Ray Huard … Kaden Troupe wrote a comic book in which a forest ranger warned that overhunting brown bears could lead to their extinction.
Jessica Lopez produced a video with a similar warning, but this one was about fish. “My animation is talking about how over-fishing can cause some types of fish to become extinct,” Jessica said as she explained her work.
“You could still fish, but not for the same kind over and over again,” Jessica said.
Sully Brown had a display showing how cilantro plants grow in native soil, with and without fertilizer.
The fertilized plants grew faster than those without fertilizer, but faded faster, Sully explained.
“If you want a faster harvest, go with fertilizer. If you want something nice for your garden, don’t use fertilizer,” Sully said.
He also made a puppet show explaining how many early settlers in Australia’s New South Wales died because the land was difficult to cultivate.
The projects Kaden, Jessica and Sully made were part of a recent COW night at Roosevelt Middle School in the Vista Unified School District.
COW stands for California, Ohio and Wisconsin, an acronym for a pilot project involving three school districts from different states collaborating through the Internet.
Roosevelt teachers Jessica Janes and Stephanie Daoust and their students teamed up with their counterparts in the Kettle Moraine School District in Wales, Wis., and Mentor Public Schools in Mentor, Ohio, in developing units of study and projects along a theme of how the Earth affects people and how people affect the planet.
Sully said he shared ideas for his plant project and a puppet show he made with a student in Wisconsin.
“We talked about our projects. We got to know each other better and how we did our projects,” Sully said. “We just gave each other advice.”
Vista student Jaiden Truax said one of her counterparts in Ohio helped with researching the Red Sea and natural borders while she looked into Egyptian history for a project she did illustrating the biblical story of Moses parting the sea.
At one end of a table, Jaiden built a scale-model Egyptian temple and, at the other end, she had a sandy-looking area labeled “the promised land.” In the middle, small figurines representing the fleeing Moses and his followers with Egyptian soldiers in pursuit were between two fish tanks representing the parted Red Sea.
The collaboration Jaiden and Sully established with their counterparts was one of the goals of the COW project but Janes said it was sometimes difficult for students from the three states to connect because of differences in time zones.
That’s one of the issues teachers will review in January when those from Ohio and Wisconsin come to Vista to meet face-to-face with Vista teachers to discuss how the COW project worked and how it can be improved.
“There’s a lot of possibilities but we have a lot to reflect on,” Janes said.
She said that she liked the idea of more “personalized learning,” which COW emphasized, letting
students pick what they would study and what projects they would make, as long as they met the overall theme.
“Kids have gotten a lot more choice about what they’re learning,” Janes said.
As a result, “They take a lot more pride in their work,” she said, adding, “They have a lot more of their own personality built into this.”
While some students flourished, Janes said others might need a little more structure, adding that finding the right balance could be one of the challenges in refining the project
Daoust said she, too, like the personalized learning approach of COW.
“I really thought it was very cool, letting students choose what they did,” Daoust said. “This way, students were able to showcase their interests and abilities. It sets them up for success.”
Daoust said she also liked collaborating with her colleagues teachers from other states.
“I thought it was really something,” Daoust said. “We got to brainstorm and share with other teachers.”
Daoust said she also noticed that parents were enthused about the COW program.
“They were as excited as much as the kids were,” Daoust said. “We had a lot more participation than I thought we would from parents.”
Erin English, who oversaw the COW project for Vista Unified, said the projects on display for COW night “far exceeded” her expectations.
“I’m completely blown away,” said English, principal of Vista Visions Academy and the district’s director of online and blended learning.