Franklin teachers travel the world, bring experiences back to classroom

FRANKLIN, Ind. -- Not many people can say they’ve flown over an active volcano in a small helicopter.

Not only can Beth Foraker say she can, she’s also sharing what she learned about Hawaii’s alternative energy strategy with her chemistry and physics students at Franklin Community High School.

“The only way I could see the geothermal plant was flying over top of the volcano in a helicopter, which was awesome,” Foraker said.

Foraker’s recent trip to Hawaii was made possible by funding through a program called 10x. It’s part of a partnership between Franklin Community Schools and Johnson Memorial Health.

“What we want to do is impact the classroom,” said FCS Superintendent, David Clendening. “Impact the teachers as well as the students.”

Each year, the program provides $100,000 in grant funding to send 20 teachers on educational experiences they can bring back and incorporate into their classes.

Marc Callan, an 8th grade art teacher, spent a week in Florence, Italy. He brought back dozens of photos and 360-degree videos of the art and architecture from the renaissance period.

“I thought maybe I could bring it back and they could experience it in a virtual reality setting,” Callan said.

Callan’s presentation to the class and school officials included showing the videos through virtual reality glasses.

“I never thought I would get 8th graders excited about looking at a church that’s 700 years old,” Callan said. “I had one student come up to me and said this is really cool because it feels like you’re really there.”

In addition to the presentation, the trip has influenced Callan to include more art history in his classes.

Foraker says portions of her experience can be incorporated into her chemistry and physics classes. She also plans to share aspects of her trip with the school’s Earth Science class.

“I think the most powerful one is when we’re studying alternative energy in my AP physics class, because that is a very strong connection to our curriculum,” Foraker said.

Clendening says other teacher experiences have included visiting every courthouse in Indiana. Photos from that trip were turned into paintings, which are now on display at Franklin College. Another teacher traveled to Costa Rica to study sea turtles. Students were able to Skype in with the scientist on the trip while the teacher was still there.

“And you can see the excitement in the kids,” Clendening said. “And the kids are saying I want to do something with that, or the conversations that come out of that.”

“Sitting in the classroom is one way, but experiencing that class through a different lens and a different medium is another way,” Clendening said. “And we believe experiences matter.”

Those experiences will continue as another round of grant applications will go out by the end of the year. Clendening said the program will soon expand to provide students with grant funding for community-oriented projects in the Franklin area.

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