects so that other pupils in Mexico, the United States and Canada could learn geography in a more personal way.
The grant provided Carpenter's 2005-2006 classroom with an interactive white board, nearly the size of a traditional chalkboard that hangs on the classroom wall called a "SMART Board."
Simply by touching the large display, users can access and control any computer application or multimedia platform.
Because they had seen pictures and profiles on the Web sites, the children recognized each other when they met.
The Connections group stayed in cabins at Camp Chestermere, near Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The children shared cabins and meals with their new friends from Zebulon, Georgia; Corning, Iowa; New York, Manitoba, Canada; and Mexico. They sang songs around the campfire.
Student Ned Barkley liked the archery there because that was close to the hunting he likes to do at home.
"The archery wasn't a competition, it was just for fun," Barkley said.
"Going up on the Gondola up to the mountains (at Banff National Park) was the most fun," said 11-year-old Amanda Hartnell.
Tylar Mollenhauer, 11, remembers the dingos (wild dogs from Australia) and the giraffes at the Calgary Zoo.
"They had a lot of different animals than they do at the Phoenix Zoo," she said. "They gave us carrots and we got to feed the giraffes."
Chelsey Goodin jumped in excitedly and said, "The giraffes' tongues rolled out really far and they were purple, and they rolled their tongues around the carrots and sucked them into their mouths."
As much fun as it was to feed a giraffe, Goodin said the thing she'll remember most is the Royal Tyrrell Museum, even though one of the rooms had a glass floor she was afraid to step onto at first because it had model dinosaurs and skeletons and models below.
The group also visited the Calgary police station's canine unit.
The Connections program is funded through a grant for a single year, but Carpenter said she and the other teachers involved plan to "stay connected" though e-mail and letters with next year's classes.
"The grant was well worth the effort," Carpenter said.
If any teacher wants information about it, they can contact her at the Tonto Basin School.
The Smart Kids Foundation Web site has information and applications at www.smarterkids.org.
-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.