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The POWER of a FLATTENED Classroom

Posted by on November 3, 2012

“This post is dedicated to an AMAZING teacher who has inspired us to delve DEEPER into our thinking with each and EVERY comment he leaves for us on our classroom blog. Thank you, Ross … you inspire us!”

~ The Battalion Hawk bloggers

An UNEXPECTED surprise arrived this week … the excitement in the classroom was BEYOND belief!

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

~William Arthur Ward

Earlier this week the MOST amazing thing happened to the Global Grade 3 Bloggers. Two MYSTERY parcels arrived at the classroom door! There was GREAT speculation as these Grade Three students VIBRATED with excitement … each ITCHING to RIP open the mail. You see, one of our VERY special readers and FREQUENT extended commenters decided to enrich our classroom learning even DEEPER.

Oh my GOODNESS … what is IN here … just LOOK at what Ross has shared with us!

Over the past ten months, Ross Mannell, an AMAZING retired educator from Australia, has BLESSED our blog with comments that have stretched us … pushed and pulled our learning BEYOND our wildest imaginings. He has CAREFULLY crafted his reflections to each of our blog posts,  personalizing his comments for EACH of our students and enriching our learning by frequently sharing new thoughts to ponder deeply and explore further.

Our blog, which has focused on our connection with Mosqoy building a library in the rural weaving village of Q’enqo Peru, as well as other Social Studies and Citizenship inquiries, has been a POWERFUL way of sharing our classroom discoveries with a global audience. Perhaps the MOST surprising discovery learned while piloting CBE’s very FIRST classroom blog has been the POWERFUL learning which CAN develop when readers take the time to leave a comment on these classroom blogs. This, alone, is not enough.

We have worked HARD to FOSTER engagement with our readers by consistently responding thoughtfully to EACH comment they leave us. This interaction between bloggers and readers has been the source of deeply engaged and personalized learning within a classroom setting that is working hard to flatten the walls of the school.

This year, with a brand NEW set of Global Grade 3 Bloggers, (self-dubbed The Battalion Hawk Bloggers), the POWER of sharing learning with the world truly hit home. While we have continued to blog about our Social Studies inquiries, a few of our OTHER interests have been shared with our readers through the interactive nature of comments.

Fast forward to the beginning of the week …

Ross Mannell has spent HOURS taking his 35mm film and converting it to CDs. WHY, you ask? Well … we have been exploring the magical world of Rocks and Minerals. Who KNEW that rocks could be SO exciting?!? Along this journey, we have discovered that we even have an amateur volcanologist in our classroom. Actually, if the TRUTH be known, he is more of an EXPERT volcanologist than an amateur when you compare him to the REST of us in the classroom!

Somehow, this rock inquiry came up in our comments with Ross and a few of our other readers, like “Daytime Grandma and Grandpa”! It is THROUGH these interactive comments that we have discovered such AMAZING things as the Elasmosaur fossil found on Vancouver Island … and seen some of the most GLORIOUS photos, converted from 35mm film to CD, of Ross’s adventures with volcanoes!

And IN Ross’s care package were … INCREDIBLE samples of … scree and obsidian from New Zealand!

What follows are some of “snippets” of the letters The Battalion Hawk Bloggers have written to express their DEEP gratitude for the enrichment Ross provides each and EVERY time he replies to one of our posts … and for going above and BEYOND the calling of a faithful reader by sending his powerful care package to FURTHER enrich our learning journey:

“Ross, thank you for taking your time to write comments for us! Where did you GET the iron sand?” ~Zubayda

“Hi Ross! Thanks for the AWESOME rocks and Olympic DVD! My favourite was the iron sand!” ~Tre

We’ve all HEARD of pahoehoe … and seen PICTURES of it … but we have NEVER been LUCKY enough to HOLD pahoehoe … that is … until NOW!

“Hi Ross! I liked the things you shared with us. The koala is SO cute! I liked those rocks … ALL of them!” ~Cemre

“Thank you, Ross, for all the things you gave us. Before we opened the box I was SO excited! my FAVOURITE thing that you sent was the pahoehoe! We are SO SO happy we met you on the blog!” ~Nick

“Hi Ross! I like the Australian flag! I like the beautiful koala too! Thank you!” ~Dimitrios

“Hi Ross! Thank you for the rocks and the Olympic DVD. I liked the a’a’ rock … it is so cool! I put my hand in the puppet that you gave us. It was soft. I liked the puppet. It was my favourite one!” ~Constantine

This koala puppet is SO adorable … we will have to do some RESEARCH to find out a little MORE about koalas! We WONDER if it is the “official ANIMAL” of Australia!

“Thank you SOOOO much, Ross, for sending us some VERY special packages! I thought that was VERY kind and thoughtful! I was SOO EXCITED! I am STILL so excited!” ~Jayden

“Thank you, Ross, for your wonderful package! We all loved EVERYTHING you gave us! A few days ago, Mrs. Renton told us there was a surprise coming but … she didn’t tell us what it was because she didn’t even know! Which mountain did you find the scree from? Also, which beach in Hawaii did you get the iron sand from because THAT was one of my FAVOURITES! It is cool that you give out those koala puppets at Hallowe’en instead of candy! We are VERY appreciative that you take the time to send us a nice JUICY comment on our blog!” ~Chris

“Hi Ross! Thanks for the awesome packages!!! Do you know how many rocks you have in your collection? I LOVE the kangaroo coin. I wonder how much it would cost in Canada. 1 dollar? 2 dollars? A few cents? (We will have to do some research!) Where did you get the a’a’? Where in Hawaii? Do you have lots of it? Did you find the pahoehoe in the same area? Can you name the specific beach that you found the iron sand at? PS The DVD was AWESOME!” ~AJ

Wow … it’s SMALLER than our loonie … but it sure is BEAUTIFUL … it has a KANGAROO on it!

“Ross, I love what you gave to us! I love the one dollar coin the most. We watched some of the video … it was great! How many do you make? What was your favourite one that you ever made? I also liked the magnetic sand. We haven’t tried it out yet, but I can’t wait until we do! I think the a’a’ is sharp and a little more interesting than the others. The obsidian is very smooth!” ~Davis

“Thanks, Ross! It is so cool that you gave some “stuff” to us! We are SO thankful. I love BOTH packages. My favourite was the one dollar coin. I am almost a volcanologist! The a’a’ and pahoehoe are some of my favourite rocks … but my favourite rock is sulphur. I have some in my collection!” ~ Christopher

“Thanks for the packages, Ross! The rock samples were cool! I especially like the iron filing sand. Last year my teacher brought the iron filing sand and we saw that it could move with a magnet! The Australian flag sort of looks like the British flag! I liked the koala. I also like the kangaroo one dollar coin. It looks like it’s a coin that would be used here. But, it is smaller and has a kangaroo on it. Now, let’s get back to the rock samples. they were really cool! Thanks for the very cool package! Everyone was very excited for us to open it!” ~Chelsea

The Australian flag is BEAUTIFUL … we will have to do a little research to find out MORE about it!

“Hi Ross! I appreciate what you did for us. I love ALL the stuff. We watched some of the movie you sent us. GOOD job! We’re going to watch the rest another day. I have a question for you. How long did you take to make the movie because it looked REALLY good. Thank you for helping us with our learning journey. I have another question for you. Where did you get the iron sand? Which beach? The Australian flag is like the British flag … just with stars. There are SIX stars. The six stars represent the six states. That’s what one of the kids told us! Thank you for your time, I really appreciate it!” ~Rayann

“Hi Ross! Thank you for the lovely gifts! The Australian flag was cool! Do you know any stories about it? Why does the one dollar coin have a kangaroo on it? The a’a is really a’a’ because when I put my finger on it, it hurts! And, I say a’a’a’a’! The pahoehoe looks like it has gold in it! My favourite part of the DVD was when the people were waving flags! The last thing I need to say to you is “Thank you, thank you and THANK you!”  ” ~James

“Ross, my favourite part of the video is when the boy was on the stage singing a song. I like when you did a close up so that we could see it closer! We loved the rock samples. You are just SO kind to us … thank you for the notes you sent and the pahoehoe, obsidian, iron sand, Australian flag, a’a’, koala puppet, Australian kangaroo coin and the scree. What is YOUR favourite thing from this box? I have to say that it is SO interesting to see all these things from Australia!” ~Joyce

“Hi Ross! We LOVED that you used “snail mail” instead of emailing it! Luckily none of the rock samples dissolved! As soon as Mrs. Renton saw the DVD she FLIPPED! Many of us wanted to sneak the rock samples into our backpacks but we know that would be wrong. You are SOOOOOO generous! We were just watching your DVD but we had to turn it off to write you this letter. There were MANY awwwwwws when we turned it off … because we were enjoying it SO much! Thank you SO much for everything you sent to us!” ~Ben

We’ve seen a’a in books … but … now we have our very OWN sample! Woo HOO! THANK you, Ross!

“Thanks for everything, Ross! One of our students brought in a video and they showed a’a’. What made you start collecting rocks? Our class really liked the Olympic DVD. The Australian flag at the top corner looks like the British flag! Where did you find the obsidian?” ~Danny

“Hi Ross! Thank yo SO much for taking your time to send us a DVD, and Australian flag, koala puppet, kangaroo coin and other stuff from your rock collection! I was wondering ALL night yesterday what you were sending us! I thought you were sending us a picture of a dinosaur coprolite fossil! But, when I figured out that it was a DVD, I was SO shocked! I really enjoyed it a lot! Thank you SO much!” ~Lauren

“Dear Ross: Today we opened your two awesome packages. In the first one, we found an interesting note and a DVD! We started to watch it. It was so COOL! There was a lot of dancing. I can not believe you filmed that show. Now I have a compliment and a question for you! Fist I’ll say the compliment. Your koala puppet was SO cute! And now my question for you. Where di you GET your koala?” ~Ella

“I love the koala puppet. I liked how in the Olympic DVD they pretend to be the Beatles. I LOVED it! No WONDER the rock a’a’ is in a bag … because it HURTS! One of the kids in the classroom told us the name. Warning: don’t use as SOAP!” ~Elijah

“Hi Ross! Thank you SO much for sending us the Australian flag, a kioala puppet, a kangaroo one dollar coin, a’a from Hawaii, scree, pahoehoe, obsidian and iron sand from New Zealand! I didn’t mention the school Olympic DVD because it was SO amazing that I wanted to save it for last!!! We watched it and it was funny and cool at the same time. We didn’t finish it … but we are going to watch the rest soon!” ~Rebecca

“Hi Ross! We really appreciate that you gave us your treasures! Thank you for telling us that there was a surprise in the mail. I think snail mail is REALLY cool because you can give gifts and presents! My favourite is the koala puppet. I really like it because it looks cute. I also like the DVD because it was smart to do DVDs for schools. It is so awesome that you do that! I like EVERYTHING that you gave us!” ~Tyler

Ross, you enrich our learning each and EVERY time you leave a comment for us. This surprise package was ABOVE and BEYOND the call of duty … and we are all extremely touched and grateful. Thank you for helping us to explore our passions and our curiosities … you are helping to foster a love for life long learning!

A CONNECTED classroom TRULY rocks!!! (NO pun intended … well MAYBE just a LITTLE!) Thank you, Ross, for showing us not only the power of BLOGGING but for ALSO showing us the power of making global connections to enrich our learning experiences. We look FORWARD to your comments, knowing that we will ALWAYS walk away further enlightened and engaged!

Thank you ALSO to ALL of our readers. You help us to write for an authentic audience. You deepen our understanding of the world and help us to personalize our learning!

We wonder:

  • Do YOU know the significance of the six stars on the Australian flag?
  • What do the symbols on YOUR flag represent?
  • Do you have a national bird, or flower or animal?
  • Do you have a favourite rock, mineral or fossil sample in YOUR collection? What makes it your favourite?


15 Responses to The POWER of a FLATTENED Classroom

  1. Ben

    Hi guys and girls,
    Everyone else was leaving comments so I
    thought “why not”. I sure am SO excited for
    blogging this year I can’t wait to learn more about
    Peru and Ashli. 🙂

    Are we going to inquire even MORE about Ross’s


    Ben. 🙂

    • Laurie Renton

      Hi Ben!

      It is really exciting to see members of the class leaving comments with their families! I am thrilled to see how pumped you all are about our classroom blog! Me TOO! We are definitely going to inquire more into the treasures that Ross sent to us … where do you suggest we begin?

      Mrs. Renton 🙂

  2. Ben

    Hi again it’s Ben

    Sorry right when I hit publish comment some
    other ideas started to pop into my head. One
    of the most important things I forgot to say was
    how much we should thank Mrs.Renton for
    being such an AWESOME teacher and … to
    never eat brockoly “kidding”. Also to think how
    lucky we are to be on this blog right now but
    in front of that how lucky we are to have these schools
    or these houses or even these families so
    just take a second and think of much the kids
    in Q’enqo would love our lives so don’t be
    disapointed if you didn’t get the toy you wanted
    be happy with what you’ve got.

    Bye Ben 🙂

    • The Battalion Hawk Bloggers

      Hi Ben!

      Thank you for the WONDERFUL comment!

      You are right! NEVER eat broccoli! (Ha ha ha! Just kidding, Ben … actually, broccoli is VERY healthy for you!!!)

      You are ALSO right! We have the best teacher in the world! 😉 (Mrs. Renton says that SHE is the lucky one! You guys are AWESOME to work with!) You are right, AGAIN, Ben … we are SO fortunate to live where we do! There are so many children and families around the world that have a hard time meeting their needs.

      The Battalion Hawk Bloggers 🙂

  3. Ross Mannell

    Hello Global Grade 3,

    What a wonderful surprise to be honoured by your class in this way. It seems my comments grow longest when I write for your blog. This happens because of the huge amount of information your posts contain. I thought I might only be writing a short comment for this post but then I saw comments from all of you about the packages and their contents. I wanted to answer everyone and share a few more photos and other information. As you all know, when I start thinking like that an extended post is on the way. Here is the link. 🙂

    Teacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia

    • The Battalion Hawk Bloggers

      Hello Ross!

      Mrs. Renton told us that a “little bird” told HER that it was your BIRTHDAY a few days ago! If we COULD we would SING Happy Birthday to you! Happy belated birthday, Ross. We hope your day was very, VERY special! Imagine us singing this for you:

      Happy Birthday to you,
      Happy Birthday to you,
      Happy Birthday dear Ross,
      Happy Birthday to you!

      The Awakino beach in New Zealand would be neat to visit. The picture you shared was beautiful. It looks like it would be a hard beach to walk on, even if it wasn’t hot, because of the iron sand! It looks like a lot of tree trunks were washed up … it is FULL of driftwood! We wonder if the beach is always full of driftwood … or does it just wash away when the tide goes out?

      We can’t believe that koalas sleep for 21 or 22 hours a day! That’s AMAZING! We think they MUST spend the REST of the time EATING! They sound SO lazy! We found this VERY intriguing … so we did a little further research! We found a link to the 7 sleepiest animals in the world. Guess what? Koala’s were number ONE! Other animals were: human babies, brown bats … and here is the link so that we DON’T spoil the REST of the surprise list: We loved the video of Suzie and her baby peeking out of the pouch. Boy … if ADULT koala sleep for 21 – 22 hours … we wonder how long BABY koalas sleep for!

      We think that the Mt. Tarawera crater would be a TON of fun to leap through the scree … but the long roll down sounds just a bit frightful to some of us! We think it’s really funny that the scree got a free ride back to your house when it got caught up in your clothing – that’s an awesome story! That could be pretty uncomfortable if it gets stuck in your boots … we hope it was your PANT leg!

      You are right a’a’ would be TOO scratchy to use on your skin! Pumice, though, is something that MANY of us have tried or have at home. Our resident volcanologist had a few samples and we did try the water test on one of them. We actually had a piece of something from Hawaii that a few of us thought was pumice, but a few of us thought it might be coral. Our volcanologist told us about the test … guess what? The Hawaii sample WAS coral and the pumice sample from Mount St. Helen’s floated!

      We discovered that the national animal for Canada is the beaver and the Canadian horse … we were surprised … but you inspired us to do a little more research AGAIN! We were surprised to see that the Maple tree has only been the national tree for Canada since 1996! What?!? There IS no national flower for Canada. Instead, there is a national floral emblem … the maple LEAF! We were SHOCKED to discover that Canada doesn’t have a National bird EITHER. So … we think … as a class … that it should be the Canada Goose … because it has Canada in its name … AND … because it is found in EVERY Canadian Province!

      On the OTHER hand … because of this little inquiry … we have discovered that Alberta has it ALL! Here is our list:

      Provincial Animal: Big Horn Sheep

      Provincial Fish: Bull Trout

      Provincial Grass: Rough Fescue

      Provincial Mineral: Petrified Wood

      Provincial Bird: Great Horned Owl

      Provincial Gemstone: Ammolite

      Provincial Song: Alberta

      Provincial Motto: Strong and Free (we really dig that!)

      Provincial Flower: Wild Rose

      Provincial Tree: Lodgepole Pine

      Provincial Capital: Edmonton

      We can’t really imagine why Canada doesn’t have some of these National Symbols … maybe it’s because people can’t agree. But, we think the country should decide and vote … majority should rule! Some of us think that we would like to do a vote in our own classroom now!

      We think it might be neat to change the Australian flag because Australia is its own country now … just like Canada is. The kangaroo would be a GREAT symbol for the NEW design because kangaroos are what we THINK of when we think about Australia. We know that there are a TON of neat resources and animals that would be amazing symbols on the new Australian flag … what about a sleepy koala?!? You are right! The Canadian flag DID have a union jack on it … once upon a time! Mrs. Renton doesn’t remember this … but … when she was THREE, the Canadian Flag was changed to the one we have today! Check out the journey of the Canadian Flag here: A few of us think we’d like to stay in at recess, next week, to help design a new Australian flag for you!

      Ross, your comment led to HUGE learning and discussion, as ALWAYS! Because of YOU we have even learned a LOT more about ALBERTA and CANADA! We hope you had an AMAZING birthday!

      The Battalion Hawk Bloggers 🙂

      • Ross Mannell

        Hello The Battalion Hawk Bloggers,

        It seems my little birthday secret wasn’t so secret. 🙂 I needed extra space to reply to your comment above so here is a link to another one of those extended comments.

        Teacher (retired), N.S.W., Australia

        • The Battalion Hawk Bloggers

          Hi Ross!

          We’re glad that your little secret wasn’t such a secret … we felt excited to be able to wish you a happy birthday! Did you celebrate it by doing anything special? We hope you had birthday greetings come in from ALL over the world!

          We LOVE your extended comments. We always learn SO much! You have helped to make our Rocks and Minerals exploration VERY exciting!

          Mrs. Renton thinks that koalas are SO cute! LOTS of us do! It’s hard to believe that they don’t need to drink much water. A few of us have been lucky enough to see koalas in zoos … but MOST of us haven’t. They don’t look like they move very quickly … but … we COULD be WRONG!

          We had NO idea you could sink so far down into scree to be able to get it into your pockets. If it was someone very short … and it’s that deep … they might get covered right up to their neck. Maybe it depends on the weight of the person too? So, if you are a child … you wouldn’t sink as far down as an adult. We wonder if you could ever sink deep enough to cover yourself in scree. If that is the case, you sure wouldn’t want to go jumping in the scree without a friend!

          We think it’s neat that pumice can float on the ocean currents and move to different places on earth. We think that some could even reach Canada … and … if you KNEW what you were looking for on the beaches … you could find it. Sometimes pumice feels a little like styrofoam and coral is usually smooth and less rough. At least that’s what we discovered when we felt the samples here. We wonder if pumice can EVER be really smooth … and coral can ever be really bumpy like pumice.

          We think it’s ironic that we usually have to research to learn more through your comments and this time you had to do the same to find out your state’s motto! We LOVE that we are learning together!

          Ross, we love YOUR flag idea. We think the koala is SUCH a GREAT idea … especially a wide awake one … and not a snoozie one! We don’t think ANY country would want to be known as “sleepy”!!! We like the colours and the six stars. Some of us think the union jack should be replaced with something like a koala or even a kangaroo! We understand that some people want to keep the same flag because it has been used for 100 years! Change is sometimes good, though!

          Some of us might try to design a new flag for you over our winter break. If we come up with any cool ideas, we will share them with you! 😉

          We always smile when we see a new comment from you, Ross, because you extend OUR thinking TOO! We love that every time we read your thoughts you push our learning too! Thank you for being our OTHER teacher … in Australia!

          The Battalion Hawk Bloggers 🙂

  4. Karen Campbell

    Many years ago when I was in grade 3 (1972) our efforts to share our stories and make connections with other people around the globe were expressed mostly through well intentioned letter writing and postcards. Addresses were sought out in a variety of ways (relatives, educational newsletters, government agencies etc) Our successes felt alot like fishing. Lots of casting and every now and then, a fish!! The waiting took a toll and, regrettably, the correspondence was weighted down by the passage of time.
    As I read about your conversation with Ross and the unexpected package brimming with relevance I am grateful for the promise of global friendships that fuel our curiosity and advance our learning.

    Thanks Ross and Thank you room 1 for showing us how to be the best for the world 🙂

    Mrs. Campbell

    • AJ and Chris

      Hi Mrs. Campbell!

      We are SO happy that you are checking out our blog! Snail mail is getting old. But in some holidays, like Christmas, people STILL use snail mail. Mrs. Renton says, “throw that fishing line out and reel that reader in!” When Mrs. Renton told us about the package from Ross, we were over ourselves. We were SO impatient. BUT, finally, it arrived. You saw what he sent us in the package, right? Well, if you didn’t, he sent us scree,(little pieces that have broken off of a big piece of rock), obsidian,(volcanic glass), iron sand, pahoehoe, a’a’,(don’t use this for soap!!!) He also sent us a puppet koala, a CD called “Where in The World is The Olympic Flame?”, a kangaroo coin, the Australian flag, and a letter.(x2.) 😉

      Thank you for the lovely compliment!

      AJ and Chris on behalf of the Battalion Hawk Bloggers 🙂

  5. Kim

    At the insistance of my 3rd grader, I have just subscribed to the blog. And am I ever glad I did. It is so very interesting and fun. Thanks to Mrs Renton for doing this – it is certainly one of the highlights of his day (and now mine!)

    • The Battalion Hawk Bloggers

      Hi Kim!

      We are VERY glad that your 3rd grader insisted that you subscribe to our blog! First of all, it means more people will click on the blog more often and it also means that you will get ALL of our new posts on your EMAIL … you won’t have to wait for a message in the agenda! Mrs. Renton says “you are WELCOME … she LOVES this blog and the learning that comes with it!” It’s one of OUR highlights of our days TOO! We hope you have a GREAT day, Kim! We can’t wait to hear what you think about our LATEST post!

      The Battalion Hawk Bloggers 🙂

  6. Rebecca

    Hi Mrs.Renton!

    Seeing all of those presents from Ross was a HUGE surprise! 🙂 The koala puppet was SO cute! I thought the Olimpyc Flame movie was REALLY cool! I NEVER knew that there was a kangaroo on the coin!
    I wish I could see Australia some day.

    Can’t wait to Blog more!
    Bye! 🙂


    • Laurie Renton

      Hi Rebecca!

      I KNOW, hey? Ross was SO kind to us … he TRULY spoiled us rotten! The Koala was ADORABLE. The DVD he put together for the school that celebrated the Olympics was just SO amazing. I think he is such a talented person! I love that the coin has a kangaroo on it. It makes sense, when you think about how Canadian coins have symbols of important Canadian heritage on them! I agree. I think that Australia would be a beautiful country to visit sometime!

      What are you enjoying MOST about having a classroom blog, Rebecca?

      Mrs. Renton 🙂

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