I was enjoying the Microsoft Educator Network site over the summer holidays, working through professional development courses, earning badges and checking out their bank of resources. I hadn’t managed to get involved in the huge Skypeathon last year so wanted to check out some of the Skype lessons that were available through the network. One of them was a Skype session with The Night Zookeeper.
Fascinated, I clicked on the link and checked out the website, learning about this fascinating Night Zoo that inspires children to write. The raft of information available on their site about their aims, research, how it works and teacher endorsements, had me hooked. But still wanting to talk to other educators I found a colleague who had used it the previous year and was joining our team this year. She was extremely positive about the impact on her class last year and convinced me it would be worth signing up for the two-week trial they offer on Night Zookeeper.
Interestingly, writing became the target area for the year level we were teaching this year. In the interest of understanding the impact of the things we introduce into the classroom, I tested the class the day before we started our two-week trial, and we haven’t looked back!
My students have been using The Night Zookeeper site since the 1st of March 2016 and today they reached the milestone of having written and published over 100,000 words and I could not be prouder of them.
Just as our trial ended World Creative Writing Month started and we were given access to join in the battle of creativity and imagination against Lord Nulth. This saw my students transform into a group of keen writers – choosing to stay in at lunchtimes to write, arriving at school to announce they have finished a piece and requesting I publish it. We contributed over 68,000 words to a huge worldwide total that surprised even the Night Zookeepers themselves.
But as the month ended we were limited in our access to the site, as we didn’t have a subscription, so our amazingly supportive PTA (Parent Teacher Association) came to the party and paid for the entire school to have access to the site. Allowing us to really take part in what the site has to offer. We also got to skype with Night Zookeeper Buzz, which got the kids inspired – they stayed in every break that day.
The Night Zookeeper team then organised the 2016 Mayoral campaign for The Night Zoo. One student from my class managed to get into the top ten candidates and voting began. This sent us into overdrive campaigning for votes and yes her candidate is now mayor of The Night Zoo – Mayor Cheeseface!
The best thing today, handing out their certificates for being a part of our 100,000 word accomplishment, was hearing them talking to each other about what they could write next, trying to decide what our next writing target could be and listening to them identifying themselves as great writers, authors even. And we have not harnessed the websites full potential yet – watch out world we are Room 8 and we have something to say and it is worth writing down for you to read.
Room 8, Class Teacher