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Beecher named Apple Distinguished School

January 30, 2024
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Beecher named Apple Distinguished School
Water Wheel - Elan and Ari in Tim Rourke’s 5th grade used their iPads to develop a water wheel to clean up our rivers. The paddles pick up water which filters through before it drips back into the river.

Beecher School Recognized for Its Use of Technology

Beecher Road School recently was named an Apple Distinguished School, a recognition by the Apple company for schools that are making exemplary use of technology in teaching and learning.  Only two programs in Connecticut have earned that distinction, the Stowe Early Learning Center in Enfield and Beecher Road School.

“This room is filled with creative thinkers,” declared School Supt. Vonda Tencza at a celebratory assembly November 21 in the South Gym.  Students were outfitted with streams in blue and silver, and punched blue balloons through the large space, and delighted in confetti cannons popped by Principal Analisa Sherman.  There was no doubt that this was a special celebration.

Kindergarten students and their teacher, Jackie Scalia, practice counting

Guests of honor included representatives of the company, Norma Jean Loftus and Devin McLaughlin; also members of the Board of Education, and retired technology teacher Rick Wood, who was greeted by many teachers with a hug.  “Mr. Wood was my technology teacher in 4th, 5th and 6th grade,” announced technology specialists Jeanne Ciarleglio, who, along with Rachel Robinson had put the application together.

Snippets of that application are available to view on the district website, showing interviews with administrators, teachers and students who talk about how technology enriches their teaching and learning.  The guests to the celebration were invited to take a tour of the building, visit classrooms and watch students engage with the technology.

From left, School Supt. Vonda Tencza, IT Manager Anthony Billings, Principal Analisa Sherman, and Technology specialists Jeanne Ciarleglio and Rachel Robinson hold up a plaque

Art teacher Lucille Gomes demonstrated how iPads allow students to research jungle animals before they set out to paint them.  Along the way they learn about painters Henri Rousseau and Vincent Van Gogh; they can take tours on museum websites and manipulate the picture to let them see the thickness of the paint.  They can learn to mix colors – and all that information culminates in putting together an impressive mural.

Rick Wood was excited to see this work happening.  “Students have a choice,” he said.  “This is exciting to me to see.”  And indeed, in one of the clips on the school’s website, it is pointed out how students thrive on that autonomy.

“The class is buzzing with students at work,” said one teacher.

Former computer and media teacher Rick Wood was invited to be part of the celebration. He took a tour of the school and engaged students at work.

In the Library Media Center, a Kindergarten class was using the Osmo platform to practice counting up to 20, while others were matching geometric shapes.  “This to me is the best of all worlds,” said Apple representative Norma Jean Loftus.  The children were using a gaming platform to practice addition and subtraction, while the teacher was assisting where needed.

In Grade 3 they were working on a Thankfulness Project, with the parameters spelled out on the Smartboard.  Students can share their work by displaying several slides simultaneously on the Smartboard.

This is a 1-to-1 environment, where every student, starting in second grade, has their own iPad.  The devices are kept in the classroom on carts, they do not go home.  In Kindergarten and first grade the devices are shared.

It is not technology for its own sake.  Rather, it has to support learning.  Some things will not sustain, Ciarleglio said.  “Technology has been a part of the Beecher culture for a long time,” she said.  “It has the support of the administration and the Board of Education.  It’s a very special place.”

The PTO donated 3D printers as part of its 50th anniversary

Rick Wood, who helped build the technology program, said the real game changer came when then-superintendent Alex Warren funded the first 48 laptops.  That was back in the 1980s.

One of the most visible programs is the BRS Newscast – written, filmed and presented by sixth grade students.  They have to do research, organize interviews, and finally, put it all together.  There is quite a bit of time that goes into putting it all together, but “we have to finish our school work first,” said one of the students busy at work.

This is an opinion not necessarily endorsed by the Woodbridge Town News.

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