N evaeh Rhoden and Julianna Contreras added glitter by the plastic spoonful to mason jars, making good use of the first sunny day Smith River School had seen in about two weeks.

Julianna incorporated what might have been the entire contents of a bottle of green food coloring to her jar, giving it an emerald hue. Nevaeh went a simpler route.

“We’re making glitter jars,” the fourth-grader said making her jar catch the light. “You take some water and add clear glue. If you like you could add food coloring, but I chose not to.”

Julianna and Nevaeh were among 80 youngsters who spent Saturday morning with teachers Knela Newton and Tracy Campbell and the Microsoft Flipgrid Engagement Team. In addition to making glitter jars, the youngsters created slime, made slushies, chocolate and other snacks and engaged in makeup tutorials.

“The students picked out what they want to learn about,” Newton said. “They have some in-class time and they also work at home on something they’re passionate about. They research it, they build their presentation and they bring the things they need and so each of these is a student leading a group of kids. The student is a teacher and kids are learning from that student.”

Starting in Eagle Point, Oregon, the Flipgrid Engagement Team is wending its way south on a two-week long 20-school tour of the West Coast, according to Flipgrid educator Ann Kozma. Their tour will culminate with a technology conference in Palm Springs, she said. Along the way, the team is engaging in student voice rallies and professional development for teachers, Kozma said.

Kozma and her colleague Jornea Erwin were one of four engagement team members to visit Smith River School on Saturday.

“We’re working with teachers and supporting teachers and students as they use Flipgrid to amplify student voice,” Kozma said. “We just try and remind kids that their voice is important and what they believe in and the unique interests they have are all something that has great significant value.”

Flipgrid is an online social learning platform, enabling teachers to engage their students in a discussion in an online discussion forum, Newton said. Newton, who was the North State Computer-Using Educators’ Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2018, had gone through Flipgrid’s teacher training program, becoming an ambassador and later a grid guide.

Newton said she found out about Flipgrid’s West Coast tour in October. She told them about “how Smith River School was a small school with a big heart” and that the platform was a valuable tool in getting teachers to engage with students.

“So they picked us,” she said. “We knew in January they were coming.”

Newton said Flipgrid is especially good for students who may not be willing to call attention to themselves in a classroom setting.

“If I could go back and do school again Flipgrid would help me,” she said. “I was always so shy and I always had an answer in my head, but I never wanted to be the one to raise my hand. It brings kids out of their shell and you get to hear from every kid.”

For more information about Flipgrid, visit blog.flipgrid.com/news/solidgoldenstate.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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