A new computer system that harnesses the instructional power of virtual reality is helping Mount Olive Middle School students better understand science.
Designed by zSpace, a leading provider of digital learning tools and 3D systems, the 30 specially equipped laptops provide students with an immersive, lifelike experience, allowing them to enter virtual environments and interactive with objects. Traveling through the human heart and circulatory system, manipulating gears, building robots, rocketing through space, and examining DNA’s double helix structure are just some of the experiences that are possible through the zSpace computers.
Recently, eighth-graders virtually looked inside the Earth to date layers of rock. In the simulation, the young scientists selected rock layers and virtually pulled out fossils for closer inspection; the objects seemed to hover in space, much like watching a 3D movie, and could be rotated and magnified. By examining the fossils found in each layer of rock and sediment, the students were able to identify the age of the layers and see a geological time capsule of the planet’s history.
“It’s very engaging,” said science teacher Jacqueline Pellek of the new technology. “There’s a project for any science topic you can think of. We just rewrote our middle school science curriculum and now we’re refining it by adding in these virtual experiences.”
Students wear 3D glasses and use pencil-sized control wands to navigate through the virtual space.
More than 1200 posters of keys decorate the halls of MOMS, each designed and personalized by a different student during homeroom. The massive schoolwide display and contest underscores the message “Your future is key, live drug free” and is part of the school’s observation of Red Ribbon Week – an alcohol, tobacco, drug, and violence awareness and prevention campaign. One homeroom in each grade was selected as a winner based on the best designs and overall level of enthusiasm; the winning homerooms will receive a pizza party to honor their efforts.
To help celebrate the week, students also received Red Ribbon Week bracelets, “Happy, healthy, & drug free” water bottles, and ear buds in satin bags emblazoned with positive words such as “encouraging” and “respectful.” And each day of the week was dedicated to a dress-up theme and slogan. For example, students were encouraged to wear camouflage on “Join the Fight Against Drugs” Day and wear neon on “Too Bright for Drugs” Day.
“This age is such a crucial age for kids to develop awareness of drug and alcohol abuse,” said Megan Troup, the student assistance counselor who coordinated many of the activities. “They’re developing into the people they’ll be for the rest of their lives. They’re struggling with peer pressure and figuring out what path to take and what friends to hang out with. This is an opportunity to steer them in the right direction.”
Red Ribbon Week culminated a month of activities, observances, and special lessons. The first week was New Jersey’s Week of Respect, an annual week of education mandated by the state that centers around the prevention of harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB). State education law also requires that schools observe School Violence Awareness Week (the third week of October) and provide instruction on the prevention of bullying, peaceful conflict resolution, avoiding drug use, and maintaining a positive school climate.
Red Ribbon Week is the oldest and largest drug prevention campaign in the country. It was created in 1988 in honor of Enrique “Kiki" Camarena, a U.S. drug enforcement agent who was killed while investigating a major drug cartel.
A few weeks after his death, a club was created in his honor. Hundreds of people pledged to live drug-free lives and to honor the sacrifices made by those fighting to keep our country and children safe. They began to wear red badges of satin and red ribbons in agent Camarena's honor. The Red Ribbon Week campaign emerged from these efforts and is now celebrated in schools across the nation.
The goal for seventh-graders in Innovation & Design classes was to systematically apply the steps of the engineering design process: ask, research, imagine, plan, create, test, improve. The task: build an 8-inch tall table capable of supporting the weight of a textbook, using just a cardboard top, eight sheets of newspaper, and tape.
Working in the makerspace in teams of four to six, the students constructed their prototypes in a wide variety of designs, all using rolled sheets of newspaper as support columns. The students documented their progress in their engineering design notebooks, carefully noting the process and details every step of the way.
“The kids did an amazing job,” said teacher Tricia Mitchell. “At first it seemed a little daunting to them, but as they thought more about it and began designing, they quickly realized that they had the creativity and knowledge to succeed.”
The challenge was also an exercise in collaboration and communication – two essential skills necessary for success with group projects in school and the workplace.
Sandshore Elementary School
498 Sandshore Rd
Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Mountain View Elementary School
118 Cloverhill Drive
Flanders, NJ 07836
Chester M. Stephens Elementary School
99 Sunset Drive
Budd Lake, NJ 07828
Mt. Olive Middle School
160 Wolfe Road
Budd Lake, NJ 07828