Teacher Tara Miller holds up an iPad as kindergartner Lizzie Williams stands in front of a green screen.

Lizzie reads facts about painted lady butterflies from an organizer she made about the insect. When Lizzie finishes reading her report on the painted lady butterflies, Miller uses the iPad to find a photo of the butterfly to put on the green-screen background of Lizzie’s report.

“I think it’s really cool,” Lizzie says. “Usually I’m a little nervous around new people. But I’m really comfortable on-screen, because I know Ms. Miller is there.”

Miller has incorporated green-screen technology into her classroom activities as an interactive way to increase student interest in research. Most recently, she incorporated the green screen as part of a research project on insects.

Students were required to select an insect, and learn about where it lives and other fun facts about it. Students then had to create an organizer showing that information. They also built a three-dimensional habitat diorama.

“In this project we’re incorporating science, language arts, art and math,” Miller says.

Parker Copen chose to do his project on wasps. Early in the class, Parker walked up to Miller to show her his diorama. When he showed his teacher the habitat, Miller asked where wasps live, and Parker said he forgot.

“Well, let’s double-check,” Miller tells Parker as she thumbs through a pile of organizers looking for his.

Upon finding his organizer, Miller hands it to Parker and asks him to read what he wrote.

“Wasps can be found everywhere, but not in Antarctica,” Parker says.

Parker said he picked wasps because he thinks they look cool. His diorama showed the sky, and sun and flowers for wasps to land on.

For his video’s background, he chose a photo of two wasps eating fruit.

When students finish their green-screen videos, Miller posts the videos on a private Facebook group page so that parents can see the children’s presentations.

“I like using the green screen because it’s a lot of fun, and I like that my parents get to see me do it,” Parker says.

But not all students took to the green screen from the start. Some are nervous to present. To get used to presenting, some students would deliver their research findings together.

“There are some students, like Lizzie [Williams], who love presenting,” Miller says. “And so there were some students who asked her to present with them so they could get comfortable.”

Olivia Coley did her project on monarch butterflies. She built her diorama to exhibit a meadow, which is where monarch butterflies are most often found.

Olivia reads off her fun facts about the butterfly — their taste sensors are on their feet, and they can lay eggs. She reads off the facts with exuberance, but has some reservations about presenting in front of the green screen.

“I’m shy,” she says.

As students complete their dioramas and videos, they move to the middle of the class and sit on the floor to read to themselves. The students largely complete their work independently, and when a student is getting ready to present, Miller calls out to the class.

“Eenie meenie,” she says.

“Miney mo,” the students respond.

Miller tells the class that a classmate is getting ready to present. The class quiets down.

“I just love this group,” Miller says. “They’re so engaged and well behaved.”

Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler.

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