BP grant money boosts math, science learning

07 30, 2013 by Houma Courier

A handful of Terrebonne Parish schools will receive state-of-the-art technology, wireless equipment and professional development training as the result of an $84,000 grant from BP.

The grant money, which will enhance the district’s most disadvantaged schools, will go toward two main projects — creating two “21st century classrooms” and expanding wireless Internet at local schools to accommodate more devices, educational technology facilitator Tricia Corbin said.

About $20,000 will go to Caldwell Middle School to fully equip two fourth-grade classrooms with the latest technology, she said.

Those classrooms will receive new SMART Boards, an interactive whiteboard that functions like a giant tablet computer; clicker response systems to quickly evaluate how students are answering questions; and new Hewlett-Packard laptop computers.

Teachers also will receive document cameras, devices that quickly scan and project classroom materials onto a screen, she said.

“Those rooms will have the maximum amount of technology,” Corbin said. “It’s not just textbooks anymore. Students can really become part of the lesson.”

With the clicker system, for example, Corbin said teachers will be able to receive real-time data on how individual students are performing on questions and survey how the whole class is processing a lesson.

The remaining $60,000 will set up wireless Internet networks at Village East Elementary, Oaklawn Jr. High and Ellender Memorial High schools.

The wireless networks will support the simultaneous operation of more devices, such as laptop computers, now and in the future, Corbin said.

“Eventually there will be labs filled with iPads and tablets, and wireless will be so crucial,” she said.

The grant money also helps train teachers to use the technology. Several training sessions were held Monday at the School Board office.

Christine Scott, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at Village East, attended the session on SMART Board training. She has experimented with the system before, she said, but is finally getting a board installed in her classroom this year.

“This will be better for the students than me just standing and teaching,” Scott said. “They can go up to the board, work out problems and erase. It’s more fun. It’s like a video game.”

Scott said the new technology also will align with the new Common Core Curriculum, a rigorous set of teaching standards that will become effective this school year. The Common Core puts emphasis on student-centered learning, she said, so the interactive activities will fit into the mission.

“I’m really excited,” Scott said before the training session. “I can’t wait.”

The BP grant adds to an ongoing partnership between the energy company and the Terrebonne Parish School District, Assistant Superintendent Carol Davis said.

“Over the years this equipment and training has allowed thousands of Terrebonne Parish students to improve scores in science and math, succeed in school and be proud of their academic accomplishments,” Davis said.

The BP contribution also helped the district secure a multi-million dollar Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grant to continue classroom and curriculum upgrades throughout the next few years, Corbin added. The parish received the federal literacy grant last month.

In the application for the federal grant, school districts had to list their community partners. Davis said she approached BP with the idea of assisting the district, and BP was willing to contribute.

While BP encourages better math and science instruction, the Striving Readers grant focuses on reading comprehension. Together, the grants will go toward educating students more effectively and ensuring they graduate ready for college or the workforce, Corbin said.