This was no field trip. This was a "wow."
One Dearing Elementary School teacher and four of her students took a trip to the state capitol last week to present in a poster session style event for legislators and education officials, demonstrating how technology is used to master Georgia Performance Standards in the classroom.
"I am so honored that we were chosen to go. And it was very humbling, very wow. It was unbelievable," said fifth grade teacher Jenn Bohler.
Chosen by the Educational Technology Training Center housed at the National Science Center's Fort Discovery in Augusta, Ms. Bohler represented McDuffie and 12 other counties in the rotunda of the Georgia Capital on Wednesday, Feb. 6 for the fourth annual Capitol Tech Day.
The students who accompanied Ms. Bohler and made the presentations were fifth graders Krissi Greenawalt, Miranda Dansby, Aleah Mincey and Mimi Rosales.
"We were nervous because we didn't know what to expect," Ms. Bohler said. "But it exceeded the expectations that I had, because the adults were asking questions and my girls were answering them. I was completely and utterly proud of my girls."
The girls demonstrated lattice math using wireless active boards and TI73 calculators attached to document cameras and a screen. "Wow, everybody was so nice," Aleah said. "I think they were impressed because we were fifth graders, and they didn't expect to be learning from us little kids."
Also, Mimi was interviewed by the Department of Education Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Technology, and all of them were interviewed by Katherine Aiken of Public Broadcasting System Tie Network. And Aleah and Mimi talked to students in Washington D.C. by polycom.
"Wow! What a wonderful job the kids did," Susan Watkins of ETTC-NSC said in an e-mail to Dearing Elementary Principal Laura Hughes. "They were very impressive and knew what they were talking about. ... I cannot tell you how proud I was to be there and have the opportunity to watch the girls shine."
Ms. Watkins said the CEO of Fort Discovery, Rob Dennis, also went to Atlanta and "was very impressed" with the students' presentations.
All expenses, including hotel stay, mileage and meals, were covered by the ETTC and the National Science Center's Fort Discovery.
Miranda said she never thought she'd see the capital, and it was an even bigger treat to be inside of it. Aleah said they were all surprised to see the governor walk past them.
"And we did see him, Mimi took pictures of him," Miranda added with excitement.
And if they didn't experience enough "wow's" for one trip, the girls got to visit the Atlanta Aquarium and the Hard Rock Café before returning home.
"We were all screaming because we touched a shark," Ms. Bohler said of the aquarium visit. "We were screaming 'I touched a shark! I touched a shark!' and we were so excited we didn't care that everyone was looking at us."
Also sharing in the fun was DES Media Specialist Terrie Gribanow, McDuffie School System Technology Coordinator Bob Weems, school bus driver Ginger Reese and Aleah's father.
Mr. Weems said Dearing Elementary received the technological equipment in all their classrooms three years ago from a federal Title II grant. Because it was conditional for third through fifth grades, Dearing was the only school in the county eligible for the $250,000 grant.
"Using technology in the classroom improves the educational process because they have no trouble paying attention, it teaches them to follow directions, and it teaches logic and problem-solving skills," Ms. Bohler said. "Technology makes learning more student-oriented and not teacher-oriented."
For Mr. Weems, getting away from his desk was a welcome break. He did miss his desk chair, though.
"The bus driver was sweet as a bird. But the ride wasn't very comfortable. Those are hard seats to have to sit on for three hours," he said with a laugh. "But I had such a great time with those kids. It's wonderful to get away from my desk and actually work with some people where the rubber meets the road. And to see the benefits of our technology in those kids just enlightened my heart. They were great."