Over the course of a few years, River Ridge Elementary, Leander ISD, in Austin, Texas has fully adopted a breadth of STEM tech, ranging from robotics to 3D Printers and everything in between. For some teachers, it may be difficult to see how all these different pieces of tech integrate into lessons plans and classrooms, but River Ridge has successfully infused this new tech into the classroom.
From using LabDiscs in their on-campus vegetable garden to learning about circuits in the innovation lab, the students at River Ridge Elementary get hands-on with tech frequently. We chatted with Jennifer Passi, Instructional Coach, on how the students engage with technology, and what impacts it has in the classroom.
- With all the new technology being used, what has been the impact on how students are learning?
Jennifer Passi: The technology has impacted our student learning. We find our students highly engaged and the learning environment is full of questions, comments, and cooperation. This increases the buzz around the school of what ways we are integrating tech into all our subject areas.
- How did the vegetable garden come about? What are the students taking away from the garden?
Passi: The Rattler Garden has been around for about three years. It has grown in the past two years with increased integration into our curriculum. Since we have gotten the tech component, Labdiscs, we see a huge difference in what we are studying and observing. It is deeper, and really taking it to another level. Before we were not collecting data points that will drive when we plant. Our garden has a vegetable and a plant section. We plant, observe, harvest, and eat from our garden. Students love being a part of the garden, along with their teachers. With the Labdiscs, it has made it so much more purposeful.
- How do you see the lab continuing to transform?
Passi: We are excited about it transforming. Number one, it’s getting teachers and students into the lab to be able to just work, observe, talk, and challenge each other. We are becoming more comfortable with the new tech tools, design mindset, and maker models. We would like to see the walls come alive, and filled with maker mindset quotes, pictures of designs that students dream about, etc. The furniture and Sprout/Makerbot makes the space already feel innovative and future thinking! We are on our way!
- Are there any specific stories of a student engaging with the tech that stands out to you?
Passi: Watching kids not wanting to stop creating when the period, or lunch, or end of the school day ends. They literally would love to spend the night with all the makerspace around them. When they add technology or coding, it takes off tenfold. The coolest thing is watching them present what they have created! It takes it to another level.
- Do you have any advice for other educators that are looking to implement the same tech in their space?
Passi: Go for it! Make sure you have support from your admin team, follow people who have the maker mindset on twitter, continue to challenge yourself, and never underestimate what a child can do. Dream BIG, and believe your students are the ticket to success! Give them tools, support them, question them, and watch them grow!
Her final thoughts? “Having support along the way, others to mentor you through your journey, and a company like UDT that helps us get the PD and technology to support our vision,” added Passi. For more information on STEM, please visit our site.