DERRY — A virtual "field trip" atop Mount Washington and a music program helping students practice their scales at home are two new technological additions to Derry's public schools, thanks to a local grant program.
The 21st Century Learning Community Corp., a local organization providing grant money to Derry schools for technology, gave awards to schools in the district for technology programs. The organization hosts an annual golf tournament in July to raise money to support the program.
Representatives for 21st Century, Joel Olbricht and Gordon Graham, spoke to the Derry School Board on Tuesday night and also witnessed four demonstrations of technology in action in the local classrooms.
One 21st Century recipient, West Running Brook Middle School, put its technology to the test with band and choral students using the program, SmartMusic, to aid students in practicing instruments and singing lessons at home. West Running Brook music teacher Blake Leister told the board SmartMusic helped students become proactive and more motivated when practicing at home.
Another technology program aided by 21st Century gives students in the district a chance to visit various locations in a virtual 360-degree tour, including the top of Mount Washington.
"This has enormous potential," district technology integration specialist Meg Morse-Barry said.
Another technology demonstration put Gilbert H. Hood Middle School science teacher Fran Leach up front to demonstrate her Motion Madness curriculum work. Her students built robots out of Lego pieces and then learned all about how motion sensors work.
A fourth demo showed Hood students working with GPS devices and learning how to use coordinates and measurements to find locations. Students also created a video highlighting their work with the GPS units.
Olbricht said he is always happy to see the "innovation and creativity" when it comes to students and teachers being energized with technological advances. Graham added the technology programs help people "think outside the box" while discovering new ways to use technology in the classroom.
"We are lucky and proud to be able to support the extra technology for the district," he said.
Now in its 17th year, the 21st Century program raises thousands of dollars each summer during its benefit golf tournament, offering technology support for schools and paying for programs and equipment not included in the school budget.