PINEDALE – The boardroom at Sublette BOCES was transformed into a virtual playground for local youngsters on Friday, June 23, as the local summer school program for Pinedale Elementary School brought in a wealth of unique activities to garner youth interest in all things technology.
The young minds of PES students were hard at work throughout the day while working through a series of seven fun and exciting technology-centered stations.
Carla Hester-Croff, who works as an assistant professor of information technology at Western Wyoming Community College, brought up the contents for each station free of charge. One of her goals as a technology professor, she said, is to introduce local students to a world of unique and fun technology with the hope that the interest will grow as they progress through their educational experience in Pinedale.
Approximately 70 students in grades K-5 participated in stations ranging from unplugged binary coding, virtual reality, balloon helicopters, beginner coding and 3D simulation.
Youngsters are able to pick up the technical tasks at hand fairly easily at a young age, despite coming into most stations relatively uninformed on the topic. The goal of hosting this type of event is to interest youth in pursuing careers in related fields as they grow older, she noted.
“It gets them excited about the computer field, and they’re pretty excited,” Sublette County School District No. 1 Technology Facilitator Jennifer Gibson said. “The biggest thing is teaching them to adapt to change. Accepting challenges with new changes is vital.”
According to Hester-Croff, there is currently a huge need in computer science-related jobs. Because of this, she says it is critical to get more youngsters engaged and interested in the various jobs available in the world of computer science.
“One of the top priorities in the state is to get computer science in classrooms,” Hester-Croff said. “We have a lot of users of technology and need more to produce it. We want to get more interested in technology and hope they pick it as a career. There is a need.”
Currently, she said, there are tons of available jobs in computer science around the state, but the state only saw a handful of recent college graduates available to fill those positions.
Gibson said she would like to bring more technology-related activities to the district in the new school year coming up, as it has a wealth of benefits for those who take part. She thanks teachers involved in assisting with the technology day that work with the summer school program. In addition, the day had high school students assisting youngsters as they received a crash course in a myriad of technology fields.
As kids worked their way from station to station, they were able to take virtual rollercoaster rides through the use of cell phones and Google cardboard cases, play the piano on pieces of Play-Doh formed into small circular pads, and learned binary code, among other activities.
To encourage outside play, one station took place at the playground, where Rock Springs School District educator Darin Anderson was busy teaching kids how to construct helicopter balloons that were later used in a competition to see which student’s creation would fly the farthest.
Each station ran between 15 to 20 minutes in length, but by the time to rotate, many attendees learned something new or even mastered the content presented.
One station revolved around staying unplugged, requiring students to play and interact with items that did not require the use of electricity. During this station, they learned binary code, made catapults and more.