BETHLEHEM — Elsmere Elementary School has received a $3,500 grant to provide a special cart full of electronic tools to augment students’ learning experience.
The cart contains sets and tools to help introduce K-5 students to robotics, coding, circuitry and design and it includes two Ozobots, two Dash robots, two Snap Circuits 300 projects, lesson plans, and more.
“It’s a way in which students can get hands-on learning, use their critical thinking skills, collaborate, work together and solve problems — these are things they really are expected to have in the 21st century,” said Jaimee Meyer, Elsmere Elementary’s school library media specialist. “To be creative, think outside of the box. We’re constantly telling them what sort of things are expected of them in the future so it’s a great way to do all of that in a setting.”
The cart is the result of the INNOVATION! Grant, first announced last year by the Capital Region BOCES and it caught Meyer’s attention. After she applied that fall, she found out that she and 15 other schools in the Capital District won the grant and a respective cart each in November. She said she was excited when the cart also came in that month and Capital Region BOCES trained her and the other schools in how to use the carts and make the most of it with students.
Elsmere Elementary Principal Kate Kloss wrote in an email to Spotlight News that “we are so fortunate to have the dedicated Mrs. Meyer as a part of Elsmere.” She added that the cart’s tools complement the materials and resources the library already offers and “students clearly enjoy combining their creativity and curiosity with technology.”
Since then, Elsmere students — fourth and fifth graders for now — can come to the library on Mondays during recess to play and learn with the cart’s tools and sets. “The sessions during recess are always full and they spend the time with me,” Meyer said. “They know the rules like cleaning up after themselves and everything is labeled in the cart. They now know the drill.”
She added that she likes not giving the students too much instructions when handling the cart’s contents. Instead, she makes herself available if any student has questions or needs help, and she likes giving them some independence and space to explore, troubleshoot and learn with the cart.
Meyer brought up plans of having an open house soon for Elsmere teachers to get to know the cart better and learn how it could benefit their students’ education. “I don’t know if teachers quite know what we have here yet,” she said. “There are some teachers that I can immediately think of who would love to use this cart but there are some others who might need a little more prodding. But everyone here is open to learning and collaborating.”
The cart’s tools and sets add to how Meyer had already begun her own cart of materials in the library for students. She said she started collecting materials for an older cart three years ago and it includes materials and items like cardboard, duct tape, buttons, beads, wood skewers, popsicle sticks, yarn, string and more.
“Since we’ve had this set up already and I knew the kids were already excited about those materials, now having the cart and adding on to that is really exciting,” said Meyer. “Students can continue to learn to build, team up if they want and more.”
Both carts help students be more well-rounded, Meyer added. “The library still has tons of books too and I haven’t given up on them. In fact, when I read to my students, I don’t use tech at all,” she said. “So, I don’t think anybody has the idea that libraries are getting taken over by tech. On the contrary, the kids still love the books and so do I. It’s great as long as you’re well-rounded and that tech isn’t our entire focus.”