FARMINGTON — First-graders learned about how Russians stay warm. Third-graders learned about some of the fastest animals and tallest trees on the planet. And fifth- and sixth-graders learned that a worldwide company's vice president likes to play Xbox.
Canyon Creek Elementary School in Farmington is participating in Microsoft's Skype-a-thon Tuesday and Wednesday. Whole classrooms of excited kids gathered around projector screens Tuesday to hear archaeologists, wildlife experts, locals from foreign countries and others tell the students about their lives, work and research.
Principal Vonzaa Hewitt said every class has or will Skype with at least one person in another part of the country or world who can teach the students firsthand about topics they're studying.
First-graders at the school are studying "our community and our homes," Hewitt said, which is why they talked with locals in Russia and Sri Lanka to see how daily life is in those countries.
Austen Hanaker and Beau Godfrey, both in first grade, learned that people in Russia always wear slippers inside and hats outside to keep warm during the harsh winters.
Third-grade students chatted via video with experts in California and at Yellowstone National Park after learning about environmental science and animals this year. They learned about California's tall redwoods and the 55 mph pronghorn, as well as other animals and habitats.
Sixth-graders, studying ancient civilization, Skyped with archaeologists and others in Egypt and Greece, and most likely will connect with others in Rome on Wednesday.
They were also joined by fifth-graders in a Skype conversation with Anthony Salcito, vice president of worldwide education at Microsoft.
The students had all sorts of questions for Salcito, ranging from career insights to embarrassing moments.
He talked to them about technology — how much it has changed since the dial-up days before they were born, and how he believes it's important to accept the change rather than criticize new communication methods such as texting and social media, even if they're not as formal as the written English kids learn in school.
"Now you have the opportunity every day to use your language — even emojis — to express yourself," Salcito said. "I embrace that. It's the changing dynamic of language where technology is helping all of you express your ideas and thoughts more."
Canyon Creek was recently recognized as a Microsoft Showcase School, two years after opening.
When former Davis School District Superintendent Bryan Bowles appointed Hewitt as the school's first principal, he told her he wanted it to be a Microsoft Showcase School.
"I didn't even know what that was," Hewitt said. "I seriously had no idea."
After researching and learning about the program, Hewitt made sure the teachers at Canyon Creek were trained well to use Microsoft equipment and software.Comment on this story
In addition, Microsoft chooses schools that show all-around qualities, such as leadership, modern teaching and learning, innovative thinking and inclusivity.
Alberto Herraez, a fifth- and sixth-grade Spanish teacher and a Microsoft trainer and expert at the school, said the recognition as a showcase school is more about how they teach than what they teach.
"We are more focused on critical thinking and collaboration," Herraez said. "We focus more on skills than memorizing the content."
The school is the only one with the showcase recognition in all of Utah, Wyoming, Arizona and Nevada.