West Central Students Learn With High-Tech Gadgets

School district receives tech award from Apple

The West Central School District has received a major award from tech giant Apple.

The school district has been named an Apple Distinguished Program for its use of technology in classrooms.  Kids in kindergarten through 12th grade have access to iPads and laptops.  The technology helps students learn problem-solving, critical thinking and teamwork.  As part of the award, West Central is now a host site where other school districts can visit and learn about this technology.  District leaders say teachers play a critical role in getting students to use the devices.

“We’re trying to make this so every student can be successful.  We think using the technology in the hands of a professional educator really allows for that process to be a much better experience for the students,” says Superintendent Jeff Danielsen.

The school district also has a new initiative aimed at promoting technology and science to students.

Last year, the district started setting up “makerspaces” at its elementary, middle and high schools in Hartford and Humboldt.  The makerspaces are designated areas in school buildings where kids can create, using the latest toys and gadgets that promote STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and math.  This includes items like drones, robots, 3D printing technology, even software to create video games.  The items in the district’s makerspaces are paid for with donations and grants.  Local businesses even visit students to tell them about stem-related jobs.

“Our students come into our makerspaces, they explore their interests, they explore various careers, and they love the hands-on and we just really enjoy seeing what they create here,” says West Central School District Librarian DaNann Kistler.

One of those students is 11-year-old Gavin Gerlach.  The 6th grader says he has a lot of fun using the technology and learning about it.  Gavin spends almost every study hall in the library’s makerspace.

“[You] get your mind off of school, but yet you’re still doing school work, just getting your mind off of normal schoolwork in a science-related way,” he says.

The students’ next big makerspace project will be building a six-foot tall ferris wheel, using K’nex.  They’ll start when they get back from Christmas break.

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