Thursday, March 20, 2008

Planning for Panwapa World

I listened to a new Bit by Bit episode by Bob Sprankle featuring Kevin Jarrett and Maria Knee. Initially, they were speaking about how Maria used Webkinz in her Kindergarten class last year. It seems Kevin was interested in the possibilities of doing the same at his school. Emails were exchanged an a podcast was set up to speak more in depth.

I am interested in doing more within my Kindergarten program. I was pretty sure that I did not want to use Webkinz, but I am always fascinated with new approaches. As always, I have a new plan developing for K-2 after listening to the whole podcast. I may even extend it to the third grade. The plan is based on a web site sponsored by Sesame Workshop and Merrill Lynch Foundation called Panwapa: Where Kids Shape the World.

I spent some time last night with my eleven year old helper son, Stephen. I didn't want to just set up an id for myself. I wanted to see how he'd interact with the site. It was evident that it's too "babyish" for a fifth grader.

As Kevin mentioned during Bit by Bit, it is a fantastic site as far as keeping student's private identity information private. When we signed up, it simply wanted to know where in the world (USA) we were located. Stephen then created a character choosing body shapes and clothes. Next he created a house. Finally he created a flag with his favorite food, game, craft, activity, sport, and musical instrument.

We spent a bit of time trying out the various options. We learned that you could look at the "world" of children who have created a "Panwapa kid" as they are called by each of the categories. It's going to be interesting for the primary children. We can see what the world would look like broken down by the foods enjoyed by all the children who have signed up. It looks like noodles are the favorite right now with 2520 Panwapa kids having that choice on their flag.

Another big part of the web site is visiting the houses of other Panwapa kids and building a card collection. For instance, he clicked on Mexico where there were 859 Panwapa kids. It zoomed in until he saw the various houses. He found a house that he wanted to look at. We then saw the card of the child who created that house.

You can choose to leave a card for the child to let them know you have visited. It gives you a preset choice of messages you can leave the child. Some examples of messages are: "Awesome", "Come visit me and my groovy house", and "Guess what? We both like the same instrument! Come and visit me and I'll show you".

It is a great site for pre-readers. While the messages are shown in text, they are also read to the child.

I will continue to explore the web site and write more about it later. There is a For Caregivers button with some background information. They have a grayed out "Teacher's Guide PDF" so I'm looking forward to those resources. Now I'm off to determine how to arrange each class.


  1. Hey,

    I am so glad that you discovered Panwapa. My name is Brett PIerce and I am the Executive Director of Panwapa for Sesame Workshop.

    I can only hope that as you continue to probe the site, that you will find that it gets exponentially richer. And we are starting plans for adding more.

    More importantly, the teacher guides that you mentioned have just been completed. They won't be up on for a few weeks. But you can access them at one of our partner sites, the Apple Learning Interchange. That address is:

    There is the start of an online teacher community around Panwapa there as well.

    Hope you continue to explore and enjoy the site.

    Best, Brett

  2. I'm so excited that you found Panwapa! I've used Panwapa with my 1st, 2nd and even a couple 3rd grade classes and they absolutely love it.

    As Brett mentioned, the lessons are available at the Apple Learning Interchange and there's also a comment area where educators can exchange ideas.

    I think you'll find your students will have a great time exploring the world, both in school and at home.