Research, Technology, & Diversity: Teacher Feature with Julie Hembree

To help fully integrate and celebrate the diversity of her school, teacher-librarian Julie Hembree at Cougar Ridge Elementary is utilizing technology, research, and literacy in an interesting and student-centered way!

Cougar Ridge had purchased 120 flags from around the world, which hang proudly and prominently around the school. Julie wanted to move a celebration of the flags beyond something superficial. In large part, she attributes this to her Microsoft Innovative Educator training, which focuses on 21st century learning, collaborating, and digging deeper.

She began this project by presenting her students with an authentic problem: The school had all these flags, how could they celebrate them?

Introducing and Organizing the Project

Julie capitalized on the existing resources (the flags), asking 5th grade students to engage in a research project to learn more about each country. Students were asked to identify the country of origin, location, traditions, climate, currency, and more. Students can complete this research by asking their peers, using library books, or browsing through CultureGrams with a series of questions. Julie has organized this project on Microsoft Teams, where students can access project documents and due dates, as well as turn in assignments.

Taking small steps with Teams is important, and Julie likes that everything is stored in one place. She says that the automatic save is a lifesaver for students because they don’t need to navigate to a folder, and lost paperwork is no longer an issue. For students who struggle to stay organized, Teams has been a wonderful solution. The 5th graders love that when they turn something in, there are little things (i.e. a pizza flies down from the corner), where they have a visual that says they’ve turned it in. The more consistently they use Office 365, the easier it is getting.

Currently, students are in the midst of the research portion of this project. Once students have collected the information in Teams, they will write a small summary of the high points of their country and present this summary.

Next Steps: Sharing Their Learning

Julie has chosen Flipgrid as her forum of choice, so each video that students produce will be uploaded to a Flipgrid. Flipgrid can easily be linked to a QR code, which makes viewing it easy!

Flipgrid signup screen

Students, teachers, community members, and parents that visit Cougar Ridge will be able to scan the QR code (placed under the flag) and learn more about the school and community. Julie anticipates that visitors will approach it differently – some will see the paper with the QR code and be curious. Others might say, “Oh, that flag is the Colombian flag, how can I learn more about it?” At Cougar Ridge when somebody walks in, it’s just not about the flag but who/what they represent – it’s about giving honor to those people and countries.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Julie hopes that the research project provides students, families, and community members with an authentic way to learn about the world. With only the flags hung up, the novelty will inevitably wear off over time. That’s too bad, because we live in a connected world and those flags represent people. If we deeply connect it, they can move their understanding forward.

Kudos to Julie for integrating inquiry, literacy, technology, and a celebration of our global community!

  1. As a former social studies teacher I LOVE this idea. What a great way for students to learn about countries while having input into the way those countries are celebrated in their school Thanks Julie!



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