Evergreen Elementary School is on the US Fort Lewis US Army in Washington State. In 2004 one of their Kindergarten teachers Jeffrey Thompson won the Disney Foundation Teacher of the Year Award. This brought the Army and Disney together to build a very unique school. Evergreen teacher Kenton Morrison describes his school and how Roamer helps solve its unique problems.
The school is built in a huge hanger and entering it is like walking into a small town. Hallways look like small streets and classrooms look like small buildings or homes. Each hallway is out of Disneyland: Frontier Land, Adventure Land, Tomorrow Land… The main hallway is Main Street USA and the Library is Sleeping Beauty’s Castle leading to Storybook Land. We designated Evergreen “The happiest school on earth”. Evergreen has around 800 pre-school to Grade 5 students. This constantly changes as the army shuffle their personnel from base to base. The transience is exacerbated because soldiers are posted here for treatment at the nearby Madigan Army Medical Center. The school is also a center for students with special needs. So we have to deal with students with severe physical or cognitive issues as well as those who qualify for gifted and talented programs testing in the top 98th percentile of students in the school district.
With such a wide variety of student needs to meet, the school has been designed to function as several small schools. The building is designed into wings each accommodating a different grade. Life Skills and Self Contained Special Education classrooms have specially designed rooms in the building as well.
I use the Roamer Robot to further the students understanding of specific math principles in the area of geometry. The State of Washington requires that 5th grade students have a clear understanding of measurement and the tools used to measure distance and angle. Students are also required to develop a clear understanding of obtuse and acute angles. Further, they need to be able to draw and measure angles. In the past we have had students use protractors to measure angles within shapes drawn on paper. This is one practical application of the concept but student interest in drawing and measuring angles on paper is limited at best. My students need a more practical application of the concepts and Roamer provides this.
Students begin by putting a pen in Roamer and placing the robot on a large sheet of paper. This allows Roamer to draw a line as it moves. They then begin experimenting with moving Roamer forward, backward, and programming Roamer to turn. Through discovery they learn that Roamer advances and moves backward at a set increment. Through experimentation they learn to control Roamer by estimating and then calculating the distance Roamer will travel in a straight line forward and backward. They begin using Rulers, yardsticks, tape measures, and even distance wheels, to accurately measure Roamer’s desired path. Then they begin to experiment with turning Roamer and quickly discover that Roamer turns in degrees. They immediately begin using protractors to estimate and measure the degree or angle of the turn they wish to program. Rather than drawing lines on a paper, measurement tools gain a whole new relevance through the use of Roamer.
Once students have learned to control the movements of the Roamer, they begin using it to create programs to draw geometric shapes. They draw rectangles, squares, equilateral triangles, and right triangles with Roamer. Then they are challenged to learn the angles within more advanced shapes and begin programming Roamer for them as well.