By: Lani Ritter-Hall

Two face to face meetings —
A number of Elluminate sessions —
Sheryl and Will’s guidance and mentorship —
School teams mapping an interdisciplinary unit, planning together —
And recently on the PEARLS cohort Ning and the web, mini inquiry units begin to chronicle the ever evolving journey of teachers and students into 21st century standards based, student centered, inquiry driven learning.

In the 3rd grade at PS 16, PLPer Camille Terzino’s students have been learning the features of a non-fiction text through an “Artist Study” in which they generated their own questions such as Were they born with this gift or did they have to practice? about the artist they chose.  Each student then read a book on their artist and wrote an informational report duplicating the key features in the text.  They researched the country of the artist’s origin and recreated their favorite piece of art as they learned about line segments, shapes, and symmetry. The students will be creating Voicethreads with summaries of what they have learned and posting their paintings and images of the originals to the web for comparison. Camille noted:

“The kids were very excited about the project. They especially like the idea of exploring the different content areas and how art affects their lives. I can’t wait to finish their paintings and do the voice threads. I hope to have students from other classes comment on their voicethreads.”

Meanwhile 4th graders at St. Clare under the guidance of PLPers Denise Olsen and Patricia Molloy are learning about the “Census”, How has the census changed?,  and conducting a census of their own.  Denise and Patricia posted their map and unit in a Google Doc transparently sharing their journey in planning and learning. Then a post in the cohort virtual learning community from three of their students:

“Hi this is Anthony, Melissa, and Rebecca. We are 4th grade students at St. Clare School. Our class created a census and we would love it if you can take it. To take the census, go to

There is also an intro that you can listen to that tells you about our census. Go to to hear it.

It would be really nice if you would take this census. Please tell your friends and family about our census too. If you know anybody that lives in a different country please ask them to take our census so that we can compare data from other places.

Thank you for your help!  Anthony, Melissa, and Rebecca”

And Denise and Patricia note:

“We are moving along on our project. The fourth grade class is using the census (actually creating their own using Google forms) to learn about people. After the data is collected, the students will work in groups to analyze the results. Each group will be assigned one of the questions.”

As PLPer Joanne Teasdale and her kindergarten students at Blessed Sacrament explore “Oceans of Possibilities” she writes in her unit plan:

How can teaching young students to seek information about a high interest topic (Oceans and ocean life), help them gain understanding of the natural world and stretch their worldview to help them to become caring, knowledgeable stewards of the earth and life-long learners?

This project was created to open up the world to my young students. The world of reading, writing, inquiry, practical practice and joy in learning. It was meant to empower the students by giving them the tools to seek out information, and enable them to transfer these tools to build their personal ‘fund of knowledge’.”

And Joanne reflects in the virtual learning community:

“My young students are just coming into their own – as far as skills – so we are doing map skills and ocean life studies, and book reviews at present – the rest is for the future! The student’s are very excited and really into learning about ocean animals. They have passionate favorites and already have a great vocabulary going: carnivores, omnivores, herbivores, camouflage, baleen, kelp forests, coral reefs etc. It makes going to work a joy every day!”

Their Ocean Book Reports, read by students with illustrations, garnered a plethora of comments on Joanne’s class blog and clearly demonstrate all they have learned.

They have connected, they have collaborated—and it’s just a matter of time until some take collective action. It’s truly refreshing and very exciting to read and hear the enthusiasm of both teachers and students as they all explore more deeply the oceans of possibilities that arise through 21st century inquiry driven learning.

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Lani Ritter Hall

Lani is Community Leader for Powerful Learning Practice. She also serves as the “Newbie Maven”, helping along and nurturing newbies to the PLP experience, as well as facilitator for the Connected Coaches. Lani brings more than 35 years of teaching experiences in urban, sub urban, and independent schools at the middle/secondary level in the U.S and Canada to this work. A national board certified teacher, she and her students began collaborating globally in the late 1980’s. Lani has created and facilitated professional development around technology infusion into learning for over twenty years and served in a leadership role for the K12Online Conference for 2 years. She is co-author of The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age.
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