Lake Washington Schools Foundation Brings Video Technology to A.G. Bell Elementary

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Young actors, screenwriters and producers are hard at work in the A.G. Bell Elementary library, where school librarian Julie Hembree is introducing elementary school kids to the power of video technology.

A Reaching for Success grant from the Lake Washington Schools Foundation enabled Hembree to buy a video camera and green screen software for her classes to use to create video book reviews, math tutorials, and research assignments. Reaching for Success grants allow Lake Washington School District teachers and principals to develop creative educational programs that expand curriculum and meet schools’ improvement goals.

Using video technology is a way to integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) activities and concepts into curriculum. Students can develop important skills while learning how to use a popular technology. According to Hembree, “By creating a movie they’re using technology, they’re using innovation, they’re using creativity, and these are all skills they can use as they move forward into middle and high school.”

The Bell students were excited by the equipment’s potential and decided to use it impact the world outside their classroom. They had a project in mind. Last fall, Hembree found boxes of brand new children’s picture books which were not being used, and she told her library classes that her dream was for them to go to some children who could really use them. Her students said, “Let’s do it!” and the Books for Africa Project was born.

Hembree-and-studentWith the new video camera and software, students are making short video clips to be used for a school-wide fundraising campaign to send the books to schools in South Africa, Lesotho, and Ghana. Working in teams, the students started out by brainstorming and storyboarding their ideas before searching online for images, scripting their message, filming and then editing their project.

The presence of the green screen, which allows filmmakers to replace the green background with an electronic image, elicited excitement as students filed into the A.G. Bell library recently to film their first video clips. Hembree is taking advantage of students’ enthusiasm and adeptness with technology. “These kids are digitally literate; they grow up using and experimenting with computers and what we’re doing is expanding on that. This is how TV shows and movies are made, and now we can do this in our own library. They can’t wait to come to class and try it,” she said.

Combining the elements of technology, creativity, and philanthropy reflects the integrative nature of STEM curriculum, and belies the misconception that technology is only for high performing science and math–oriented kids.

“We need to start fundamentally in elementary school, and teach them the basics, and then they can build on that in middle school and high school,” Hembree explained.

Hembree is also bringing her students along with her as she delves into the rapidly changing role of libraries in the high-tech era. “It used to be you went to the library and found a couple of books and you went home and brought them back, but that’s not what the library is about anymore,” she stated.  “The library is books, but it’s also technology and media. We are teaching kids to be digital citizens, and with this technology, the foundation has given us a chance to be relevant and to create stories and be part of this new phenomenon.”

Bell students were able to raise enough money to send two boxes of books to South Africa in February. You can read more about the project at http://bookstoafrica.edublogs.org/.

A.G. Bell’s Reaching for Success grant will be one of several programs highlighted during the Lake Washington Schools Foundation’s Legacy for Learning luncheon, to be held on May 1 at Juanita High School in Kirkland. Attendees will hear more about how the district-wide, STEM-based Signature Programs will prepare students for the 21st century workplace. The foundation kicked off this school year by securing a $225,000 grant from Waste Management for STEM education.

For more information about the Lake Washington Schools Foundation, please contact the foundation at (425) 936-1414, info@lwsf.org, or visit www.lwsf.org.

About the Lake Washington Schools Foundation

The Lake Washington Schools Foundation is a partnership between parents, business and community leaders and local schools.  Founded in 2005, the foundation’s mission is to support academic excellence and success for all students.  LWSF has granted over $1 million for programs that have reached nearly all of the district’s 25,000 students.  The Lake Washington School District serves students in Kirkland, Redmond, and Sammamish.