Ella Elementary welcomes new computers
Dec 06, 2012 (Appeal-Democrat - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
How fast can cheetahs run How much exercise is needed to lower your resting heart rate How does snow form and fall from the sky
Curious minds and a knack for inquisition are nothing new at Ella Elementary School in Olivehurst, but the way students and teachers are engaging material is now on the cutting edge.
One of just three schools nationwide to win a $45,000 wireless lab grant from firms CDW-G and Discovery Education, Ella Elementary students and faculty worked through a tutorial last Wednesday to learn how to use the new equipment.
The session took on special meaning for Mailee Lor's fifth-grade classroom, as Lor entered the wireless sweepstakes online daily for several months before finding out the school won. More than 700,000 entries were submitted nationwide.
"I was determined. I wanted to win the laptops for the classroom," she said as students found their seats, grew accustomed to the hardware and gave her a round of applause.
"They work very well," fifth-grader Angelina Fernandez said of the 20 new HP notebooks, anxious to access the learning portal from her family's computer at home thanks to an identification card assigned to each student.
Classmates Jose Alcala, watching cheetahs run, and Erin Mullikin, learning about hamsters like the one she has at home, followed Angelina's suit in showing an interest in animal videos.
Ella Elementary Principal Rob Gregor called the technology lab a blessing, citing the importance of allowing students to see subjects like math and science in action. Videos and graphics help further explain concepts like the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to students.
"Now they're getting the practical of how to do it," he said, adding the equipment is a supplement for teachers, rather than a replacement for them.
Indeed, the school's faculty had a special training session planned for the afternoon.
Ray Waller, a professional development specialist with Discovery Education, was on hand to lead the tutorials.
In addition to the laptops, the grant came with an interactive whiteboard with speakers, among other things, that Waller used to help demonstrate.
After a brief exploration session into subject portals revealing video, sound and games, Waller led the class on a virtual science lab examining heart rates and training for a bicycle marathon.
If the subject exercised only one to two times a week for five to 10 minutes each time, fifth-grader Rosa Miramontes was quick to hypothesize that the subject wouldn't be able to finish the race.
"He's not really practicing a lot, and his intensity is going to be low," she said, fresh from finding a language arts exercise in which she completed sentences.
As her students helped subject win the race with a better regimen, Lor excitedly watched and envisioned the possibilities she can bring back to the classroom to help show her students the world around them.
"They love to see, they love to listen, they love to play games," she said.
Highly beneficial for Ella Elementary is the fact that the content is also available in Spanish, as Gregor said close to 70 percent of students are second-language learners.
Waller, a former high school math teacher, showed the class how to look up the definition of "aorta" -- tied to the fact Lor's class was learning about the cardiovascular system. He showed the material in English and then showed students how to access it in Spanish.
"I think they can really do this in the classroom," Lor said of the opportunities.
And while a majority of the students raised their hands when asked if they have computers at home, Rosa seemed to sum up the new equipment as a neat gift, just as the holiday season is under way.
"I think they're really good, she said of the computers. "And it's nice to have them."
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