Michael Soskil

Michael Soskil

Michael Soskil is a Curriculum Coach in the Wallenpaupack Area School District in Northeastern Pennsylvania where he works with teachers and students to create 21st Century learning environments: “Students deeply connect with the content they learn when they have emotionally moving educational experiences. I have seen that collaborating globally to solve the problems of the world provides those experiences. We need to empower children to believe that they can make a difference. When students feel the intrinsic joy that comes with using learning to help others, they grow to be adults who will affect positive change in the world.”

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Leave Time for Serendipity

Today, my 4th grade students were supposed to analyze data from NASA's Climate Change website. I wanted them to look at real data and to have conversations about what it meant. I wanted them to draw conclusions and make predictions. That's what today's science lesson was supposed to be. It was a good plan.

Unexpectedly, about 10 minutes into my lesson, the distinctive tone of an incoming Skype call filled the room. My students know this sound pretty well by now.… Visit the author's original post

Leave Time for Serendipity

Today, my 4th grade students were supposed to analyze data from NASA's Climate Change website. I wanted them to look at real data and to have conversations about what it meant. I wanted them to draw conclusions and make predictions. That's what today's science lesson was supposed to be. It was a good plan.

Unexpectedly, about 10 minutes into my lesson, the distinctive tone of an incoming Skype call filled the room. My students know this sound pretty well by now.… Visit the author's original post

My Heart is Happy

This is the third post in a series where I am documenting my experiences as a Top 10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize.  To read the other posts, click here

The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind of teaching and interviews, but there is one story that I want to share. So far, it's been the most incredible moment since the announcement that I was a Top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize.  One of my Wallenpaupack colleagues who teaches in a different elementary school shared this anecdote about her students' reaction to my selection.… Visit the author's original post

Global Teacher Prize ’16 – Top10 Announcement Day

Predictibly, I didn't sleep very much last night.  With the top-10 announcement scheduled for midnight, I tried to get some sleep beforehand, but it didn't work very well. I don't sleep well when I'm excited.

Around midnight I checked the Global Teacher Prize website and saw that there was a video of Stephen Hawking announcing the top-10 finalists. I was floored. This was the first moment in a day of amazing moments in which it was hard to believe the events occurring.… Visit the author's original post

I’m Headed to Dubai as a Top-10 Finalist for the Global Teacher Prize

Global Teacher Prize
 Photo Credit: Forbes.com
I'm writing this post on the morning of Tuesday, February 16th, 2016. Tonight, at 12:01AM EST, I am going to be announced as a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize, widely considered the world's Nobel Prize of Education. I'm writing this post as the first in a series that will take you along with me on my journey through the presentation of the $1Million prize to the winner at the Global Education and Skills Forum (GESF) in Dubai on March 13th.… Visit the author's original post

3 Transformational Learning Activities

Often we hear about how technology is going to transform education. The world isn't the same as it used to be. Information is no longer expensive or difficult to obtain, so it makes sense that we should be helping learners develop ways to use and create knowledge rather than memorize it. Now that the entirety of human knowledge fits into one's pocket, it's time to prepare students for a world in which they will be expected to innovate, create, and solve complex problems.… Visit the author's original post

Skype in the Classroom Lessons Inspire Global Citizens

After two years of working as a curriculum coach, helping teachers and students find really incredible learning experiences, I have switched roles this year.  For the first time in my 19 year career I am teaching 3rd-5th grade science.  In many ways this is a dream job for me. My philosophy that learners should be encouraged to wonder, experiment, learn from failure, and connect with others around the world fit perfectly in an elementary science lab.  Since I am in the same school, I have the added benefit of working with students who have learned with me for the past two years.… Visit the author's original post

Global Service Learning

While at ISTE last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Greenberg, who interviewed me for his Brainwaves Video Anthology series. Bob seeks out "thinkers, dreamers, and innovators; some of the brightest minds in education" and seeks to record their stories to help inspire other teachers.  It was an honor to be chosen by Bob to be a part of this project.  Below is my 4 minute talk about the power that global service learning has had on our students at the Wallenpaupack South Elementary School.… Visit the author's original post

Growing Plants, Hearts, and Minds

It's the last week of school, and honestly I didn't think I'd be writing a blog post this week. Since I will be teaching science to 3rd-5th graders next year, I have been packing up the classroom I've been teaching in for the past 16 years in preparation for my move to the science room downstairs. Monday I did a presentation for our school board on the global service learning activities through which our students have been learning and how they connected to my recent trip to Kenya.… Visit the author's original post

Teachers – Shaping Tomorrow(land)

This weekend we went to see Tomorrowland. As a family of Disney fans, we've been looking forward to seeing it for a while.

Image credit - disney.wikia.com
I walked away from the theater with tears in my eyes.  As far as plot, character development, special effects, etc. - the movie was good, but nothing special.  But it still took me a few minutes after the movie ended to be able to talk without getting choked up because of the message at the end of the movie.… Visit the author's original post

5th Grade Learns about Astronomy from Dr. Dean Hines

As part of our "Career Cafe" series, our fifth graders had a Skype call to learn from Dr. Dean Hines about his job as an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland.

Video call snapshot 6

Students were excited to hear about the telescopes and and asked a plethora of questions about stars, planets, and our universe until we ran out of time.  We learned that there are approximately  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 solar systems in the universe, and that most of them are believed to have planets. … Visit the author's original post

Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Remembrance Day – Student Questions Answered

When our students at Wallenpaupack heard that I was going to have a full-day stopover in Amsterdam on my way to Kenya, and that it would be Remembrance Day, they had questions.  After reading a few articles on the holiday, they brainstormed a list of questions that they wanted answered.

Thanks to my Dutch friend Marjolein Hoekstra, we were able to help them learn the answers to those questions.  Prior to my stopover, Marjolein put together a OneNote notebook for the students with answers and reference material.… Visit the author's original post

Kindergarten Students Learn about Cooking from Chef Eric LeVine

One of America's best chefs took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with our kindergarten students about his job and about ways to use the vegetables they are growing in tasty, healthy recipes.

Video call snapshot 4

The students were very interested to learn that Chef Eric has his own farm-to-table garden on the roof of his restaurant, where he grows 16 types of foods.  They also enjoyed a tour of the kitchen, and asked lots of questions.


The students were surprised to hear that Chef Eric uses different colored carrots in his cooking (purple carrots!), that he started learning to cook when he was only 6 years old, and that he has written two cookbooks.… Visit the author's original post

Adventures in Kenya Series – Day 9 – From Mukuyuni to Nakuru

We slept in today.  My alarm didn't go off until 6:30AM. After a quick breakfast of andazi and Kenyan Tea, we left the Mount Crest Hotel.  Along the way to HIP Academy, we stopped a few places. First, we stopped at the local Coca-Cola depot to buy a case of soda.  Then, we stopped at the Obama Supermarket to pick up some lolipops and to take a picture. Finally, we stopped at a small school supplies shop in Mukuyuni where I bought all their crayons, some notebooks, paper, pencils, and poster paper for the kids at school with money that was donated by friends and family back home.… Visit the author's original post

Adventures in Kenya Series – Days 7/8 – Out of the Mara, On to Kimilili

I'm running out of superlatives to describe my days.

 Yesterday was...

I'll just show you with pictures. I started the day with an sunrise game drive where we saw a whole pride of lions hanging around some termite mounds, and a whole lot more. Here are just a few of the hundreds of pictures I took.  I took more than 1000 pictures in my 30 hours in Masai Mara.

Then, I had a quick breakfast and headed back out on a game drive with a stop at a Masai Village to learn about Masai culture.… Visit the author's original post

Adventures in Kenya Series – Day 5 – Project LINC

It's had to believe that I've only been here a few days. I've been so busy that it seems like months. Today was another day packed with awesome.


I started the day by walking to Havilla Childrens Center again with Livingstone. I used the GoPro camera and head mount that I have to record the walk to the school. I'll be posting that to YouTube along with many other videos when I get back home.  I had to bring extra camera equipments today because my mission today was to document everything I could as the water filters for which our Wallenpaupack students, the children in the Andover Middle School, and students in Trikala, Greece had spent the past few months raising money were installed and distributed.… Visit the author's original post

Adventures in Kenya Series – Day 4 – Cheery Children Education Centre

There is so much to tell about that happened today. I hope I can remember it all.

The day started with a drive into the Kibera Slum. After a short 200 foot walk, Tracy Hansen and Kyrsha from NGGE, Livinstone, and me came to the Cheery Children Education Center. Livingstone had previously taught here, and Tracy has spent a lot of time with these children, both in person during the past month and virtually where she has been teaching them via Skype.… Visit the author's original post

Adventures in Kenya Series – Less than a Week to Go

(Image - Wikipedia Commons)

Last spring I applied for and was approved to receive the Helen Villaume Education Enrichment Grant from the John and Helen Villaume Foundation.  My proposal had three goals: to develop a Distance Teaching Project collaboration between our students and children in the Kibera Slum of Nairobi, to travel to Kenya to document the benefits of peer-teaching service projects, and to present the project and documentation at ISTE and other conferences afterward.  The Distance Teaching Project has since grown to include schools in China, India, Venezuela, France, and around the United States.… Visit the author's original post

Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton Reads His New Book to Our 1st Grade Students


The first grade students in Mrs. Wyckoff’s and Mrs. Rickert’s homerooms got a special treat yesterday.  LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow called us via Skype to read his new book “The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm” and to talk to our students about ways they can deal with being sad.

In preparation for the call our students created animal masks to wear and made posters sharing some things they do to feel better when they are sad or scared.  The animal masks were meant to represent some of the animal friends in the book that helped the protagonist feel better.… Visit the author's original post

2nd Grade Mystery Skype with North Carolina

Mrs. Seifert’s second graders connected with another second grade class last week to play a game of Mystery Skype.  As the call started, neither class knew where the other was located.  The classes took turns asking yes/no questions to see who could figure out the location of their new friends first.

Using the help of maps, our students were able to narrow down their location to either North or South Carolina before the other class guessed our state correctly.  It was a very close game, and both classes had a great time.… Visit the author's original post

Kindergarteners Travel to Kenya via Skype to Learn about Gardening

As a continuation of the South Elementary Farm-to-Table project that has been going on this year (below is a picture of the green earth that Mrs. Conklin and our students created as part of that project), our kindergarten students took a virtual field trip via Skype to the Mitahato Teaching Farm in Kiambu, Kenya to learn about sustainable farming. The Mitahato Farm is a location where rural Kenyan communities and schools can come to learn how to use their land to produce organic food.… Visit the author's original post

5th Graders use Video Messages to Learn about Africa

Mrs. Lavoy’s 5th grade students recently started a social studies unit on Africa.  Each student chose a country that he/she wanted to research for an upcoming project.  In a few weeks students will be creating digital presentations about their countries for the rest of the class.

In order to obtain primary source information, we used Skype Video Messaging and YouTube Videos to connect with students and teachers all over Africa.  In countries where we were able to make a connection, students recorded videos asking the questions they needed to know for their research.  … Visit the author's original post

Kindergarten Students Skype with NY Botanical Garden

The kindergarten students in Mrs. Conklin’s class recently led a school-wide project to recycle milk carton containers and use them to plant vegetables.  As soon as the ground thaws, they will be planting them in an outdoor garden.  Recently, they had some questions about plants and gardening, so Mrs. Conklin and classroom volunteer Mrs. Toppi set up a Skype call with the New York Botanical Garden so that they could get their questions answered.

The call started with a tour of the facilities where students got to meet the bunnies who “help” with the gardening.  … Visit the author's original post

1st Grade Skype with Author Jonathan Emmett

Our first graders had a blast recently when they got to connect on Skype with author Jonathan Emmett in England.  The children had recently read one of Mr. Emmett’s books in their reading program about a duck named Ruby.  In order to share with Mr. Emmett how much they liked his story, each student created and wore a duck hat, and students created posters illustrating different scenes from the story.  During the call Mr. Emmett took some time to read This Way Ruby, one of his many books.… Visit the author's original post

Pi Day 2015 – Global Math Lesson

Every year Pi Day is celebrated on March 14th (3.14) and students around the world explore the significance of this irrational number. This year, we celebrated the Pi Day of the Century (3.14.15 at 9:26:53)! To signify this once-in-a-lifetime event, we invited students from all around the world to learn with us.

Through a posting on the Skype in the Classroom website, we encouraged students from all over the world to  measure the diameter and circumference of circular objects and to share then on a collaborative online spreadsheet.… Visit the author's original post

World Read Aloud Day Skypathon

March 4th was World Read Aloud Day. To celebrate, several South Elementary classes participated in a World Read Aloud Day Skypathon in which they were partnered with classes from around the world to read picture books. Classes connected via Skype or sent videos reading their favorite picture book to their partner class, and then took a turn listening to a story from their new friends.

Mrs. Conklin’s Kindergarten class was partnered with a class in Alabama, Mrs. Jones’s Kindergarten class Skyped with a class in Maine, Mrs.… Visit the author's original post

2nd Graders Learn about “Unhuggable” Animals on Virtual Field Trip to North Carolina

Our second grade students had the opportunity to travel to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences yesterday to meet some “unhuggable” animals.  Kaytee, a biologist at the museum taught them about adaptations that the animals have to survive, answered lots of questions, and taught students some of the ways that these animals are misunderstood.  Kids got the chance to see a live tarantula, snake, baby alligator, hedgehog, and a group of hissing cockroaches from Madagascar.  We were able to set this experience up through the Skype in the Classroom website.… Visit the author's original post

Finding a #MysterySkype Connection for Your Students

Mystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to build cultural awareness, critical thinking skills, and geography skills by guessing the location of the other classroom through a series of yes/no questions. Other variations can be used for different content areas.  Classes can play “Mystery Element” or “Mystery Animal” in science class, “Mystery Number” in math class, or “Mystery Historical Figure” in history class.  It is suitable for all age groups, from Kindergarten through college, and can be adapted for almost any subject area.  Some general guidelines that I’ve typed for my teachers can be found here: Mystery Skype Guidelines

Once people learn about Mystery Skype and the student learning that results from playing, they immediately want to begin setting up connections for their students.  In this post, I will share three easy ways to find a partner class for your next Mystery Skype game.Visit the author's original post

Kindergarteners Interact with a Live Penguin via Skype

Our Kindergarten classes were fortunate enough to Skype and visit with Talya Hanor at the SANCCOB disease and research center for injured sea birds.   The foundation is located in South Africa and many of the birds at the research center are penguins who need medical care.
We enjoyed  listening to a story about a Penguin who had been hurt and then also met a “live” Penguin named Skipper.  He warmed ours hearts with his purring and longing for affection from Talya. … Visit the author's original post

5th Graders Learn about CA Drought from Modesto Bee Editorial Writer

Mrs. Lavoy’s 5th graders recently told her that they were interested in learning more about the water crisis in central California.  They had learned about the issue from reading about current events on NewsELA , and had a list of questions to which they still wanted to know answers.

Award winning editorial writer from the Modesto Bee, Mike Dunbar was kind enough to Skype with our students to discuss the issue and to answer their questions.  Over the half hour call, students engaged in great conversation, got their questions answered about the drought, and learned a bit about Mike’s job as an editorial writer.… Visit the author's original post