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January 13, 2009

Live, from Memorial School ...

Podcasts give elementary kids new taste of learning

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MANCHESTER — Owen Stinsmuehlen clicked record on the GarageBand, software and moments later Jade Cromwell began to read from her script into a digital microphone:

"If you were leaving Manchester-by-the-Sea and wanted to reach Africa, you would fly East over the Atlantic Ocean."

Stinsmuehlen and Cromwell are podcasting; recording themselves speaking on a computer, editing it, and posting it online for anyone to access.

"Africa is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the west, the Indian Ocean on the east, the Mediterranean Sea on the north and the Red Sea on the north-east," she continued.

Pause.

"The longest river is the Nile River."

This is how Stinsmeuhlen, Cromwell and a third classmate, Molly Field, are presenting their research project on Africa for a second-grade geography class at Manchester Memorial Elementary. In fact, by the end of the school year, each of the 444 students at Memorial — from kindergarten to sixth grade — will have recorded at least one podcast as part of a school project.

Stinsmeuhlen, Cromwell and Field, along with the other second-graders in Elise Dudley's class, are learning about the seven continents. They do research in the library with Samantha Silag, the school's librarian, and learn to use computers and Apple's GarageBand software in the school's technology lab with Jenna Seymour, the school's technology teacher.

The end result is a podcast.

"It's really combining a lot of different subjects areas into one final product," said Seymour, who is in her first year teaching at Memorial after serving as an aide to the school's former technology teacher, Paul Clark.

Seymour, along with Silag — who got the idea to get the students podcasting while pursuing her master's degree in Information & Library Science at Simmons College in Boston — introduced the new technology to the school this fall. The two worked with Anne Heslop and her first-grade class to turn book projects into podcasts, and according to Seymour, it went surprisingly smooth.

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