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ROTTERDAM: Students say 'aloha' to learning

Rotterdam officials recognized students from Pinewood Intermediate School and Draper Middle School for their achievements after returning from an educational field trip to Hawaii.

At the beginning of December, fifth grader Ali Rojas and sixth graders Megan Reese, Mark Riggi and Attilio Tebano spent a week in Hawaii as the culmination of an electronic field trip program produced by Ball State University in Indiana called Eruption! An Island Rising From the Sea.

Ball State University puts together four electronic field trips a year in which teachers are asked to put together curriculum that is age-appropriate and based on state's standards. Ball State University then creates a Web site for teachers to access and use the lesson plans. The Web site is full of games and activities, designed to make learning fun. About a month after the Web site is launched, selected students and teachers go on an actual field trip and produce two, 60-minute broadcasts as the culmination of the lesson.

"It's an incredible experience for students to learn this way; it's so motivating for them," said fifth grade teacher Jill Osinski. "These kids are learning in a way they never learned before and experiencing cultures of places they'll never (otherwise) get to."

Teachers Kim Coelho, Pat Rushby, who is now retired, Osinski and Kim Brassard secured grant money from Best Buy for the trip.

The group went to Hawaii to learn about the island from educators at Hawaii Volcano National Park, then brought the lessons home to students in Rotterdam and around the country.

To encourage students to interact with the Web site, Ball State University put together games and contests and sent prizes to the winners, including Best Buy gift cards.

Over the years, Osinski said the district has been awarded more than $30,000 in grant money to purchase technology equipment from Best Buy, including high-speed computers, video cameras, large-screen projection units and laptop computers.

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