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Have you ever wondered where on Earth you are? What is your absolute location? What are your coordinates?
Jada Fimbel, a fourth-grade teacher at Union Elementary School, wanted her students to learn about it and also apply the information to the world around them.
With the help of a Smart Connections Grant from ATMC, they are now on the map and can tell you exactly where on Earth they are.
Fimbel received an ATMC education grant to purchase Global Positioning System (GPS) devices for use across the curriculum in science, social studies, communications skills and math for her fourth-graders. The goal was to inspire an interest in geocaching, an outdoor activity in which the participants use a GPS receiver or other navigational technique to hide and seek containers (called geocaches or caches) anywhere in the world. These devices benefit the student’s study of North Carolina and familiarize them with latitude and longitude, cardinal directions and absolute and relative locations.
The program was first used to navigate around campus and has since been applied to science through scavenger hunts for rocks and minerals, to math for problem-solving and application and to reading through stories about other geographic locations around the world. Students are also writing about their experiences and explaining how this has helped them to better comprehend the use of directions for specific locations. The program is now being extended to fifth-graders, serving 108 students.
According to Fimbel, the challenges of 21st century learning have forced educators to make their curriculum more rigorous and relevant for their students.
“This program offers an excellent way for students to be exposed to things they’ll encounter in middle and high school, college and beyond,” she said. “Learning the skills to operate equipment like this could prove to be quite an advantage for them as they advance into higher learning environments. We are thrilled that ATMC awarded us with this grant, as it is enabling us to better prepare our students for the challenges that tomorrow will bring. It’s a competitive world, and the GPS devices are teaching them how to navigate their own success.”
Children at Union Elementary are amazed at what they have learned through this program and have engaged in contests to see who could be the first to plot a coordinate. Many have asked the question, “Can we use these every day?” or have commented, “This makes science and social studies fun!” They are so busy having fun and reveling in the awe factor that they don’t even realize how much knowledge they are absorbing. Subjects that were once boring or difficult have now become subjects they look forward to studying.
“Through this program, my students are realizing that everything is interconnected,” Fimbel said. “They have become more universal in their ways of thinking and are approaching other subjects differently, more optimistically. Going global has brought these fourth-graders a world of opportunity, and we thank ATMC, our local telecommunications provider and technology partner, for helping us to set sail.”