Our Biology students were working on a project related to ecology. The niece of one of our Biology teachers, who's currently a senior at the University of Virginia, posted a video to her Facebook page and suggested people watch it - it's called A Sublime Disruption (original link on Vimeo, we used the YouTube version because Vimeo is blocked by our filter, YouTube is not blocked anymore). Her aunt did, and thought it would be a good accompaniment to the ecology unit they had just started.
Our Biology team decided to show the video to our students and have them blog their reactions. Mr. Craig's class was up first - here's their blog post (Ms. Dinmore's - the aunt's - blog post came a little later).
Here's what happened next in the words of Mr. Craig (part of an email he sent out to parents of his Biology students):
Last weekend I received an e-mail from a 2006 graduate of Arapahoe that had been reading my Biology students' blog comments. She was impressed to say the least! She also had a coincidental connection to the video. She currently lives in Dublin Ireland and her boyfriend happens to be the brother of the individual that made the video "A Sublime Disruption." His name is Gareth Nolan, a film-maker who lives in Dublin as well. Gareth was also very impressed by the students comments and sent me an email thanking the students for their insight into his video. He mentioned that they found connections in his video to this planet that he never thought of.
We sent him a couple of questions: 1. Why did he take the trip? 2. What was one of the biggest environmental issues he saw while traveling the world? (This is of course what our Biology students are currently researching) His response is listed below:
1. I am from Dublin, Ireland where I currently live and work. I've lived in a few different places in my life, including Italy, Norway, London, and a brief time living in New York City. I currently work as a film maker and editor. In 2009, my mother passed away and left me a sum of money. She had multiple sclerosis and had a very difficult life. The journey was something I always wanted to do, but for family responsibilities I never got round to doing. I used the journey as a way of resetting my life and gaining a fresh start and perspective. It was largely unplanned other than a dream I'd always had to take the Transsiberian railway to China. Everything after that I made up as I went along, depending on who I met or what next took my fancy. In short it was life changing, and most importantly life reaffirming. Believe it or not the film was an after thought. I had camera with me that had a video function and I used it from time to time, but it was only when I got back that I decided to edit it together into what you see today.
2. I'm certainly no expert on ecology or environmental issues, but I'd have a layman's grounding in either - and am more than happy to talk to your students about what I saw. I have to say, one of the most pressing issues I saw was deforestation - especially on the island of Borneo. Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is a hotspot of biodiversity akin to the Amazon. It is divided between three countries - Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. I was once on a plane there flying over palm oil plantations which stretched as far as the eye could see - this would have amounted to 100 miles or more - in any direction. Sometimes the cities there are declared disaster zones because there is so much smoke in the air due to the slashing and burning happening in the forests beyond. These forests are home to species of rhino, elephants, leopards and the iconic Orang Utan, not to mention thousands of plant and animal species - some of which are just mind blowing - giant bats, spiders, moths, frogs, flying lizards and the Rafflesia which is the world's biggest flower. I was lucky enough to spend time in forests in both the Peruvian and Bolivian Amazon, and nothing felt as exotic as Borneo. Frankly, seeing the destruction was heart breaking and brought home to me a complex issue which I never fully appreciated before.
How cool!!! Your student is impacting people from across the world. I think my students were amazed that others were reading what they wrote! Yet another example of the powers of extending the walls of our classroom!
Now that Ms. Dinmore's class is also blogging, she's been in contact with Gareth and he's going to respond to some of the questions her class had.
What opportunities are available for your students if you become both more open and more connected?