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Stories of suited creatures: McKinney second-graders showcase their works at Penguin Palooza
Photo courtesy of Cindi Bolton -- Walker Elementary School student Regan Young poses with "Lucky" the penguin Sunday at Penguin Palooza at the school. The event, which consisted of an awards ceremony and live penguins from the Dallas Zoo, was part of a research project conducted by second-graders districtwide.
By Kelley Chambers, email@example.com, @KelleyChambers7 on Twitter
Bennett Elementary School student Sheldon King is in the second grade but already knows how to collaborate with his peers to create the perfect comic using his knowledge of penguins and some modern-day technology.
On Sunday, the 8 year old stood next to his father, Eric, in the Walker Elementary School cafeteria, eager to see both his buddies and the fruits of his labor.
"They're really sharp, sharper than me," Eric said.
"It was easy," he said.
Sheldon and the rest of McKinney ISD's second-graders and their families gathered at the school to recognize their "easy" work at the Penguin Palooza Digital Storytelling Awards.
Student teams competed for the best digital projects in eight categories -- from poetry to animated video -- as part of the districtwide penguin research project. The teams began their work after their return from the winter holiday.
Students also had the opportunity to interact with live penguins at Sunday's event, compliments of the Dallas Zoo.
Through literature-based research and the use of class Twitter accounts to network and connect students to real-world penguin experts as part of their project, students learned not only about penguins, but also about technology and how to thoroughly investigate a topic.
The project began two years ago and was developed by the school district's media resource specialists. It was during this time one of the specialists visited the Santa Barbara Zoo and heard about Lucky, a male penguin hatched at the zoo and born with a flipper deformity. Lucky is easy to spot, as a local footwear company has since made a special shoe for him to wear that enables him to swim, jump and walk like his fellow penguins.
It was from that experience the project was born and led to the exploration of other varieties of penguins and their habitats and behaviors. Students were also encouraged to read stories about fictional penguins that helped them learn about storytelling, said Cindi Bolton, media resource specialist at Walker Elementary.
The project has proven so beneficial that the district recently shared its success at the 2013 Texas Computer Education Association conference in Austin earlier this month. It won the 2012 ISTE SIGMS Technology Innovation Award for the project.
"This project is so awesome because the kids become excited about research and storytelling," Bolton said. "It's become hands on and fun. They hear about Lucky's story, how he was born different than other penguins and how this would impact his survival in the wild, and then they want to learn more about penguins."
In addition to the project, the Palooza includes an awards ceremony, which has become a positive way to celebrate and present the wide variety of creativity in a fun environment.
As his first year as the art teacher at Walker Elementary, Colin Ducharme appreciated the way in which the project incorporated multiple school subjects and has become a group effort. Ducharme and his students created several art pieces and decorations, including an igloo made from donated milk jugs, to promote the project throughout the school.
"Everybody pitched in. It's a real eye-opener," he said. "I am happy to see that the incorporation of technology in the classroom isn't all talk. It's amazing to see what these students are capable of at such an early age."
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