By MARINA WATERS
Two Fall Branch School teachers reached for the stars when they applied their “Learning Through This Galaxy and Beyond” project for a Quality Educational Support for Tomorrow grant— and they were rewarded with funds to purchase Samsung Galaxy tablets for their students.
Kristie Payne and Lauren Summar are two of six Washington County teachers to receive part of the $17,927 QUEST grant. The grant offers funds for educational projects and items the school system might not have readily available. Now the two will use their $3,063.98 reward to buy the devices for their first and second grade classes.
“It enables us—especially because we’re in a smaller community—to branch out and have our students be able to do things that normally our budget and funding doesn’t allow,” Payne said.
“That means every student (in their classes) now will have that type of technology,” Summar explained. “We have a computer lab upstairs, but nothing but this for the classroom.”
Payne said the combination of classroom Smart Boards and the new tablets now allows each student to work on an assignment along with the class, but at their own pace thanks to the new devices.
“They (the tablets) are very friendly to this age group,” Payne explained. “We can put students on there at their own level and let them read. Or if they need some assistance, we can give them ear buds to let them hear it read and it highlights the word. This allows us to have hands-on science experiments for them.”
The tablets aren’t just a learning tool as far as the curriculum goes; Payne and Summar are also hoping these devices will help their students learn how to function in an ever-changing technological world.
“Technology is where it’s at,” Payne said. “And it changes so rapidly. I want to instill in our children here that they’re going to have to adapt—this is what their world is.”
However, Payne and Summar also consider non-technological work imperative in teaching their students.
“Do I still believe they should be able to play a board game or do a real science experiment or read a real book? Yes, because that’s more important than anything. But in the world they’re growing up in now, everything is a type of device,” Payne said. “Now, Lauren and I have our own philosophy on how long this happens; it’s not like we just turn them loose. There is an allotted amount of time because we still want them to have the ability to become socialized children and not always be swiping.”
Though this is the first group grant Payne and Summar have won, Payne has won part of the QUEST grant in previous years which she said enables her to build upon her past projects.
“We learn something new each time,” Payne said. “And we can’t thank the QUEST grant enough because I know that’s area businesses and they put the faith in us to do this. And I don’t know that we could ever repay them.”
More than receiving the funds to purchase these tablets, these two teachers are also dedicated to offering their students the opportunity to reach for their dreams—which could take them to the next galaxy.
“We want our children to excel just like any other school,” Payne said. “We want to expand them to where if they want to be an astronaut or an engineer, we want to give them that—make them learn. And that’s half our battle. If we can get them to want to come here and want to do these things, it makes our job so much easier and it helps us make them successful.”