Feb. 12, 2007

Computer science is enjoyed at Lester Prairie

By Jenni Sebora

“I can use my mind to create rather than just learning by textbooks,” is what Lester Prairie High School senior Jake Prehn said about the computer science class he is taking at Lester Prairie High School.

Lester Prairie Schools is working hard to prepare students of all ages for future environments by offering classes and activities to meet a variety of student needs and interests.

Computer science classes, technology, and elementary enrichment activities are among some of the opportunities available for students.

Lester Prairie School’s computer science teacher and technology coordinator Kim DeBruyckere, a former Lester Prairie graduate, came back to her home school to teach.

DeBruyckere, whose interest in math and computers was sparked by her LP high school math teacher, John Halverson, hopes to also “inspire” her students with skills and information that will help prepare them for whatever they may do in the future.

The computer science class teaches students all-around good computer skills and a comfort level in computer skills for whatever they may do in the future, DeBruyckere noted.

DeBruyckere teaches two sections of computer science and both are full. Business teacher Rob Weber also teaches a keyboarding class which teaches other computer skills as well.

The computer science class is a year-long course. Some of the skills worked on include word processing, spreadsheets, databases, graphics, web site creation, presentations, video editing, animation, and multimedia among other skills.

DeBruyckere noted that the students create documents, programs, brochures, posters, spreadsheets and databases with Microsoft Word, Excel and the AppleWorks suite of programs; edit and create images with Photoshop Elements; create presentations with PowerPoint; create slideshows, videos, DVDs, music and more with Apple’s iLife; use a text editor to learn html and create web pages; and use Macromedia’s Dreamweaver and Flash in web page creation.

Computer science students and seniors Matt Wroge, Ben Machemehl and Prehn all agree that the computer science class is very beneficial and fun too.

“I would recommend this class to other students. You learn a lot, and it’s a fun class,” Machemehl said, and Wroge and Prehn agreed.

It’s not just the computer classes that use the labs or have access to technology though.

The high school computer lab has two areas. The main lab has 20 iMacs and a projection screen, which allows teachers to display what’s on the teacher’s computer display on a big screen.

The other lab contains four donated iMacs and eight newer Macintosh computers that were purchased through various grants and Macintosh money. The school also has a HP Laserjet networked printer and a HP Color Deskjet printer and three scanners. The school is also networked and can save projects to its server.

“The LP foundation gave us a grant this fall to purchase a digital video camera for use in class. This will give students exciting new opportunities,” DeBruyckere said.

Students also use their own digital cameras, the camera from the high school office or DeBruyckere’s own camera for completing projects as well.

DeBruyckere says the labs are busy all day long and are used by a variety of classes. Social studies classes use the lab to do research and complete career interest inventories.

Science classes do research and complete experiments and data analysis. Music students create original music and music videos. Elementary classes also access the lab for accessing the internet and for a variety of learning activities.

In addition, the elementary has a computer lab with a combination of 22 different model Macintosh computers. The elementary also has access to eMacs to use in their classrooms.

“Ms. Houg’s (elementary teacher) class recently created iMovies to share what they learned about an assigned health topic. Mr. Rue (elementary music teacher) has set up a lab in his room for use with his music students,” DeBruyckere said.

Other high school classes, such as the technology/CADD classes and the science and social studies classes use computers and technology in their classrooms.

Administrators, secretaries and teachers have computers in their work areas and classrooms. The school’s media center has computers for student use also.

Elementary enrichment activities

Other enrichment activities and various learning opportunities aren’t in short supply at the elementary level. A variety of enrichment activities are offered to meet the needs and interests of a variety of students.

Future Problem Solving, grades 4-6; Science Fair, grades 3-6; on-line math and on-line social studies, grades 3-6; Junior Great Books, grades 2-6; Young Author’s Conference, Geography and Spelling Bees as well as other critical thinking and problem solving activities are among the enrichment opportunities available for elementary and in some cases, junior high students.

Throughout the year, students also participate in Art Adventures activities.

“We try and offer activities to a lot of different students,” said Lester Prairie Principal Pamela Lukens, who also organizes the various enrichment activities.

Participation in many of the enrichment activities is based on teacher recommendation, student test scores and interests, Lukens noted.

One of Luken’s favorite activities is Future Problem Solving, in which students work in groups of three or four to problem solve.

Given a situation, students must identify problems, and then proceed to work on one problem at a time. Students work together to come up with a variety of solutions to the identified problem, complete a grid, and the best scored solution is the final action to the identified problem.

At a competition, the team presents a skit with props. The regional Future Problem Solving bowl is March 3.

Students must brainstorm, compromise and work with their teammates, Lukens noted.

“It’s a step-by-step way to think through a problem,” Lukens said of Future Problem Solving.

The local Geography and Spelling bees were just completed and other enrichment activities, such as Junior Great Books, are currently taking place.

“It’s like a revolving door – students coming in and going out – to meet the interests of many students,” Lukens said of the variety and student participation in the activities offered.

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