High school and third-grade students in Verona waited patiently around a webcam and video screen last Friday before finally getting to rock out with friends all over the world.

Since the start of the school year Kari Huttner’s third-grade classroom at Glacier Edge Elementary School and Julie Jenewein’s Verona Area High School students have been busy making music and videos and video chatting on Skype with schools around the world.

Part of a collaborative effort with 1,000 students from 43 countries called Rock Our World, students from both schools worked together on a 30-second segment before the project culminated with the program’s 11/11/11 global celebration with a video featuring the students in special song called “Life We Got,” written and produced by the band Alma Desnuda (featuring Tara J. King).

Huttner’s third-graders were mainly in charge of the weekly music segment, getting a new track from another school and adding an additional instrument. 

“For example, if they added drums and sent that out to another school, they may have received a track from Australia and had to add guitar, etc.,” said VAHS educational technology coordinator Rita Mortenson, who helped coordinate the effort. “The students totally had to come up with their own track. The only thing that was predetermined each week was the instrument.”

Participating schools had to apply and were selected to the 15th season of “Rock Our World” from six continents. This year was Verona’s second year participating with ROW.

“Ideas just started coming out of the four walls,” Mortenson said. “It takes a lot of creativity, while helping students learn to work under a deadline.”

Both classes only met once to do the video (about an hour) and then got invited to participate in another segment. Their performance was so good they were given specific instructions on the second video shot.

“We were told to walk backwards and to videotape one act of kindness,” Mortenson said.

Each season, Rock Our World focuses on a challenged-based learning project, as well as having students create music using Garageband (a software program available on the Mac).

This season, ROW’s challenge was “Healthy Eating and Sustainability.” The essential question that students researched was, “How can we eat healthy with the lowest carbon footprint possible?”

The challenge to all students was improve their family’s healthy eating choices and find solutions for your community’s sustainable foods.

“Carol Anne McGuire, founder of Rock Our World, has developed an amazing, collaborative project that really gets students thinking about others around the world,” Mortenson said. “Coming together on projects such as these gives students the opportunity to learn about new cultures, meet new friends and use 21st-century skills while learning and having fun.”

At the end of the project, students celebrate in a worldwide webinar, known as Family Night, which is a time where students get to Skype and be interviewed by a team of students in California.

Verona students snacked on Rice Krispies treats, played with iPads and huddled around a laptop setup with a video camera in which they took part in a brief Q&A session last Friday before watching the world premier of their video – interrupted briefly when a student had to turn his Mickey Mouse shirt inside-out to avoid copyright infringement.

All schools participating can follow along via the live stream on the Internet.

A few of the schools participating this year besides Verona Area School District were in: California, Ontario, Canada, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Tasmania, Australia, Mexico, Poland, Germany, Belgium, Japan, Peru and New Zealand.

For Huttner, who said several of her children are English-language learners, technology and projects like ROW help level the playing field.

“You have access to so much information, no just for quick resources, but for just about everything,” she said. “You find it helps your teaching and benefits students at the same time.”

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