United class distance learning via Skype with White House

Originally published on April 18, 2019 by Daily Review Atlas, written by Jeff Holt

MONMOUTH — History is going to be made today at United West Elementary School.

Kindergarten teacher Emily Higbee and her students will be Skyping with the White House — the first time this has ever been done.

Ms. Higbee holds up a Buddy Bison T-shirt
in her classroom

“We are going to be the first in the nation to have distance learning with the White House,” Higbee said.

The White House and surrounding grounds constitute a national park, which will be the focus of the lesson.

“It’s called the President’s Park,” Higbee said. “I am not shocked, having done distance learning in the past. Distance learning is available through most national parks and monuments. It is connecting these kids to the world that is literally at their fingertips. I have a class of 18 amazing kids who are taking a journey. The two words I’m really proud of them knowing is to preserve and to protect.”

Higbee has made sure her students are quite familiar with the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States who is an icon in the National Park Service.

“We talk about everything from the president to their animals,” Higbee said. “My kids already know their is an Oval Office and they understand the first lady is married to the president, and that the White House once burned down and had to be rebuilt again.”

Higbee said that after the Skyping today, her students will receive an official Junior Ranger certificate.


President’s Park includes the White House, a visitor center, Lafayette Park and President’s Park South, commonly known as the Ellipse, as well as the White House Gardens. President’s Park served for several years after the War of 1812 as a construction station for the reconstruction of the White House.

Ms. Higbee’s class

United Technology Coordinator Trish Bertelsen also played a key role in making this happen, acquiring picture books for the students in Higbee’s classroom to help familiarize them even more with pictures of the White House.

And for the alphabet, Higbee said she has tied it in with her students. For example, for the letter “s” she said it stands for Statue of Liberty.

“I’m excited for them to experience everything they are learning in the classroom,” Higbee said.

Higbee, in her fifth year as a teacher at United West, said she grew up going to national parks as a kid with her family. So, the kids in her classroom were able to make homemade passports.

“I’m hoping to instill a core memory (for the kids),” Higbee said. “It’s the first for everybody.”

Another unique thing that Higbee has implemented into her teaching is “table talk.” It can be at home over dinner or in their car with their parents.

“Family is very important here at United,” Higbee said. “Just having conversation and bouncing off thoughts and talking about their day.”So tonight, when the kindergarten students get home from school, they could have some very interesting “table talk” with their families.

Higbee and her students will also be going to Starved Rock State Park on May 24. That will be their Stewardship Project. They were one of the winners of the Kids to Parks Day National School Contest. The National Park Trust (NPT) provided them with a scholarship to help make it happen. They were given a classroom Buddy Bison and Buddy Bison T-shirts to wear on that day.