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New Guilford County School to Use Robots, Coding in Lessons

The new Foust Elementary School, one of two schools to open next year in Guilford County, N.C., will use gaming, coding and robotics to teach technology skills and expose students to related career fields.

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(TNS) — Just like there's more than one way to solve a problem, there's more than one way to grow problem solvers.

Guilford County Schools has two new school-choice programs set to start next school year that each has its own method.

One will use games and robots to spur problem-solving skill building. The other will harness "Expeditionary Learning" — an educational approach that aims to get students invested in school work by exploring the world around them and uncovering answers to their own questions.

Staff and teachers of the new Foust Elementary School and the new Peck School made their case to families on Wednesday, amid the din of the district's annual school choice fair, which brought thousands to the Greensboro Coliseum Special Event Center to see the school choice options the district has to offer.

Foust and Peck will start their new learning approaches at the beginning of next school year. Then, after winter break, students will take their seats in the new buildings the district has designed specifically for the new themes. Peck is transitioning from an elementary to a school for grades K-8, but for next school year it will still be K-5.

Guilford County students have an assigned school based on where they live, but families can also choose to apply to different schools that have "choice" programs via the district's school-choice lottery.

During Wednesday's school-choice fair, fourth grader Amari Sua, who was looking at school options with her mother, got a chance to explore the jungle and see a monkey, via a pair of virtual reality googles lent her at the Foust booth. Staff members also showed off a programmable robot made with Lego parts and a tiny bot that rolled around on the ground.

'We are going to teach you how to be the wiz," teacher Kelley Harris told one student, highlighting the use of technology in Foust classrooms.

"Are you interested in gaming? ... coding? A little bit?" she asked another student. "Well we are going to be doing a little bit in the classroom, how about that?"

Lauren Faucette, an instructional coach at Foust, said that one of the questions she'd gotten a lot was whether the school was really just all about teaching robots and games. Short answer, no. The school plans to integrate robots and gaming within its classes, but not every day all the time.

"Specials" like art, P.E., music, technology and guidance will especially emphasize them, she said. And in the regular classroom, they'll look for ways to use gaming and robots to help students better master the general curriculum they are supposed to be learning.

They have ideas like using the computer game Minecraft to help students learn math and using virtual reality goggles to help students explore ecosystems for science.

Along the way, students are picking up technology skills and exposure to career fields like robotics and game development. But Faucette said the bigger idea is broader. Playing or designing a game, she said, often requires problem-solving to figure out how to win, or how to get the game to function properly. Building or programming a robot, she said, also requires thinking through how to accomplish your goal and how to troubleshoot when things go wrong.

Over at the Peck booth, Principal Ashley Triplett said Peck's Expeditionary Learning approach is "a little more difficult to see and feel" as far as showing it off at an event like the showcase.

Triplett said that reason the district pricked Expeditionary Leaning for Peck is that the approach, as advocated for by the nonprofit EL Education, has historically served diverse communities like Peck's, and has led to improved performance and achievement in those schools.

It emphasizes character-development within a not-so-traditional learning environment.

One of Triplett's top explainers on Wednesday was fourth-grade teacher Trae Madden.

"I'm just here to help you learn what you need," he told one boy. For example, he told him, if there's a math problem on the board, "you get to share how you'd solve the problem."

At Peck, Madden said, students will do a lot of hands-on activities, project-based learning, and collaborations with each other, and spend a bunch of time outdoors. He said he's even hoping — possibly — to be able to take his students on a field trip to the beach.

At Peck, he said, students be taught to give their teachers suggestions on what they need to work on, and what they need to learn.

"They'll be able to say, 'I've learned this, I still need work on that,'" he said. "Instead of us standing up there explaining everything, they do problem solving."

©2024 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.