Traveling North Carolina

As we begin our project to teach students in Ireland and Around the World about places to visit in North Carolina we look out our windows this week you’d see  lots of rain. So if you came now to visit you’d need a rain coat or umbrella and some rain boots. It’s probably like we think you are most of the time.  We have read that you get lots of rain.   We didn’t have rain on Saturday but it’s poured heavy rain much of today.   They are calling for some severe storms possible with tornado watches for late this afternoon and tonight.  Flooding is forecast in some low lying areas.   The temperature is 70 F or 21 C.  It’s warm so bring shorts and t-shirt along with the rain gear, hiking shoes, and jeans and sweatshirt for layering.    Tomorrow a cold front will arrive in the area.

The trees have gotten their new spring leaves and the grass is growing for the spring mowing season.   Azalea bushes are blooming now in whites, pinks, red, and purples.  There is a lot of pollen in the air and on everything.  If you have allergies bring tissue and allergy medicines.  We’ll travel there by car which will take between 1 1/2 and 2 hours.  If we are on a field trip we will go by a school bus and it may take longer.

Our first stop on our agenda…..

  • Have you ever wondered about minerals and gems?  
  • Where do you find them?
  •  What kinds are there?  
  • Do you like nature and wildlife?
  •  Then you’ll like our first stop!

Sophie July 2014 April 2012-mountain 002 Sophie 2014 David's camera july 2012 199

Credits:  Hiddenite Gem Mine – Emerald Hollow Mine, North Carolina

Emerald Hollow Mine   located  in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains is in a small town of Hiddenite, North Carolina.  It’s a unique and interesting geological location on the North American continent.  Emerald Hollow Mine is known as “The Gem Capital of the World,” and provides educational fun experience for everyone.  You can spend a day in the foothills digging, sluicing or creeking “ for gems.  They offer Earth Science and Field Trip programs to tour groups and teams.  There are more than 63 different types of naturally occurring gems and minerals.  Many are rare including emerald, aquamarine, sapphire, garnet, topaz, amethyst, rutile, tourmaline along with more abundant ones of the world like class smoky and clear quartz crystals.  It’s the only place on earth where you can find the rare gemstone “Hiddenite”.big hiddenite 08

Hours 8:30 am to sunset (ranging from 5:00 p.m. in mid-winter to 7:00 p.m. in mid summer).

Open every day except for Thanksgiving (Nov – fourth Thursday), Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

You can bring your RV and park it nearby with complete hookups.  There are motels/bed and breakfast in nearby cities of Statesville, Hickory and Taylorsville.  You can bring a picnic lunch or stop in one of the nearby cities for a meal.

Staff will answer questions, offer instructions and help identify gems/minerals you find.

There is also a complete lapidary shop (where they turn your finds into jewelry and beautiful cut stones).

Other things to do-  DO NOT PICK THE WILD FLOWERS.

  • Breathtaking scenic views
  • Abundant wildlife
  • Walks/hiking and nature at it’s best.
  • Year round- Children’s activities
  • Free parking
  • Gift/retail shop
  • Picnic area
  • Rental equipment
  • Guided tours
  • Rustic mining town atmosphere
  • Splashing in the cool stream during the hot summer

Picture of sluicing from—

hiddenitegems02minerals and gems Emerald 65 carat Largest Emerald Found  (CBS news)

Sluicing, Creeking, and Digging

Sluicing Permit- $5.00- most popular and easiest.   Have a seat on covered sluiceway and wash buckets of ore to find gemstones.  Additional buckets range from $5.00 to $1000.00.  Variety of buckets to choose from such as the  “Super Bucket-  5 gallon enriched bucket for $15.00


Creeking- Sluicing/Creeking Permit)- $10.00  Cutting through the rich ridges of the mine there are sparkling clean, clear , mountain waters called creeks.

Digging:  Combination Permit- $20.00.   Digging is hard work but motherlode finds are made chasing veins.

Creek Screen and Hand Shovel- $2.00 more with a  $5.00 deposit for set $3.00 refunded upon return of tools.

Digging Tools- $5.00 set- $10.00 deposit- $5.00 refunded upon return of tools.

Check out their official website here for more details.

Fifth Graders Want to Know about Biomes

Our fifth grade students are studying ecosystems and Biomes around the world.   Can you help us out by telling us about some Biomes in your area of the world?   What makes them unique?

Do you know the difference in the terms Ecosystems and Biomes?

  • Biomes-  a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g., forest or tundra.
  • Ecosystems-a system made up of an ecological community of living things interacting with their environment especially under natural conditions.

North Carolina has three major areas– Coastal Plain, Piedmont (foot of the mountain) and Mountains.  What kinds of flora and fauna would we find here?   We live in the Piedmont area and that is where our school is located.

What would the top 5 biomes be in the world?

Welcome Back

Hello world,

We are busy learning about schools around the world and would like to learn more about your school to compare.

Please leave us a brief description of your school, the school day and where you are located.


We have about 820 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.  We have 17 pre-kindergartens that are four year olds.  We have about 150 kindergartens.  There are 8 classrooms of kindergarten children.  We have six and seven of other grades.  When you are in first grade you might be six then turn seven.  We have about 40 classroom teachers.  We have a PE teacher, music, art, global studies/technology and media teacher for specials.

Our school Rocky River is 7 years old.RockyRiverMisc_2011089

  • It’s very bright and shaped like a capital E.  We have bright blue, bright green and orange hallways.
  • We have 3 playgrounds.
  • We are located in Monroe, North Carolina in Union County.

We got our first postcard this week through the post card project.  It came from the Shetland Islands.  We were very excited to compare their playground to our playground.  It came from Burravoe Primary School.  Do you know where we  found the Shetland Islands?   We looked them up on google earth today.  Can you find them?

playground bridge 2013

  • Some of us bring lunch from home and some buy and eat lunch from our cafeteria.
  • We have math, literacy (reading, writing, word study) and science or social studies daily.   We have recess (outside time for 30 minutes) and lunch.  We go to specials for 40 minutes each day.
  • Some of us come to school by car and many by big yellow buses.  No one walks to school.
  • Monroe is a small town outside Charlotte, NC which is about 30 minutes away.  There are about 27,000 people we found out.    It has farms, the city streets and buildings and several other nearby small towns.  There are about 30 elementary schools in Union County.  We might see horses, cattle, sheep, goats, chickens on our way to school.   We see neighborhoods with many houses.  We see houses by themselves.

Visit the website for Monroe to learn more about where we are.




Vietnam Next Stop



Introducing the second graders of Rocky River to my birthplace was a fun task.  Opening up with a video, of my own cousin speaking Vietnamese, that introduced me and asked them if they were ready to journey with me to Vietnam.  Then proceeding to show them what the countryside looked like, through a short video that highlighted the beauty of Vietnam.


Getting into the meat of the presentation, I was able to introduce the kids to the basics of Vietnam, the facts about the geography and standard details (population, capital, language, products that they exported …) then went on to talk about some more interesting facts, like the rare animals that live in Vietnam and of course, one of my favorite things about Vietnam, the food!  It was neat when I had a child recognize the spring rolls they saw upon the screen! The kids also got to see an Ao Dai, the traditional costume that the women of Vietnam wore for special events. After discussing some of the foods and the costume/dress, I went on to talk about some famous Vietnamese people and loved it when the kids recognized the Yellow Power Ranger, Trini!


I think one of the highlights was when the kids got to watch a video of the Mid-Autumn Festival, simply because it is a festival that revolves around the children.  Lots of interesting sights to see in the form of the lanterns, food, parading and the dragon dances!  Another thing that the kids found interesting was the comparison on the school days between us and the children in Vietnam!


In closing, the kids got to watch another short video that showed more sights from all around the different parts of Vietnam and then I did a “drawing” and presented three lucky kids with special prizes … one even got a Moon Cake!

Asian-Pacific Month- Travels to New Zealand

We packed our bags for our next journey this time south of the equator.   This land was one of high mountains, volcanoes, fjords, waterfalls and beaches.  For most people, the word “fjord” conjures up thoughts of Scandinavia and the frozen North.   But New Zealand, is a surprise to many,  because it can boast some of the world’s best fjords — hemmed by towering cliffs, fantastically deep and stretching like long, crooked fingers from the Tasman Sea into some of New Zealand’s most lush and remote scenery.  It was amazing to us that you can be at a beach and only go 75 miles to get there.  There is a North Island and a South Island.   We have to travel many more to get to a beach in North Carolina.  We don’t have volcanoes!

They have mountains called the Southern Alps.

We saw some flightless birds.  They developed differently then other birds because originally there were no natural prey trying to get them.  The kiwi is one of these birds.  The giant weta (large insect) lives there and can be as big as 3 mice.

We learned that the Maori people greet each other by rubbing  their noses together.  The men originally did a loud chant that scared away enemies.  Today the All Blacks rugby team does this loud chant.  Wonder if they are trying to intimidate their opponents?  They also like to play cricket.  We aren’t sure what cricket is but it has a ball and bat so we think it might be like baseball.

Students wear uniforms to school.  You go to school 13 years where we only have 12 years.

There are many types of transportation.  There are four large cities.  The capital is Wellington which is between the two islands.  This is not the largest city.

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were filmed there and made New Zealand popular.

They have sheep and cows.

They have lots of rain and a mild temperate climate and have sun .map of New Zealand


In New Zealand, they have 14 flightless birds.  Two are the Kokopa and the kiwi which are both flightless birds.  In New Zealand they grow things like Kiwi and grapes.   There is a parrot that likes snow and the only parrot that ate meat, sheep meat that is and it is lucky they stopped.  In New Zealand they have a special greeting putting noses together.  In New Zealand they have 20 active volcanoes.  They call hiking trekking in New Zealand.  The first person to climb Mount Everest trained in the mountains of New Zealand.   The sing songs from the Maori people.


The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings was made there.  There is a bug called a weta and there are 5 types of weta.  New Zealand is safe.  New Zealand police don’t carry guns.  New Zealand is in the South.  New Zealand has a famous rugby team called the All Blacks.  And it’s national bird is the Kiwi.  And they grow kiwi!   New Zealand people are called Maori.  New Zealand is near Australia and Antarctica   If you are coming from Los Angeles, California to New Zealand you have to stop in Hawaii first.  It can take a whole day to travel there from here.  New Zealand has a parrot that lives in the cold and that is the only parrot that lives in the cold.



Mapping Resources/Products North Carolina and Australia


  • What resources/products are the same in North Carolina and Australia?
  • What are some that are different in each place?
  • Why does our maps show Australia having most of their resources around the edge and not in the center of Australia?
  • Is the sugar cane grown in NC the same as the sugar cane grown in Australia?
  • Are the cattle and sheep the same? 
  •  Why do you think both North Carolina and Australia are able to have cattle and sheep?
  • Does your country produce the same things?   Do you have different things?


Coastal Plain of North Carolina-

Visit the Coastal Plain from Brenda on Vimeo.

What can we do in the Coastal Plain area of North Carolina?

Go golfing, play at the beach, surf, build sand castles, swim go to the North Carolina Aquarium, see ships, see fish, wind surf, relax, swim at the pool, walk along the beach and collect sea shells. Visit lighthouses and quaint small towns.

North Carolina sits about midway down the U.S. East Coast. The 28th-largest state extends from the Appalachian Mountains in the west to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in the east, stretching more than 500 miles as it gradually loses elevation. Close to the coast, foothills transform to plains and swamps, while a sandy string of islands creates a barrier along much of the 300-mile coastline.

The Outer Banks stretches  around North Carolina’s northern coast.  A road connects the small, fragile islands for more than 100 miles. The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse sits on it outermost bank.  Visitors may climb the 248-step stairs to the top of the black-and-white-striped lighthouse. Other activities include shelling, birdwatching, kayaking, canoeing and windsurfing. Farther south, the Cape Lookout National Seashore  features  beauty and expansive beaches. Except for the path to the visitor center on Harkers Island, no roads lead to this section of the Outer Banks, and visitors must reach the area via boat or scheduled ferry service. Giant sand dunes, grasslands and saltwater marshes dot the landscape, and wild horses wander the park.

Visit a warship USS North Carolina  from World War II while in Wilmington.  See what life on a warship was like.

The  Great Dismal Swamp lies in northeastern North Carolina and stretches into Virginia. A national wildlife refuge, the swamp extends more than 112,000 acres. Hiking and biking trails traverse the swamp where visitors see more than 200 bird species, as well as otter, raccoon, mink and red foxes.

North Carolina Aquarium featuring a 235,000-gallon saltwater tank, the theme of the aquarium is “The Waters of the Cape Fear,” which showcases both fresh water and salt water aquatic life in a journey down the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean.   More than 2,500 sea creature are on display at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher.

History comes alive —-Kitty Hawk marks the spot where the Wright Brothers made the world’s first powered flight in 1903. Nearby at the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site ,colonists established the first English colony in North America in 1585. The colony vanished, and even today historians do not know why.

Inland on Pamlico Bay, Bath boasts several North Carolina historic sites, including the oldest church, first public library and first shipyard.

Sample some Pepsi while in New Bern at the place where it was invented by a New Bern pharmacist   in 1898.

Average temperatures along the NC coastline in January are around 40 degrees, while average temperatures in August hover just below 90 degrees on most of the coast.

Precipitation along the North Carolina coast is most often found in the form of rain, although once or twice a year there will be sleet or snow, usually without a significant accumulation.  Most areas on the coast receive between 40 and 55 inches of precipitation per year. Hurricanes and storms come to the area each year and some bring major destruction.

Tourism is large in this area and what once was quiet beaches are busier and busier.   Agricultural was strong in the coastal plain also. Traditional crops have been tobacco and cotton.  Other crops include soybeans, peanuts, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, along with some types of grains.

Since the 1800′s, a lighthouse at Cape Hatteras has marked the twelve-mile (12) long sandbar that lies just offshore, called Diamond Shoals.  Cape Hatteras sits on a narrow strip of sand on the eastern most point of the United States.   ( See other North Carolina lighthouses and information about them).

See the adventurous Pirate Blackbeard.   Read facts and a story of his life and times.  (story)


Come Visit North Carolina Mountains

Touring the Mountain region of North Carolina from Brenda on Vimeo.

We want to tell you about the Mountain region of North Carolina and what you can do.   Come visit Grandfather Mountain, Linville Caverns  Blowing Rock/Boone, Asheville,  Biltmore House and the Waynesville area – Cherokee Indian Reservation.  Go for a hike and see animals like whitetail deer, bear, squirrel and birds.   Go snow skiing in the winter!  See lots of waterfalls.

Outdoor recreation and outdoor adventures are seemingly endless in the Western North Carolina mountains, the outdoor playground of the Southeast. Visitors enjoy whitewater rafing, biking and hiking  and experiencing the highest peaks in the entire Eastern U.S.  Grandfather Mountain is important for it’s biodiversity and it is named because it looks like a grandfather sleeping.   There is the mile high swinging bridge to experience while there and it is  5,946 feet elevation at Grandfather Mountain.

Mount Mitchell is the tallest peak in the Eastern United States at well over a mile high. At an elevation of 6,684 feet (2,037 metres).  In Asheville you can visit the largest private owned home Biltmore Estates.  You can shop at outdoor markets and go to parks.  You can go to the folk art center and learn crafts.  You can go to the Botanical Gardens.  You can visit Tweestie Railroad and ride an old fashion train.  You can travel to Linville Caverns and go underground and see waterfalls.    The mountains also are a place to golf and horseback ride.   In Boone you can see a play Horn in the West and in Cherokee you can see another about Cherokee life while visiting the Cherokee Indian Reservation where you can shop, fish and hike.  We invite you to enjoy the many fun and relaxing things to do such as the Oconaluftee Indian Village, “Unto These Hills” Outdoor Drama, Museum of the Cherokee Indians and Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual.

As you can see many adventures await you in the North Carolina Mountains.

Our World

Where is Monroe, North Carolina?

  •  Where is Rocky River Elementary in the World?    34° 59′ N / 80° 36′ W

It is in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.  There are over 800 students.   Over 40 classrooms.

We have been learning about latitude and longitude and maps from Our World Our Numbers.  This next week when we return to school we would like some help to understand how big your city is and how much different areas of the world recycles in our own mapping project.

Rocky River Elementary School is in Monroe, North Carolina.

North Carolina is bordered by South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia, as well as the Atlantic Ocean along its eastern coast. Off the coast of North Carolina, out in the Atlantic Ocean, are a string of barrier islands, called the Outer Banks, the site of the Wright brothers first flights, the Kitty Hawk flying experiments.

North Carolina’s main geographic features are the coastal plains and the Appalachian Mountains. The sub ranges of the Appalachians located in North Carolina are the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Great Balsam Mountains, and the Black Mountains, which have the highest in the eastern United States, Mount Mitchell.

North Carolina is one of the fifty states in the USA.  California is all the way across the United States.  You can drive there in several days.  It’s between four and five hours to fly there.

The United States (50 States) joins Canada (10 provinces and 3 territories )  to make up what is known as North America.   Bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west side and the Atlantic Ocean on the east side.

Flight Distance

Monroe to Middleham UK—3924.69 miles / 6316.18 km

Monroe to Sydney, Australia-  9486.7 miles / 15267.36 km

Monroe, NC to Victoria, Australia–9902.31 miles / 15936.23 km

Monroe to Los Angeles California   2146.63 miles / 3454.67 km  driving time  2442.18mi / 3930.3km

Monroe to British Columbia Canada and Mrs. Watson’s Class  2636.95 miles / 4243.76 km

Monroe to Palmerston North, New Zealand-     8343.44 miles / 13427.47 km



Beautiful Weather Across the Ocean- England and USA

What’s your day like?   Our weather is clear and sunny in Matthews, North Carolina , USA and it’s snowy and cold in Middleham in North England on January 20, 2013.    It looks like a postcard  scene with the beautiful snow in England but traffic and getting around is a problem. (see comment on previous post)  Do you love a snowy day?   Do you prefer a sunny day?

Teaching Peers About Weather

We’ve been learning about air and weather.  We’ve tracked the temperature and weather over time.  We looked at weather tools.  We read books about weather.  We got to teach out classmates about what we learned as we were reading.

  • Do you know what causes snow?  
  • How about tornadoes?  
  • Which causes more damage a tornado or hurricane?  
  • What is the type of cloud that means fair weather?

Weather Around the Globe-

During the past few weeks we’ve hear that it was very hot in Australia and cold in England with snow.   We’ve had some combinations of both places.   For January it got very warm last weekend (January 10) then during the week it got cold enough we got a little snow during the night on the grass and steps.  There was ice/snow on the windshield to be scraped off.  It rained a lot on Thursday during the day before it snowed at night.   Water was standing everywhere but now we don’t have a deficit in our water table according to the meteorologist.     It was cold and frosty yesterday (Saturday) and today.   The forecast is for it to be in the teens by Tuesday morning (that’s F) and perhaps only 30’s during the day.  It’s sunny and clear, blue skies this morning and about 42 degrees F.   It’s suppose to be a nice day before the Arctic blast comes down from Canada.

Global Connection with Wildfires

We made a connection to Australia this week when we heard about the wildfires there.  This past summer here we heard a lot on the news about wildfires in some states in the western United States.  

We wondered how many were caused when lightening struck during a storm?  

How many had high winds?  

Was the humidity just right to keep them burning so long?

 What effect does it have on people and animals that live in these areas in the United States and Australia?

  •   We know homes were destroyed for both people and animals.


What is the weather doing where you are?  

Can you explain the water cycle?

Global Warming- What do you believe?

You hear a lot about global warming.  Which of these are true we wonder?   We need to read more to find out which source is correct.

Do you know of evidence that proves this is happening?

We read it in some books and on some websites but……

We also read that it’s just something that environmental groups and some people are saying.  This is were we have to read and think very carefully and compare and contrast evidence.

Skyping with Upper Plenty

We had sent them questions about the holidays a few weeks earlier so they could prepare for the Skype.   They have holidays called Australian Day, Boxing Day, Anzac Day along with ones that sound like ours– Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, Halloween, New Years and Valentine’s Day.

Did you know that they have a bilby at Easter instead of the bunny?

Did you know they can go to the beach on Christmas Day?

Why ?  It’s summer time there.

They still decorate like we do but have picnics, barbecues, and play a lot outside.   The boxing day is a shopping day after Christmas similar to our Black Friday after Thanksgiving.  They honor soliders on Anzac Day like we do at Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day.  They serve mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day and give gifts.  They call candy lollies.  They celebrate birthdays too!

This Skype experience was a good follow up to our study of Australian holidays.  We learned that the Melbourne Cup, Boxing Day, Australian Day, Anzac Day are only celebrated in Australia.   They celebrate Christmas during their summer while we celebrate it during our winter.   We all celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day and Birthday’s in similar ways.

We have Thanksgiving, Fourth of July and Columbus Day.

Do you have other holidays to celebrate?  Which is your favorite?

What is the best thing about skyping with children from another country?




Canned Food Drive

This week the students at Rocky River participated in a canned food drive to help the needy during the next few weeks.

Students shared about how it made them feel…

Emanuel said , “it was really great to be able to share with others who need help”


McKenna said  “it made her feel special to help others.”   She liked how she was able to help others in need.

Eric felt really special bringing in his contributions.

Nicole was excited to share her efforts toward the project.”  It made me feel good.”


The class decided they would like to do another project and after some discussion it was decided they they  bring in a book for the children’s hospital for sick children.   They are excited to do this project over the next few weeks.

Presenting our Cultural Resumes



Students  have been busy talking with their parents and finding out about their ancestors.   We are finding we come from many countries.  We watched a video about gestures (hand shakes, heads moving) and their meanings from around the world.   We learned a song about saying hello around the world.  We discussed why it’s important to understand different cultures.


Do you know where your ancestors came from?   Did they need to travel a long way from their country of origin to come to America?


Maori Welcome Song

Where do you find the Maori language?  What do you know about the Maori culture?

Room 113 students had a chance on Thursday to learn a welcome song.   Ms. Lologa and her students  at New Town taught us the words to a new song as we skyped with them.

Tena Koe – Hello to one

Tena Korua Hello to two

Tena Koutou – Hello to all

Haere mai everyone, Welcome everyone