An email from America…


This email was sent to us before our Easter Holidays. It is from our friends at Innes Middle School in Akron, Ohio.

They have sent us this picture of the snow that has fallen there in March!

Hello everyone!
We are sending a picture of what our blizzard  was like here in
Ohio. A couple of students, Steven and Shanaysha are writing
narratives about it.
We know you are on break right now, but we wanted to send off a couple of pics of winter here on this
first day of spring.
Hope you warm your shoulders in the sun,
Mrs. Binnie, Steven and Shanaysha, Innes Middle School,  Akron,  Ohio”

If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can look closely at the right hand side to see how deep the snow is!


It’s Spring Vacation!

We have just returned from our Easter holidays – the annual two week break we always enjoy at this special time of year. In Scotland, the spring holidays coincide with Easter, signifying it’s importance down the years in our country.

Between Easter and the summer break we have a few Monday Holidays that let us relax and take advantage of some long weekends. Next week we will not have to come to school because it is the Edinburgh Spring Holiday on the 21st April – a traditional shopkeepers’ holiday that is adopted by all schools in the area.

In May we will enjoy two days out of school to mark the May Day Bank Holiday – which is celebrated on the first weekend in May. All schools and many businesses will be closed on Monday May 5th – but our schools remain shut for a further day (May 6th) to allow the pupils to recharge their batteries and teachers to undergo In Service Training.

From May 6th until June 28th there are no further breaks in the school calendar – but there will be many exciting events to be enjoyed including

  • Prize Giving
  • School Sports Days
  • Activities Week
  • Trips abroad
  • Day trips (including our trip to Lauriston Castle)
  • On Our Doorstep open day

Since we have returned to school however, we have not been able to communicate with our friends in America…

Seemingly, they are on something called Spring Vacation!

Now, we are not totally unfamiliar with this expression – we can recall coming across it on programmes such as Zoey 101 and Drake and Josh.

We reckon it is really just the American equivalent of our Easter Holidays…it is just that they use the word “vacation” where we would use the word “holiday”.

We have discovered that, although we technically speak the same language – English – some of the terms the Americans use are different to ours and some of the spellings are not the same either…

For example, we have worked out that when they say…

Mail Box   they mean   Post Box

Elevator   they mean    Lift

Sidewalk  they mean    Pavement

Faucet   they mean    Tap

Pants       they mean     Trousers

and that

Color is their adaptation of the original English word “colour”

Airplane is their adaptation of the English word aeroplane

Their Mom is our Mum

Their mustache is our moustache…

and so on!

Be careful if you are ever in the United States to be certain of what you are asking for…

( John is something quite different, for example!)

If you want a bacon sandwich don’t ask for Canadian Bacon or you will be given what we might called Boiled Ham.

If you want a mobile phone you will need to ask for a Cell Phone.

If you need medicine you must seek out a drug store – looking for the signs for a chemist or pharmacy will not help

Oh and chips are not chips in America, they’re French Fries.

Crisps are chips!



Hershey bars and snow balls…

This week the class pupils were lucky enough to receive a special mailing from their friends in the USA. There was much excitement as we opened a fabulous goodie bag of letters, pens and American candy. It was as though Christmas had come eight weeks late…

All of our children received wonderful and interesting letters from individual children in a class from Innes Middle School in Akron, Ohio. Each of the American children had been given a disposable camera to take home over the festive holidays and were charged with taking photographs of things that are dear to them, things that are “typically Akron” and any other person, item or place that they felt may interest the pupils of Preston Lodge.

We were treated to a wonderful array of Moms, Dads, dogs, school buses, houses, shops, friends, snow, geese, more snow…and lots more snow. It would appear that Ohio is still very much in the grip of winter whilst we are edging, thankfully, into spring.

Indeed, an email from Innes Middle School on Wednesday February 27th advised us of them having to “endure” a “Snow Day”. Such was the meteorological conditions in Akron, Innes Middle School was shut for the day. Such hardships were met stoichally by the pupils and teachers alike, we understand! 😉

We were all excited at the thought of trying out some new sweets and chocolate (sorry Health Promoting Schools, please turn away now) and Hershey’s standard milk chocolate bars took something of a tanning (as we might say here in Scotland).

The verdict? Well, our connosieurs believe it to be sweeter and less creamy than our own chocolate and was something their palates were needing to get used to…or at least that is what they claimed when asking for seconds!

We are about to send over our own package containing Scottish delicacies and the children have been debating what we might despatch. Noteable mentions have been given to Duncan’s chocolate, Cadbury’s chocolate and Thornton’s chocolate – as the children felt the Akron kids may well not have had any of the above. The pupils were also encouraged to ask other people for advice on what we might send to America and this resulted in macaroon, tablet and soor plooms being added to the list of potential items to wing their way to Ohio.

A letter TO America…

 Today in ICT we used our ever improving computer skills to write a letter to our friends in America. Not only did this allow us to practise using Microsoft Word software but it encouraged us to make use of the simple sentences we have been practising in English with Ms Monaco.

In English we have been practising writing the phrases

  • My name is
  • I live at (my address in full including postcode)

In the letter to America we substituted our home addresses and instead used the school address. For the first time ever we had to stop and find out where Preston Lodge High School actually was!

We discovered that our school address is – Preston Lodge High School, Park View, Prestonpans, EH32 9QJ, Scotland.

We planned our letter on the whiteboard as a group – what we ought to put in the letter because it was the “proper thing to do”. This included the address, the date and the way of addressing the person we were writing to. We then thought about the information we might include. We chose to include information as follows –

  • My name is (christian name)
  • I go to Preston Lodge High School
  • I like ( a hobby)
  • My favourite food is
  • My favourite television programme is
  • My friends are called
  • My best subject is

The children could then personalise their own version of a standardised letter format and refer to the plan for help at any time in the proceedings.

The letter will then be printed and we will check to see if there are any obvious errors. We will especially look for capital letters that are missing or in the wrong place. We will make sure our sentences end with a full stop. We will ask a friend to read it – can they understand it? Can they make any helpful suggestions about making the letter “better”?

Once we have assessed our own letters we will then go back to the computers to write our FINAL DRAFT.

The finished letters will be sent to a number of places

  • To the pupils of Innes Middle School, Akron, Ohio
  • To the English folders we have in Mrs Monaco’s class
  • To the ICT folders we have to show we have used Word
  • To the On Our Doorstep file – for use as part of our contribution to the whole school project 2008

We may have written the letters in ICT but this was not just simply a computing skills lesson. In producing the letter for America we have –

  • Practised writing our important sentences from English
  • Enhanced/practised several language skills
  • Worked as a team to plan and produce a template for our letters
  • Executed another idea from our Cross Curricular project 2008 about living in East Lothian
  • Gained practise in crucial life skills – we need to know how to write a simple letter, how it is structured and what information or conventions are essential.

Oh yes – and in doing all this we learned a little of what it is to be efficient! 😉

Thanksgiving and St Andrew’s Day

St Andrews Day-ThanksGiving Activity

In America, over the last week, people have been celebrating THANKSGIVING.

Thanksgiving, or Thanksgiving Day, is a traditional North American holiday to give thanks for the things that people have at the end of the harvest season. Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States and on the second Monday of October in Canada.

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is part of long weekend which usually marks a break in school and college calendars. Many workers (78% in 2007) are given both Thanksgiving and the day after as paid holidays. The day after Thanksgiving is known as the unofficial holiday, Black Friday: the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Many shops open very early (typically 5 A.M.) and offer special deals to draw people to their stores.

Thanksgiving meals are traditionally family events where certain kinds of food are served. Turkey is the main part of Thanksgiving dinners (so much so that Thanksgiving is sometimes known as “Turkey Day”). Stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn, turnips, rolls, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie are commonly eaten at Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving started in 1619. On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred, Virginia. The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed annually as a “day of thanksgiving” to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodleaf held the first service of thanksgiving. Over the centuries it has become a very important holiday in the United States and most families enjoy the opportunity to spend time together during the cold months, eating nice food and having a rest from work or school before the mad Christmas rush begins.

Last week, we received an email from Akron, Ohio, that told us of some of the plans in place there for Thanksgiving…

“Over here, millions of Americans are preparing for Thanksgiving. This holiday is spread out though, people travel more now than at Christmas or New Year. My dad is volunteering in a mission tomorrow, working in the soup kitchen. We will be heading to my best friend’s place as she is having approximately 40 people over to share a meal. My two brothers are hooked up in Orlando, Florida with their families. On Friday we’ll all get together with my family. Then, on Saturday, we’ll kick-it at my cousin’s house!”

It is an incredibly busy time and – as the email tells us – is almost more celebrated than Christmas or New Year!

Here, in Scotland, we also have more low key celebrations at the end of the harvest. In schools and churches all over the country, there have been Harvest Services and Harvest Festivals. This tends to be marked by children and families donating food stuffs to be collected for distribution amongst the elderly in the community. More recently, some schools have put on performances or plays connected to the theme of sustainable development and famine in the Third World. However, Harvest Thanksgiving in Scotland is not a holiday as such.

We will be celebrating St Andrew’s Day on November 30th. St. Andrew’s Day is the feast of Saint Andrew, celebrated always on the 30th November each year. Saint Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and St. Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day, although Burns’ Night has traditionally been more widely observed.

However, in 2006, the Scottish Parliament designated the Day as an official bank holiday.

St Andrew

We will not, however, be off school on the 30th of November and most adults will still have to work. So we decided to investigate how St Andrew’s Day was being celebrated in our community…

* What did we know of St Andrew?
* What is being done in East Lothian to promote St Andrew’s Day?
* What are we doing in our school?
* Do people think St Andrew’s Day should be a big public holiday?

In the Herald newspaper on November 23rd, it said that a number of local attractions would be open to the public, free of charge, here in East Lothian.

Dirleton Castle, Inveresk Lodge Garden, Musselburgh and Tantallon Castle are all going to be freely open to the public on St Andrew’s Day.

Tantallon Castle

We also found on the Scottish Government website that Athelstaneford Primary are organising a lunchtime cafe and raffle in the village hall with support from the Parent Council and many local businesses. The school are having a special enterprise day to help create Scottish decorations for the hall. They will also be raising their new flag.

ATHELSTANEFORD has a special place in Scotland’s history.

According to legend, the Pictish King Angus was marching southwards with his army, when they found themselves confronted by a larger force under an English leader called Athelstan. Defeat seemed almost certain, but after Angus and his men had prayed for deliverance, the appearance in the blue sky above them of a white cloud in the shape of a saltire or St Andrew’s Cross seemed to promise that their prayers had been answered. Angus vowed that if they were victorious that day, St Andrew would forever after be their patron saint. When the Scots did indeed win, Angus remembered his promise, and so Andrew became our patron saint and his cross our flag.

At the western end of the village lies the Church of Scotland Parish Church, which was originally built in 1176. The present building dates from 1780. One of the fine stain glass windows in the Church is of St Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland. Within the burial ground of the Church, the SALTIRE MEMORIAL is located.

Saltire memorial

We also read that Campie Primary, in Musselburgh, will be having a whole school activity entitled ‘Proud To Be A Scot: Proud To Be A Citizen Of The World’. The work will celebrate the landscape, people, language and music of Scotland and Africa.

On the website ElectricScotland we learned that Andrew was a fisherman – this ties in nicely with our ELP cross curricular theme, WE were fishermen ourselves only last week!

We discovered that Andrew was the first disciple called by Jesus and that he was also crucified. However, Andrew did not believe he was good enough to be crucified on the same kind of cross as Jesus – and so he died on a diagonal cross like the one on the Scottish Saltire.

Andrew is traditionally thought to have worn blue clothing when he was a follower of Jesus and because of this, the (Saltire) flag of St Andrew became a white diagonal cross on a bright blue background.

We also discovered from The St Andrew Society that some of the saint’s bones are to be found in the place called St Andrews which lies on our river, the River Forth. Nobody is sure how they got there and more than one legend has been told about the transfer of Andrew’s bones to Scotland.

The country’s political independence, restored by the heroic efforts culminating in Bannockburn, was given its most eloquent expression in the Declaration of Arbroath, and in 1385 an Act of Parliament established the statutory position of the St Andrew’s Cross as the national flag which any Scot is entitled to fly or display.

The Arbroath Declaration (1320) relates with pride the country’s link with St Andrew and the scene of his missionary labours:

“Among other distinguished nations our own nation, namely of Scots, has been marked by many distinctions. It journeyed from Greater Scythia… but nowhere could it be subjugated by any people…it acquired, with many victories and untold efforts, the places which it now holds, although often assailed by Norwegians, Danes and English.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ…called them…almost the first to his most holy faith. Nor did he wish to confirm them in that faith by anyone but by the first apostle by calling, …namely the most gentle Andrew, the blessed Peter’s brother, whom he wished to protect them as their patron for ever”.

Using Powerpoint to send information to America…

This week we are learning how to use a special computer package called Powerpoint. The reason we want to find out what this special programme can do, is that we would like to tell our American friends in Akron, Ohio all about our lives in East Lothian.

At first we thought that we could maybe send them an email with our stories and information – but that might be a bit dull because there would be no pictures. It might also be a difficult task for some of us to write – and for some of our friends to read.


Then we had the idea of putting some pictures on the school website showing the things we do, the places we go and the interests we have – that might prove pretty but we worried it might not have enough information to tell “our story”.

We talked about how other people (for example, our teachers in class) explain new things. What do they use to tell “a new story” or present new ideas? Some of the things we suggested included:

*Interactive whiteboard internet activities (like the habitats game we played last week)
*Mind maps and picture diagrams on the board
*Hand outs and work sheet activities
*Slideshow on the white screen
*Television or video programmes (like the one we made about sharks or the one we watched about food chains)

We thought about how practical all of these might be. How easy would it be for us to do some of the above when our friends in Akron are thousands of miles away?

Our conclusion was that making a slideshow might be the best idea – we could always EMAIL it as an attachment. (And we have already had plenty of practice sending emails). We used the following linked fileto plan our activity before moving on to use Powerpoint (as a group) to construct our own slideshow to send to the USA.

Using Powerpoint to send a letter to America…

Our pictures for the slide show

We find out a little more about our friends in Ohio…

Today we received an email from the school in Ohio that we are forging links with. It came from the classroom teacher whose idea it was to make contact with Preston Lodge – and she answered some of the many questions OUR students had about life in an Akron school.

Our pupils were very excited to discover the names of some of the students they will be communicating with over the coming months – and a bit more about the area the school is sited in.

Here is just a snippet of the email from Innes Middle School, Akron, Ohio…

“Hi there, thanks for the questions!
We work at Innes Middle School, Akron Ohio. It is currenently located on Manchester Road (this building originally was Margaret Park elementary). The ages range from 12 to 15 years, that is grades 7th and 8th here, respectively. Currently our middle school is being remodelled so our 6th graders (11-12 year olds) are at another campus. Therefore, we have Innes On
The Lake on Manchester Rd. and Innes Academy on Kenmore Blvd”.

Our pupils were able to use this information to find Innes Middle School using Google and Google Earth. This allowed us to practise our ICT skills and at the same time feel far closer to Akron than a simple book or photo would let us.


Our email from America continued…

“At one time Akron Ohio was the tyre capital of America. Goodyear and Firestone tyres are still made today, but unfortunately the factories moved south of the border. We have a big lake next to our school called, Summit Lake. Once it was a grand amusement park area like you had in Portobello. We’re talking the roaring 1920’s and 1930’s!

Now it looks pretty, but noone would swim in it. And it is the source of many urban legends about lost cars and drowned individuals.”


We will look at the industries of Akron and Prestonpans over the next few weeks – they were clearly very different to the children even before we make any moves to further investigate and compare further.

Further information that we will look at as part of a lesson making comparisons between the two schools was relayed to us in this following paragraph. Preston Lodge has a much larger school roll and has a fairly different composition of social groups. It will be interesting to find the similarities as well as the differences over the coming weeks!

“We are one of seven middle schools in Akron and we are considered the east cluster.
I think there are 500 kids combined on both campuses. The student body is diverse, meaning we have many ethnic backgrounds: hispanic, arabic, african american and caucasian, asian; the full gammet”.


Hello Ohio!

Over the coming months we hope to link up with fellow high school pupils who live across the Atlantic Ocean…

Atlantic Ocean from the sky

These students are pupils in the state of Ohio in the United States of America…


The USA is a much larger country than Scotland and has many things that are very different to our way of life – but there are many, many things about our two homelands that are the same (or very similar). We all speak English for starters – which will be a big help in communicating with each other!

We hope that the pupils of Preston Lodge in Prestonpans, East Lothian, Scotland can share their every day experiences with our friends in Ohio – helping them learn about our land through the work we produce for our school thematic programme for 2008 “On our doorstep”…

In turn, we would love to learn about Ohio – and Akron in particular.

We are so keen to know (amongst a million number of things!)

* what their weather is like compared to ours?
* how many people live there compared to Prestonpans?
* what do they study at school?
* what sports do they like and play?
* what music and television is popular there – and is it similar or different to ours?
* what we can learn about the wildlife, countryside and farming in Ohio
* do any of you speak any other languages in addition to English?
* what famous people have gone to your school or came from your town?

For example, Scotland’s most capped international rugby player, Scott Murray, and Scotland international soccer player, Gary O’Connor both were pupils at Preston Lodge. Also world famous artist, John Bellany came from our community and is still a strong supporter of our school. We wonder if what famous people came from Akron, Ohio?


Scott Murray, Scottish international rugby player went to our school!


Scotland international football player, Garry OConnor went to our school too!


Bellany work picturing the East Lothian fishing village Eyemouth