Durango 9R School District Embraces Technology Tools

Durango School District 9-R is embracing tech, preparing its youngest students for life in the STEM fields. You’re watching the “Local News Network,” brought to you by Serious Texas Bar-B-Q and Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steak Burgers. I’m Connor Shrieve. This is the first school year 9-R elementary students are working with STEM materials, thanks to a grant from the Durango Education Foundation. The projects span skills from coding to circuit building and 3D printing among other modern fields.

I mean, just the way they learn in that setting, it’s so active, it’s not passive. I’m not sitting there waiting for you to tell me something. It’s like, here’s the problem, go figure it out. And that’s what we want to produce by the time they leave high school. We want students who leave here with that mindset.

Using the new STEM materials, elementary classrooms transform into hands-on labs where students experiment with coding, robots, digital book publishing, and podcasts.

They have these micro bits, which are these small computers. They plug into the kids’ computers and they have all these sensors that can tell temperature and sunlight, humidity, motion. And so the kids can write code and then download it right on this little computer and instantly get feedback on their code, which is really cool.

That instant feedback motivates students who are tasked with using the technology to address problems at their school.

So for instance, one girl coded her micro bit to be a pedometer for her PE teacher, so that it encouraged kids to get over 300 steps a day. And if they got over 300, the micro bit said on it like, “Congratulations, you got over 300 steps.” If it got under 300, it encouraged the kids to kept going. But then organically from that, kids want to know how far they walked. So then they measured their stride with a ruler, and then they started bringing in the math blocks. And so not only would it tell ’em how many steps, they could calculate distance.

Other ideas included a reviewer for multiplication tables, a telescoping net to catch errant balls on the playground, and a handful of automated vehicles. Well, the medium might be new for teachers, 9-R’s Technology specialist Matt Smith says, it’s just a different way to impart skill sets the district lays out in its portrait of a graduate vision. Skills like collaboration, creativity, and communication.

I mean, all those soft skills, they just happen because you know you’ve put this challenge out there and then it’s up to the kid to figure it out. And it’s all about process.

That process leads to a vibrant classroom where Durango 9-R Elementary students can thrive. Smith hopes the new curriculum leads to more students leaning into STEM fields as they get into middle and high school. For more information about this and other stories, visit durangolocal.news. Thanks for watching this edition of the “Local News Network.” I’m Connor Shrieve.

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