A group of 20 Hull Prairie Intermediate school students spent about three months building portable, solar-powered learning libraries, and on Tuesday they got the chance to show those off to their schoolmates along with 21 teachers from 21 countries who were visiting for the day.
“We’re just fifth and sixth graders and we get to work with all this tech,” Blake Turner, a 5th grade student, said. “We’ll be helping them as we’re having fun in our classroom.”
The devices, called Solar SPELLs (Solar Powered Educational Learning Library), are loaded with a variety of education content that can be displayed on any device with wireless Internet capabilities. The Solar SPELL is not actually connected to the Internet, but for students disconnected from the Internet, it is a similar experience on a relatively low-cost device.
“They developed these really cool devices out of bare minimum things. They act as a solar-powered recharging learning library for students, and it’s a resource for teachers in a third-world country,” Julie Farkas, one of the school’s STEM teachers, said.
“Or anybody that doesn’t receive an Internet connection or electricity. It could be third world, or it could be a mountainous area anywhere in the world,” Mike Lease, another STEM teacher, added.
The devices were funded through a combination of grants, one of which stipulates that the devices be shipped to educators in need. One has already been pledged to Kenya, with three still to find their next home.
“One of our teachers here could end up walking away with one of these,” Ms. Farkas said.
The technology used in that project, and elswhere around the school, impressed Marwa Hajjej, a Tunisian teacher who lives in Tunis. She, along with the rest of the visiting teachers, are fellows in the Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement program, an effort run by the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program brings teachers from around the world to the United States to study how American education operates and enhance their own teaching skills.
“It’s always interesting to see how teachers behave in other classrooms,” Miss Hajjej, an English-as-a-third-language teacher said. She said the technology at Hull Prairie allows students to become independent thinkers who are capable of learning themselves beyond the textbook.
Aysegul Colak, an English teacher from Trabzon, Turkey, was also impressed with the technology on display Tuesday.
“I was amazed,” she said. “We don;t have that kind of possibility in my school.”
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