State School Superintendent Richard Woods visited South Tattnall Middle School last week to hear a presentation from teachers and administrators on an interactive program purchased with grant money for the purposes of enhancing the educational experience of students.
Principal Adam Kirby welcomed Woods along with teachers Candice Altman, Michelle Miller, and Mary Beth Pirie briefly presented to Woods, staffers, and Paige Pushkin, a representative from the Georgia Foundation for Public Education.
Tattnall County Superintendent Dr. Gina Williams and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Carla Waters were also present as was school board member Mary Ruth Ray.
The presentation was made in the “Innovation Station” which is a classroom in South Tattnall Middle School dedicated specifically for a unique combination of learning activities.
The school recently purchased a state-of-the-art headset program, which allows for a virtual reality experience, with the help a grant from the Georgia Foundation for Public Education. The grant was written by Principal Kirby and 8th grade ELA teacher Candice Altman. The Glennville Bank also helped sponsor the project, closing the gap on the grant and allowing the school to purchase more headsets.
The 16 headsets integrate a variety of subjects, like math, science, social studies, and reading, and allow for cross-curricular activities for students to enhance the learning experience. The headsets provide thousands of different scenes from all over the world – and even outer space – which leave the students with new visions and experiences that they are then charged with writing about. A single head tilt or twist positions the student in the center of the scene, allowing them to further interact with the location appearing on the headset.
Candice Altman explained that a social studies class was recently learning about the American Revolution. After learning the core basics, the class used the headsets to watch videos, view shots, and closely engage with a reenactment, essentially bringing the history books to life. Altman said students are also asked to compare the headset depictions to research they conduct to check for accuracy and challenge the students on a higher level.
Marty Beth Pirie and Michelle Miller also discussed how the headsets are incorporated into math lessons like geometry, bringing to life an otherwise mundane subject matter.
Administrators and Superintendent Woods tested the headsets which depicted scenes from the International Space Station, the Rome Coliseum, and a few other locations which provided 3D, video, and 360 views of these locations. The program is connected to other virtual classrooms all around the world, which further expands the access the students and teachers have at their disposal.
Altman said the teachers and administration are always looking at ways to bring new experiences to students, especially given the location of Tattnall County and the rural counties in the surrounding area. “We’re trying to bridge that economic and geographic gap for kids that may be from middle class but they don’t have the access as well.”
Principal Kirby said the school also set a goal to increase on-grade level reading by 10% and the headsets were among the creative ways to do that. He also said the students are at 27% above the state average for math and the headsets have only further fired up the teachers and students about the learning experience.