Innovation invitee list expands |

Innovation invitee list expands

Two more area teachers picked for Microsoft’s U.S. Innovative Education Forum

Ben McCanna

Sunset Elementary School fifth-graders take part in Misty Jones' ice cream store project in May. On Thursday, Jones was informed by Microsoft that her project earned her a spot at the 2011 U.S. Innovative Education Forum, scheduled for July 28 in Redmond, Wash. Laura Voorhees, a Craig resident and Hayden Valley Elementary School teacher, was also invited Thursday. The announcements bring the local number of Redmond-bound teachers to five.

Two area teachers received welcome news Thursday morning from Microsoft.

"I was surprised because there were a lot of teachers who applied," said Laura Voorhees, a Craig resident and kindergarten teacher at Hayden Valley Elementary School. "I thought it was kind of a long shot."

That long shot was getting accepted to Microsoft's 2011 U.S. Innovative Education Forum. The all-expenses paid, two-day event begins July 28 in Redmond, Wash.

Voorhees and Misty Jones, a fifth-grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School, were chosen to attend.

Each year, Microsoft accepts applications from teachers around the country who wish to attend the forum.

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According to Microsoft, the forum "is a showcase of talented educators from around the country, and Microsoft will honor these teachers for effectively using technology in their curriculum to increase student engagement and success."

The forum is also an opportunity for educators to exchange new approaches to teaching.

The two latest invitees will attend the event alongside fellow Moffat County teachers Cheryl Arnett, Amy Jones and Melany Neton, who were accepted to the forum in early April.

The teachers submitted class projects for Microsoft's consideration. The projects incorporate technology into student research and creation.

Misty Jones said the idea for her winning project came from necessity.

"Colorado has adopted a new financial literacy standard for elementary schools, but I couldn't find a whole lot of information to work with," she said. "So, I created a project about an imaginary ice cream store."

Jones said her students ran the imaginary store and kept the books.

"They created expense charts and income charts, and put it on Excel spreadsheets," she said.

Jones said the students also used computer applications to create a movie and e-book about the project, and to make advertisements.

Toward the end of the project, the fifth-graders invited kindergarten students to participate in the store as customers.

"The kindergarten students were learning about pennies and nickels, so they came to our ice cream store with their pennies and nickels and we made it a collaborative effort," she said.

Voorhees said her Hayden students incorporated technology into a research project on ocean life.

"They drew pictures of ocean animals — very basic ocean animals — and we created a Microsoft photo story," she said. "The kids would take a digital photograph of the picture they drew, and then I uploaded those to the computer.

"For example, they drew a killer whale, and then they recorded their voice into the computer's microphone to say a few facts about the killer whales."

The students also used Skype to discuss aquatic creatures with students in Cheryl Arnett's second-grade class at Sunset.

Arnett, as it turns out, was instrumental in getting the four Redmond-bound Craig teachers involved in the forum, Jones said.

"She sees a lot of the great things that are going on in the different classrooms and she wants everybody to be able to share their ideas," Jones said. "She has definitely been the ringleader in getting people to share their ideas, especially this way, through Microsoft's Innovative Educators."

Last year, Arnett was chosen to attend the forum, which took place in July in Washington, D.C. At that event, she was picked to represent the U.S. at Microsoft's 2010 International Innovative Education Forum in October in Cape Town, South Africa.

At this year's event in Redmond, judges will choose finalists to represent the U.S. at the 2011 international forum, scheduled for November in Washington, D.C.

Ben McCanna can be reached at 875-1793 or

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