Ephrata students display computer skills

By on December 27, 2017
Students greet school board president Tim Stayer during the computer presentaion. Photo by Sarah McBee

Students greet school board president Tim Stayer during the computer presentaion. Photo by Sarah McBee

Susan Halsey’s fourth grade class displayed problem solving abilities using iPads and DOTS at the December Ephrata Area School Board meeting at Clay Elementary School.

DOTS are small coding robots that resemble brightly colored plastic baseballs. They’re routinely used by third and fourth grade students to learn elementary coding skills in conjunction with iPad use.

The district’s computer science teacher, Nick Crowther, explained the challenge given to the students for the evening and helped with the presentation.

“This is a showcase challenge, because we’re all about highlighting the skills the children are using in the classroom,” Crowther told the board.

Crowther is also the district’s STEAM instructor, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.

The students weren’t told the exact challenge they would be given until minutes before the presentation. Students partnered into pairs then demonstrated the steps they were going through on their iPads to solve the challenge.

Their mission was to code timed wake-up signals into their iPads, much like constructing a computerized alarm clock.

“This is a computational thing,” Crowther said. “They’re breaking problems down into step-by-step interactions, so they need to think through the steps to solve the problem.”

Not every student has his or her own iPad to work with in the classroom, instead, Crowther said, the program encourages collaboration and working with a partner.

First and second-grade students are given devices called “cubelets,” a type of modular robotic for learning computer skills.

While one fourth grader said the task was a little difficult, all teams managed to code alarms into their iPads within about 15 minutes.

“This is a testament to their hard work in class; this is not something that just happened,” Crowther said. “Learning how to do this took weeks of work.”

Board President Timothy Stayer congratulated the class on their computer expertise.

“This is innovation at the elementary level,” Stayer said. “It’s amazing to see what they do and that they’re learning how to code. In the future, these kids will have careers that don’t even exist now.”

Dr. Jacy Hess updated the Board on various computer learning that is going on throughout the district.

Elementary schools hold a STEAM Parents’ Night, when parents are invited to see the strides their children are making in technology.

Representatives from the Lancaster Science Factory, a hands-on museum for children, also visit each grade and have an assembly to inform students about robotics and coding, Hess said.

The Board and administration also welcomed Tracy Blunt, who was recently approved as the new Clay Elementary School Principal. Her duties begin in January.

Blunt replaces Joy Darkes, who is retiring. Monday evening, both educators were in attendance.

Stayer welcomed Blunt and expressed the district’s gratitude to Darkes, who had been with the district for 16 years.

“It was a pleasure working for you and we wish you well,” Stayer told Darkes. “Thank you for your service to the district.”

Darkes told the Board that her colleagues, staff, and the students made Clay Elementary a happy place to come to work.

“I can’t wait to meet and get to know all the members of the district and school community,” Blunt said. “Everyone has been extremely welcoming and kind and I appreciate that very much.”

The Board held its reorganization meeting earlier in the month, re-electing Stayer as board president and Chris Weber as vice-president. Both will serve a one-year term.

The board also approved the law firm of Kegel, Kelin, and Lord to continue as the board’s solicitor.

Phillip Eby and David Wissler were sworn in as new board members. Each will serve a four-year term.

Stayer, in a press release, said he believes both men will contribute in a positive way to the work of the board, and said both are community-minded and care about the district’s students.

Retiring board members Jenny Miller and Bob Miller were recognized for their service and presented with certificates of appreciation during the November meeting. Each served as school board directors for 20 years.

Bob Miller had served as board president for several years and Jenny Miller also served on the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center Joint Operating Committee.

In another matter, Stayer presented high school student Andrey Petrushev with a school board resolution in honor of his athletic accomplishments on the district’s soccer team.

Petrushev was named the Section II Most Valuable Player and was also selected for the 2017 All State Team.

He was also named to the All East Regional All-American soccer team.

Petrushev was only one of 15 players from Pennsylvania to achieve this status, Stayer told the board.

The district’s soccer team qualified for League, District III, and State AAAA tournaments this year.

In business matters, the board approved the Accelerated Budget Opt-Out Resolution for 2018-2019. The adjusted index for the 2018-2019 fiscal year is 2.9 percent. The school board will not increase the rate of its real estate tax in excess to the adjusted index.

The district also approved an agreement with the Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 to use funds to support kindergarten eligible children, aged five, to receive special education services or remain an extra year in early intervention (Act 30). The amount of the funding is $4,872.

The district also signed a contract with NHS Pennsylvania for the 2017-2018 school year, for educational services to students with autism or emotional issues.

An agreement was also signed with Philhaven Child/Adolescent Day Treatment Program of Lancaster to facilitate care, confidentiality, referral of clients, and collaboration between the day treatment program and the district.

The next school board committee meeting is Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. in the district office board room. Committee meetings are open to the public.

The next regular meeting of the board will be Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Fulton Elementary School cafeteria.



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