Save Our Rhino’s Global Classroom Project: Using Our Voices to Raise Awareness

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On Wednesday, December 10th our class skyped with Karen Stadler who lives in South Africa. Karen started a project called the Traveling Rhinos Project. The Traveling Rhinos Project is a project that is helping raise awareness around the world to stop rhino poaching. The reason why people are poaching is because rhino horns are as valuable as gold, and they think rhino horns can heal you.

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Part 1 of our Interview with Karen

She raised awareness by sending out five stuffed rhinos to different classes in the world and they passed it on to other classes.  The stuffed rhino we got is named Siyanda. When we were skyping with her we all asked her a question. What I found cool is that she made the Traveling Rhinos Project and the website all by herself!  We learned a lot about her and it was pretty fun skyping with her to learn about Rhino horn poaching problem.

Part 2 of our Class Interview with Karen 

Students then created awareness posters and poems and shared them with our school and via our @mcdclassroom instagram and twitter accounts. Our next step was to reach out to local media with letters to the editor.

Below you’ll find a sampling of 5 letters written by Grade 6 students in our class. You’ll learn about their passion to help others understand this issue and give them information on how they can help. It would be great for them to see how they can effect change positively by their words and their actions. We are waiting to hear back from our local papers.


Mr. McDonald and Korinna

Here are the letters we shared with our local news papers:

I am a grade 6 student at Fraser Wood Elementary in Surrey.
I am writing because I recently came aware of what has been happening to rhinos. My name is Ava and our class has been learning lots about rhinos this year.

Rhinos are endangered animals that may soon be extinct, if we don’t change what is happening to them. I have been really concerned about rhinos lately because there are only about 30 000 left in the wild and to start with there where 500 000 rhinos. So far in 2014 they have killed/ poached 1020 rhinos. Now the greatest hazard to their survival due to their poaching and habitat destructions. I don’t think that humans should be the rhinos worst enemy.

Now is the time to take action and change the situation. Some things you can do are: stop buying rhino products, get informed about the issue by visiting, and donate to organizations. We need to work to stop the carnage before it is to late. We need to care about are rhinos because rhinos are pretty much just like humans but they are animals. Rhinos have enemy’s just like us,they eat food just like us and they especially have family’s just like us.

Every time a human poaches a rhino the rhinos family is torn just like yours. How would you be if you lost someone in your family?

Grade 6
Fraser Wood Elementary
To The Editor,

I am Korinna, a Grade 6 Student in Fraser Wood Elementary and I am writing to you to tell you about what’s happening to rhinos.

In the whole world there are only 2000 rhinos left. Do you know why there are only 2000 left? People poach rhinos for their horns. Their horns are as valuable as gold and people seem to think that rhino horns are vaccine to heal the sick. I know the rhino horns can sound really valuable, but they just cut the horn off and then leave it’s body on the ground. What if you were hurt and you were just left on the ground?

In my class we are part of a project called the “Traveling Rhino Project“. The Traveling Rhino Project is a global classroom project that’s raising awareness by sending out five stuffed rhinos to different classes in different parts of the world.

Help stop rhino extinction! Rhinos are being poached and their leaving baby rhinos on their own and getting themselves killed. It’s decreasing the rhino population. What if this happened to you? SAVE OUR RHINOS!


Grade 6 Student
Fraser Wood Elementary
To the Editor

I am Madysen of Frasser Wood Elementary and I am writing to you to talk about saving the rhinos and why they are being poached.

They are being poached for their horns because they are worth more than gold. There are only 5 species left of our unique and beautiful rhinoceroses. Rhinos are living creatures that are innocent and have a life just like we do. If rhinos go extinct earths future pedestrians will not get to experience rhinos. Horns are important to rhinos because they belong to them and no-one else. If you were a baby rhino how would you feel if your parents were poached just for their horns and medicine?

To find more information on the Global Classroom Projects and what other students around the world are doing to help the Rhinos go to


Madysen, Gr.6
Fraser Wood Elementary
Surrey, B.C.
To the Editor,

Hey my name is Andrew and I am a grade 6 student in Fraser Wood elementary school and my class is part of the travelling rhinos global classroom project. You are welcome to visit the website at I am writing to you because I am concerned that rhinos are going to be extinct pretty soon.

It said that if we don’t take action now they predict that rhinos will be extinct in 2022.There has been poaching rhinos around in South Africa, and other places where rhinos live. There are only 5 rhino species left in the world. So far, 1550 rhinos have been poached in South Africa. People are killing rhinos for the horns because they think it’s medicine, but scientists prove that they don’t cure any disease or illness. Kruger National Park has been a target for poachers because 80% of South Africa’s rhinos live there. 500 rhinos are killed only in Kruger National Park. Baby rhinos are orphans because poachers are killing there mothers instead of the baby because the babies aren’t grown up yet.

We can help rhinos not being extinct by raising an awareness all around the world. Which will get governments, and etc attention to help rhinos. In South Africa, the word spread that rhinos are going to be extinct, so there is a rhino on a dollar bill.

How would you feel if you saw your mother getting killed right in front of you?

Grade 6 Student
Fraser Wood Elementary
To the Editor,

I’m Jivan a grade 6 student at Fraser Wood elementary school. I am writing to inform you about what’s happening to rhinos in Africa and Asia. People should care about these animals because rhinos have been dying because of people poaching their horns.

People need to treat rhinos like their own because there are only 5 white rhinos left in the world. You can help save the rhinos by informing your friends and family and everybody else you can think of this terrible problem. If you want more information please go to and learn more about these beautiful animals.

Imagine when a rhino dies… it is like one of their family members dies. About 1 to 2 rhinos die a day so about 64 rhinos die a month and if that does not get you mad then imagine a rhino family member and every month 64 of their family members die. A sad thing to think about.

Save the Rhino Grade 6 student
Fraser Wood Elementary

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26 More Videos that Sparked Genius Hour Thinking, Collaboration, and Actions in Our Class

In my classroom over the last few years I’ve shown many Youtube videos to inspire resiliency, grit, hope, and discussion prior to guiding them in the creation of their inquiry questions about their passions and wonders during our weekly Genius Hour time.  This post is a follow up post to my post 23 Videos that Sparked Genius Hour Thinking, Collaboration, and Actions.  Many of those videos and the ones I am sharing now were shared with me through the wonderful connections I have made with educators learners on Twitter, Facebook, and at workshops.  I am continually inspired by the educators in my personal learning network.  Thank you to all of you who share your learning and inspirations daily.  You have helped me make sense of the ideas that are floating around in my head.  I am proud to say that students in my classes are constantly inspiring each other and their teacher.  Some of their work is shared on the list below.

Enjoy the list and please share your own favourites.


Hugh McDonald

1.  What’s Your Sentence

2.  Moonshot Thinking

3.  Dot Day 2014 – @mcdclassroom

4.  The Fairy Scientist

5.  Sara Bareilles – Brave

6.  Sweet Baby Experiences Rain for the Very First Time

7.  Audrey’s 20% Project Promo

8.  The Power of Kiva

9.  20% Projects 2013

10.  Random Acts of Kindness caught on film

11.  Carol Dweck on the Power of Yet

12.  3 Year Old Climbs a Chain Bridge 1 Step At A Time

13.  Rubik’s Cube:  A question, waiting to be answered

14.  Learn How to Dance – Hip Hop (Time Lapse)


15.  How Hot Does it Get in a Parked Car Dr Ernie Ward


16.  Toddlers Collaborate to Move A Picnic Table


17.  Audri’s Rube Goldberg Monster Trap

18.  Jessica’s “Daily Affirmation”

19.  TEDxToronto – Drew Dudley “Leading With Lollipops”

20.  Snap Your Joy

21.  Sylvia’s Super Awesome Mini Maker Show: Rockets

22.  The Invisible Bicycle Helmet

23.  Back to School!?!?! – Live A Little

24.  Try Something New for 30 Days – Matt Cutts

25.  Road to Mt. Kilimanjaro – Kitty McKay – TEDxGrossePointeSouthHS

26.  For the Heroes: A Pep Talk from Kid President

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I appreciate this on so many levels or should I say layers of me.

Vendramin's Views

“Layers… Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers… 
You get it? We both have layers!”


IMG_7264I’m a lucky person!

I consider myself lucky for many reasons. Among these reasons are my health, the family I am part of, and the work I do in schools that allows me to make a positive difference every day. What more could I ask?

Most people who know me would also say that I am fairly laid back and that not too much bothers me. For the most part, I think that’s true.

I’ve been sitting on this blog topic for some time and it’s only until quite recently that my wonderful admin partner, Kelli Vogstad (@KelliVogstad), encouraged me to express my thoughts. So, here I go.

I sometimes feel misunderstood and it bothers me! There, I said it.

You see, I have been with the same school district for…

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Attempting to Make Learning Meaningful: #geniushour #mysteryskype #comments4kids #kidLitReview #kiva

This past week I was invited by Dean Shareski and Discovery Education to be part of the first Vancouver Ignite (#yvrignite) session host by the Discovery Education Network.  It was awesome opportunity to share some of my learning, experiences, and learn and connect with a number of educators around British Columbia whom I connect and learn with on twitter. Below are my slides and accompanied notes for my presentation… “My Attempts in Making Learning Meaningful”.  The Ignite presentation format is 20 slides in 5 minutes.  It went fast and it was quite a thrill.  I even broke the rules a little and chatted about 30 seconds over… and used comic sans font on my opening slide.  I know… quite the rebel!

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 3.30.22 PM In the last 3 ½ years the way I learn and teach have undergone a transformation. I have learned more about myself as a learner, and I have learned more about what is important to me as teacher.

I am passionately curious and always seeking deeper meaning and understanding in every aspect of my practice and person.   I have learned I can make discoveries about my practice, question it, and implement new ideas the next day without fear of what could happen but with excitement of what is possible.

I was having difficulty engaging a class in their learning. I created journal topics, choice socials, science, and Language Arts projects with perfectly created rubrics… yet projects were not being completed and criteria was not being met on a regular basis. Students who were constantly asking me, “What did I get? Instead of questioning themselves about what did they learn.

It frustrated me. Then I read an exchange of tweets between Angela Maiers and Denise Krebs. Genius Hour in the classroom!!! Time for Autonomous and Meaningful personal learning in the Classroom!

Letting go of me controlling what to learn was easier than I thought. I watched Denise do it in her class and showed her classes’ learning samples with my students a couple days later.  Along with my teaching colleague Gallit Zvi we noticed it was the students who were at a loss for words… “Do you mean we can learn anything we want?” They cheered and then questioned… “What do I Wonder About?” They were engaged and I was hooked on how I could continue to make learning meaningful in other areas of my class.

Stumbling through cat videos and laughing babies I came across a Dan Pink Video titled the 1 sentence project.

I thought this would be the perfect way to connect Peter Reynold’s “The Dot” with Genius Hour. The Dot describes the impact you can have by taking that first step and making your mark. The sentence became their declarative statement about what their sentence would be after this school year. It became their lens that helped them question whether what they were learning in class was helping make the mark they wanted.


Students wondered about the cure for cancer, how do you juggle a soccer ball, play the piano, or how can I build a mini computer. All I needed to do is give them time, opportunity, and answer their questions with a question.  Learning ceases to become cumbersome to students when you hear stories of student’s spending hours of their time at home advocating, tinkering, creating, and learning to ask questions about things they are interested in.

Finding more meaningful opportunities for my students to take steps into inquiry learning has become my passion.   I want them to discover places, locations, people, and worlds they could never have imagined through questions they ask themselves with their global audience.  Conversations on our blogs, through skype and google hangout flatten our world for us and make the world more accessible to learners.

Another newly discovered passion is reading for enjoyment.  I was turned off of reading for enjoyment for a long time because I found reading to be a difficult task rather than an imaginative journey. I had no passion for it but after listening to author David Bouchard speak a few years ago I learned if a community of readers in my classroom were to ever develop I needed to read the titles they were reading and give recommendations to them and expect my students to do the same.


Not because it was required but because it is fun to talk about stories. Students now have monthly personal reading goals for themselves, a collective goal as a class, a list of books they have read, and opportunities to share in conversations about a book they were reading with peers online and off.  Teacher and author Pernille Ripp inspired me along the way with her constant sharing of her ideas about creating a culture of passionate readers in her classroom.

Twitter is a powerful medium that can support relationships and learning for educators and students.   This realization came for me when I discovered the hashtag #comments4kids on twitter. It was a place where educators can post their student’s blogs in hopes of getting authentic feedback from classes or teachers.


I tried it a few times a few years ago and was surprised to see how far the reach was. Soon I found myself commenting on student blogs around the world and sharing my student’s blog link in my signature after each comment.

You’d be surprised at how many revisions a student will happily do if piece of their writing has the opportunity to make an impact on others.

A special connection occurred recently between author Ruta Septeys of Between Shades of Gray and a student after we discovered she was on twitter. We shared her blog post and question with her, and you can imagine that student’s excitement when a conversation occurred about the author’s visit to Lithuania to interview Holocaust Survivors prior to writing the novel.

I learned Bill Ferriter’s Salem Middle School Kiva Club was raising awareness, money, and having kids make informed decisions about which entrepreneurs they would loan money to at a Surrey Digital Learning Series event. These kids were coming to the club afterschool. It was fascinating to be able to have my students last year be able to ask grade 6s in North Carolina questions about their club.   Thank you also to my friend and Surrey colleague Diana Williams who along with her Kiva Ninjas inspired me that this was possible with learners in our district too.  Afterwards we used funds we raised with our grade 7s to fund micro loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Technology was supporting meaningful pedagogical learning opportunities, raising awareness, starting conversations, finding answers to their questions, and helping them make a difference.

Helping others involves students understanding that learning should lifelong and meaningful to them and others. Benjamin Franklin said it best. “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”



Hugh McDonald


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First #KidLitReview – One For The Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt


Below is our inaugural #KidLitReview post of One For The Murphys by Linda Mullaly Hunt from our classroom.  The grade 6 students in our class will have an option of completing a blog entries or a 1-2 minute video blog reviews of a youth fiction or non-fiction books of their choice.  I completed the first video blog post below to model for students the expectations for the blog.

Please check back to our Class Blog as students will be posting frequently their #KidLitReviews of books of their choosing.  If you are an author interested in having one of my grade 6 students review your novel please send me a note here.  I assure you the students are passionate about reading and are excited at the opportunity of making their mark and having their opinions heard and inspiring other classes and young readers by sharing their posts with our class twitter and instagram accounts under my guidance.  The students have individual and collective reading goals and are excited to share their passion with the world.  The students have a collective goal of reading 990 book this year.  Currently they have read 136 books.  Any inspiration and advice you can provide to the young authors and readers in our class would be welcomed.

Keep reading and enjoy the #KidLitReview reviews.

Mr. McDonald

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Seth on Sorting

This is something I find myself wondering about more and more. The fraud is that many people look at the world as a performance based community. When in fact the traits most valued and appreciated are the kindness, resiliency, and hard work a person displays within a community. I hope we keep moving forward inch by inch driven in schools by Mike’s words: “When will what we know change what we do?” We need to keep evolving schools to model what we appreciate about others in our community.


Much of what Seth Godin blogs about is food for thought, but every now and again he writes something that really strikes a chord with me and I need to put it in context. His recent piece on The wasteful fraud of sorting for youth meritocracy is just such a piece. He takes up a conversation that seems to be gaining more attention as we question the purpose of school and how we approach learning for students, both in and out of school. In part, I am drawn to the post because I nod my head in agreement while reading it and, in part, because it really challenges all of the structures we have created around schools.

Godin argues students are being taught our world is one in which people are picked based on performance. When it comes to activities like school sports and music, those running the programs might point out “that their job…

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The Joy in Saying “YET!” What a 3 Year Old Can Teach Us About Having a Growth Mindset

The other day I took my 3 and 5 year olds to a playground at a local park prior to watching my wife play her slo-pitch game. My 5 year old easily crossed a chain bridge and then my 3 year old attempted to cross and fell a couple seconds after grabbing hold of the chains with her hands.

She was about to give up when she told me, “I can’t do it.”

I replied, “You can’t do it… YET!”

She happily said, “Oh yeah… YET!”

She then proceeded joyfully to attempt to cross the bridge a 2nd/3rd/4th/5th time in quick succession.  She fell each time a few seconds after starting. On the 6th attempt she finally figured out the one step at a time strategy we were talking about previously and completed it.

She was so proud of herself, and she asked if I could video her doing it, “so I can show Mommy.”

The video above is the 7th attempt, and she couldn’t be more happy with herself!  This is the power of YET in action, and I was in tears when she high-fived me.  I only wished I videotaped all her attempts, so she can see what joy and perseverance looked like to her when she was 3.

I can’t help but constantly question myself on how I can inspire myself, family, students, and colleagues to continuously find the joy in saying yet, and enjoying the learning journey along the way.  Using the word yet changes a fixed-mindset to a growth mindset and a growth mindset brings  joy in the hard work when we face challenges.  Thank you to Carol Dweck and her book Mindset to contributing to my awareness about the power of a growth mindset.

Hugh McDonald


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Why the Global Read Aloud Matters

The importance of being connected gives students endless learning opportunities. I love this story shared by Pernille! Enjoy!

Pernille Ripp

Wednesday started out as a normal day at school.  I walked into the office to check my mailbox when our amazing secretary handed me a mystery package.  I immediately looked at the mailing label and was astounded when I saw this.

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Immediately curios, I ripped open the package and was surprised when I saw this

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The package came from Cathy Kreutter, the librarian at the International School of Uganda, and she was reaching out to me continue the global connectedness started by the Global Read Aloud.   Not only was I shocked, but I was also over the moon excited, because the other thing in the package was this…

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A book, written by Cathy, based on the American Folk Tale “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” meant to tell readers more about Uganda.  I couldn’t wait to read it to my students!  And what happened next…

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Paper Airplane Challenge Part 1 – Telling Our Learning Story

I rececently watched an English Fan who created a paper airplane and let it go from the upper deck of Wembley Stadium.  The paper airplane he created danced gracefully through the sky for what seemed like minutes and hit an unsuspecting Peru Soccer Player in the side of the head near midfield.  I don’t believe for a second they were trying to hit anyone.  In fact they themselves referred to it as a lucky shot.  They were just having fun and trying their best to see how far they could go.  Here is the video:



There are numerous videos shown from different angles that show this video was not altered in anyway.  After seeing this video I was immediately inspired and we attempted to recreate this event from the top of our skynet on our playground.  However another factor came into play that we didn’t initially think about.  Not all students/people are comfortable with heights.  Therefore students understood that they could throw their airplanes from whatever height they were comfortable with.

The students came up with many factors to what contributed to the airplane hitting the target.  Some of these included wind, airplane design, strength of throw, distance needed to cover, height, and the angle at which they throw their airplane at.  Below is a video of us documenting our attempts and noting that we need to adapt and tinker with our creations in order to attain our goal of hitting our target.  Enjoy our humourous attempts to hit our intended target.  Please note this is Part 1.



We will share Part 2 in an upcoming blog post.  The students have already started tinkering with their designs and throwing techniques.  In Part 2 we will share more of what they learned from their first attempt and what they did differently in their attempts to get more airtime to hit their intended target.


Enjoy!  My students would love to hear about your successes or challenges you had if you tried a similar challenge.







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Please Don’t Tell Me to Pick

I struggle with this as well. How can you choose when you have seen so much growth and success in each of your students? This is why we are not doing awards at our school this year.

Pernille Ripp

image from etsy

“…Please pick one or two students…” my heart freezes as I read the email.

Don’t make me pick, please.  Don’t make me single out one or two students, even if it is for recognition.  Why?  Because I don’t just have one or two students who deserve to be recognized.  I don’t have just have one or two students that have been representing our classroom well.  I don’t just have one or two students that are above the rest.  I have 27 students that all through the year have proved people wrong.  I have 27 students who all through the year have given me their best, even when they had no energy, even when they were lost, even when life threw one obstacle after another at them.  I have 27 who deserve special recognition, maybe not for the same things, but they all deserve the praise.  they all…

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