Traveling Mascot Project
by Addie Gaines
The Traveling Mascot Project is a project designed to promote interaction between classrooms in different areas of the country via technology.
I began the project last June by posting a request for other kindergarten or first grade classrooms who were interested in participating in a mascot exchange project. Teachers who were interested e-mailed me and I e-mailed the guidelines for the project. The first 6 classrooms that were in different states and could meet all the technical requirements were selected and notified of their participation in the project. During the planning phase of the project, I learned how fortunate some of us are with regard to the technology that is available in our schools. I received many e-mails expressing interest in the project, but once the guidelines and required technology information was received, many teachers notified me that they would be unable to participate because of lack of available technology. I was somewhat surprised and very dismayed by this, but hopefully as time goes on, more and more schools will have technology available to organize or participate in a similar project.
In early August, the project participants were contacted again and introductory information was exchanged between the participants via e-mail. We shared some information about ourselves and our classrooms. We exchanged physical addresses so that the mascots could be exchanged via snail mail. We each set up mailing groups in our email programs so that all members of the group could be sent the same emails at once. A mailing order/directory was established and sent to all project participants via email. I felt that it was important that the teachers were able to contact each other directly to communicate when necessary and that everyone "knew" a little bit about each other to feel connected.
Once school started we began exchanging information via e-mail and attaching digital photos. I have tried to keep up with uploading the photos and information to our website, http://www.geocities.com/EnchantedForest/7914/mascot.html .
This provides easy access to the latest mascot information for all of the classrooms and a history of each mascot's travels that can be revisited any time. There is not an established frequency for information exchange, except to let the group know when a mascot has been sent and received. Most of the classrooms exchange photos more frequently than just on our mailing dates. E-mail reminders are sent to all prior to the mailing dates.
This project hasn't been without its glitches. One mascot's mailing was held up by a hurricane. At times various some have had short interruptions in their internet service at school. One mascot was sent the wrong direction leaving one classroom with two mascots and another without. The teachers involved in the mix up cordially worked out the situation themselves. This illustrates the point that in order for online projects to work, participants have to be flexible and patient, as well as committed to the project goals and guidelines.
Speaking for my own classroom, the children have really enjoyed this project. We completed an extensive learning unit about bats, when Bubba, the Bat visited from Texas and learned about manatees during Mo, the Manatee's visit. Both of these mascots added interested to academic content in our classroom. The mascots have had an impact across the curriculum. We track the mascots' whereabouts on a United States map. Many of the children have learned to locate those states on the map from which we have hosted visitors. When we were brainstorming words with "t" in them, the children's suggestions included "Texas" and "Tennesee", a couple of our "mascot states". One little guy in my class suggested "Bubba, the bat" when we were brainstorming "b" words.
This was the first time he had activitely participated in our alphabet lessons and the lighted up look on his face was priceless. It was a definite "Aha!" moment for him and started him on the road to learning his letters and sounds! I also use each of our visiting mascots when working one-on-one with this particular child. We play a letter recognition game in which the student wins the letter card if he names it correctly and the mascot wins it if he "tells" the student the letter. The little guy loves to play the game, especially giving the mascot a hug "so he won't feel sad that he lost". We estimated the length of one of the mascots before we opened him and then actually measured him, incorporating math. Additionally, the Traveling Mascot Project adds interest and enjoyment to each school day. The children look forward to the arrival of the new mascots.
Our Traveling Mascot Project will continue until April 15, 2000, the date when all of the mascots will be enroute to their original locations. I am sure that the students will welcome back their traveling friend!!!
Click here for guidelines for traveling mascot program.