By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Students in Donna Jones’ second-grade class at Parkway Elementary School visited several animals last week without leaving their classroom.
Thanks to a grant the school recently received from the Carpenter Foundation, Jones was able to whisk Parkway’s mobile learning lab into her classroom at the 480-student kindergarten through second grade school. Each of students was able to get a MacBook Air computer for the lesson and use it to view an educational website about animals.
“We are glad to have them because it brings what we don’t have here to the classroom,” said Jones, who noted this was a lot easier than bringing her students to the zoo for the day.
Jones applied for the grant, which brought the school about $30,000 and allowed it to purchase the mobile lab, which included a cart with 30 MacBook Air laptops, a charging station and an air port.
“We were trying to figure out a way we could bring technology into the classroom to do research and answer on-the-minute questions about the world,” Jones said.
This is the first year the school has had the computer cart.
“A lot of times when our teachers wanted to do enrichment activities, there were not enough computers,” said Principal Anna Guntharp. “I like that this is mobile, and the teachers can bring them into the classrooms where they already have their other materials.”
Because Parkway’s mascot is a panda, the computers have been dubbed Panda Pads. Teachers can check them out to use for their classrooms, and Guntharp said they are almost always in use.
Teachers have used them to aid various lessons. In Jones’ class last week, students browsed the website to select an animal native to North America. They will research the animal, answering a variety of questions, such as how it looks, where it lives and what it eats.
The students will write a report about their animal and give a spoken presentation.
“It is important they learn these skills because they will live in a world that requires them,” Jones said.
Fellow second-grade teacher Carrie Hardin said her students recently used the Panda Pads to research a famous American who has worked together with others to change history. The students were able to chose their subject and use the Bing search engine to find information and compose a timeline.
“The computers allow us to leave the classroom and expand our thinking beyond these walls,” Hardin said. “There is so much more information we have access to outside these four walls.”
Students in Jones’ class said they researched a variety of animals during their assignment, including monkeys, sharks, horses, dolphins, wolves, bald eagles and hummingbirds, among others.
“We can learn a lot on them, and they are really fun,” Ivy Lauren Moffatt, 7, said of the Panda Pads.
The students also use the laptops to do activities in Classworks, an online program with education activities the district is using this year. The program personalizes the activities to align them with each student’s ability level.
Jordyn Ivy, 8, said those activities are her favorite thing to do on the Panda Pads.
“It is amazing,” said Jon Carter Reid, 7. “You don’t know what you’re going to do because you don’t know where it will put you.”