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Volcanologist visits Churchville Elementary students

Messenger Post Media
Monroe County Post

The intersection of history with real life adds a whole new dimension to learning. Just ask fourth graders at Churchville Elementary School, who experienced this when a class reading project on the eruption of Vesuvius at Pompeii grew into a real-time Zoom visit with Ph.D. candidate and volcano expert Amelia Winner from the University of Oregon.

A collaboration between library media specialist Katie Andres and fourth-grade teachers Diane Gratton, Tracy Moran, Lindsey Salvas, Katy Miner and Sydnee Tucciarello focused on historical fiction and combined elements of both grade-level English language arts and library curriculum standards.

Churchville Elementary School teacher Diane Gratton and her class welcome the dozens of fourth graders participating remotely in the volcanology presentation.

“We used the book ‘I Survived the Destruction of Pompeii, AD 79’ by author Lauren Tarshis to spark students’ interest and learning,” Andres said. “What I love about this author is that she made the content of her story accessible to online learners with a series of videos and encouraged readers to learn more by adding associated ‘quests.’ I created my own corresponding read-aloud videos and expanded the author’s quests to incorporate digital resources available to CES students.”

Videos and research materials were posted on Google Classroom for students to access each week for their class assignments, adhering to publisher’s guidelines and giving students an opportunity to learn a little about copyright law. 

Volcanologist Amelia Winner answers questions and interacts with her young audience from her home in Oregon.

The real-life portion of the story came together due to a personal connection Gratton has with Winner, who agreed to lead a Zoom session with the fourth grade classes, including 40 students calling in from home. 

In anticipation of the meeting, students generated a list of questions based on her career path, education and specialty area within volcanology. Students also asked about volcanology tools of the trade, field work, lab research and volcanoes in general. Winner interacted with the students, and shared photos and videos of live volcanoes.

“I’ve been honored to work with an incredible team of teachers at CES to make this all happen,” Andres said. “It takes a team to navigate hybrid and synchronous learning, and I am fortunate to work with the best.”

Library media specialist Katie Andres facilitates the presentation and keeps everything running smoothly.