Loyalsock opens iPlay center
Loyalsock Township School District celebrated the opening of its innovative play, or “iPlay,” laboratory at Donald E. Schick Elementary School, 2800 Four Mile Dr., in September
“We have the multi-media room. We have our iPlay area, and we have our geological wet zone,” said Suzanne Foresman, principal. “In those areas are many different things.”
In the multi-media room is a computer lab set up for students to do research. There’s a green screen area for video, a large touch screen interactive television and a news desk station set up for the morning news announcements.
“We have a collaboration station as well. We have all of our dot dashes that kids learning coding on, and they have robots they manipulate through code,” Foresman said. “We have another interactive sand table that lays flat like a table. We have WeDo Legos that kids will actually be building robots that they will code by using Legos. We have a whole Lego wall.”
She said they have a 3D printer, 3D printer pens, microscopes and KEVA blocks. Students can play with markers on tables with robots coded to follow the path of their markers. Students can learn how weather works with wind tunnels. The subjects and possibilities are endless.
“Kids will design and engineer bridges, ramps, all kinds of things,” she said.
Preston Shellenberger, assistant principal, said the elementary students have been taking apart older pieces of technology and learning how to fix them and put them back together.
“We have the wind tunnel, electricity grids,” he said. “We have them taking apart things in our district that don’t work anymore. Kids are able to assemble and reassemble them.”
Foresman said by taking apart an old telephone, students can look at the wiring and look at circuitry.
“What’s really neat about it is that when we got the 3D printer, we didn’t know how to work that. Of course, we learned how to use that. Now, whenever something breaks in today’s technology, a business is able to email you a link to the 3D printer that can create a part you’re missing,” Shellenberger said. “Today, we were able to make nuts and bolts on it.”
He said the students take the pieces of equipment and learn to use them together to build and create to endless possibilities.
“With the 3D printer, we created a floatation device to use in our buoyancy tank, and one of the pieces broke off … So, we got the 3D pen out and fixed it, with the 3D pen. It’s endless,” he said. “The kids create the challenges … One child created Dance Dance Revolution in front of our very eyes. We were like, ‘how did you do that?’ “
The previous space for the STEM lab was 780 square feet. The new area, known as iPlay, is 2,398 square feet.
Gerald L. McLaughlin, superintendent, said the iPlay area gives students a headstart in advancement in technology.
“Our innovative play zone will provide opportunities for all students at all levels from kindergarten through fifth grade,” he said. “I think what it does most is engaging students at a very young age, as early as kindergarten, and give them the opportunity to have the latest technology and see what’s out there. It gives them the ability to program, learn coding and have access to some of the latest and greatest things.”
When the school board members got to attend the open house of the iPlay lab in early September, they enjoyed getting to explore some of the pieces of technology themselves.
“I am absolutely blown away,” said Paul R. Young II, school board vice president. “They’ve done a fantastic job of making this … it’s not just a play area. It’s learning while they’re playing. They don’t even realize they’re learning. That’s the whole idea. It’s hidden within the play.”
During the presentation to the board, Foresman said that the average payout of STEM jobs is 70 percent more than the national average.
Shellenberger said that the department of commerce predicts between 2008 and 2018, STEM jobs will grow twice than other jobs. He said eight out of 10 most wanted employees listed on the U.S. Department of Labor were ones with STEM education.
“This is where the money is, and how many jobs are a part of STEM?” Young said. “The community of Loyalsock to have this is just fantastic.”
Sheila J. Yates, school board president, said she was really excited for the district.
“I think the most exciting thing to me is that it’s opening up ways of learning,” she said. “It’s not a traditional classroom where they’re just sitting at a desk. They’re able to expand their minds, and it’s hands on … I feel like a little kid at Christmas, to be honest. It’s like I’m opening up my presents (playing with the technology). It’s so exciting.”