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Sixth graders will get opportunity for hands-on activities

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

R-6 gets more than quarter of a million dollar grant

SIKESTON -- Sikeston R-6 sixth graders are about to become more technology savvy, thanks to their school receiving over a quarter of a million dollars through a state grant.

The Sikeston R-6 School District will receive $267,000 through the governor's Mathematics, Engineering, Technology and Science classrooms grants initiative. Funds will be used at the Fifth and Sixth Grade Center for a sixth grade science and math project.

"This is going to be a very neat experience for all the kids. They'll get to do a lot more hands-on activities in the classroom, cooperative learning and inquiry," said Crystal Hite, sixth grade math and communication arts teacher.

The project revolves around the use of enhancing Missouri's Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies (eMINTS) instructional model, which combines a technology-rich classroom environment with teacher training and support to provide teachers with lessons on how to incorporate technology into instruction and learning.

"It's something most other schools around here don't have. ...It's not just providing knowledge to them but helping them find knowledge on their own," said Michelle Gilmer, software coordinator for Sikeston R-6,

The school's four sixth grade math teachers each receive whiteboards and projectors, laptops and docking stations. The math department is also getting a set of laptops and a printer to share for student use.

"I love it. I'm absolutely excited. I'm anxious for them to get my SMART board set up so I can use it," Hite said.

Before the whiteboards, teachers would use an overhead projector and transparency to teach lessons. The whiteboards will make it much easier for teachers to present their lesson plans, Hite said.

"With a SMART board, students can put their work on there and participate in the teaching part of it, and as most people know if you teach someone how to do it, you learn better," said Julia Ruesler, sixth grade science and communication arts teacher.

The teachers will show the students how to get the information, and they present it to their classmates so they're showing the other students the information they learned, Ruesler explained.

"They will push themselves in not only how to learn, but in the technology side of it, they will become dependent. They will know how to go out and get that information," Ruesler said.

Like the math teachers, the school's four sixth grade science teachers will each receive a projector, laptop and white board, but they will also get a set of 30 laptops for each classroom. They will also have a document camera, printer/fax/scanner and digital camera.

Over the next two years the teachers must also participate in 200 hours of professional development.

The math teachers must attend a three-hour training session one night a month, and every other month they also have a one-hour meeting after school through an online voice chat program. Science teachers will spend two to three nights a month for four hours to learn more about technology,

"A lot of our training is how to go about teaching and managing a classroom where the kids are more involved in the learning," Ruesler said.

The district was one of five throughout the state to receive a METS grant. The projects were selected through a competitive evaluation process conducted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The five successful projects including Sikeston were highest-rated proposals out of more than 30 submitted by school districts throughout the state.

"We applied this spring for the grant. It was very competitive," Gilmer said.

The grant is matching, which means the state pays for 70 percent of the costs and the district will pay 30 percent, which is about $100,000, Gilmer said.

Over 300 students will benefit from the project this year, Gilmer said. She and the teachers said they're also hoping to include social studies and the fifth grade in the project next year.

An open house is planned later next month so parents can view the new equipment, Gilmer said.

Ruesler said this project is about improving the quality of education.

Hite agreed. "Our society is very electronic," Hite said. "Our students are going to be ahead of other people their age because they're getting the use of these computers, and that puts them at an advantage."