Happy Holidays

Seasons Greetings from the New Providence School District

Innovation and Technology

The last few years have seen a significant increase in the innovative use of new technologies in the district's classrooms. This newsletter highlights some of these recent advances and how they are helping to move classrooms from a traditional teacher-centered model to a more student-centered experience, as teachers explore and discover new ways of engaging modern learners. Enjoy.

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Aeroponics - An Innovative Growing System

Thanks to a New Providence Educational Foundation (NPEF) grant, both elementary schools now have Tower Gardens, an aeroponic growing system. Aeroponics is an advanced form of hydroponics that grows plants in a vertical system using liquid nutrients and a soilless growing medium, but still increases yields by 30% and grows plants up to 30% faster while using about 2% of the normal amount of water.

The system has intrigued students of all grades who have posed many interesting questions about how the system works and how plants can grow without soil. The system has helped reinforce concepts explored in the science classrooms as well as introducing students to new methods for increasing food production in a reduced space.

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iPads Used to Help Introduce Math Concepts

First-grade students are using the iPads in an innovative way to help them learn to “make a ten” while adding, a concept that is usually difficult for them. This year the students collaborated in pairs, one student using math counters and the other using the iPad app Number Frames.

Then they checked each other’s work and discussed their answers. As the students extended their inquiry into the number 10, they continued to use the iPad as a math tool to aid in computation.

Students also used the Seesaw app to record their thinking and then share their work with their parents so they can understand the thought process they have gone through.

Advances in Reading Analysis

Many 4th-grade students have started accessing the Storia website on the iPad to read books. This website allows students to choose books at their own reading levels, that can also be accessed through the media center and provides the teacher with a variety of information that can help the teacher guide individual student reading.

For example, the teacher can access information that shows how long a student is reading during each session and the number of pages read, any words the student looked up in the online dictionary, and how many Post-it notes the student used as they interacted with the text.

The teacher can also see how many books the student has opened, started and finished and allows students to take challenge quizzes that can help them identify their comprehension of the text.

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Video Analysis in Design Challenges

Students in the fourth grade STEM classes have been using video analysis to help them address the engineering design challenge of how to build houses in earthquake-prone areas. Students learned about the causes of Earthquakes and the damage that often occurs during high magnitude quakes.
Students brainstormed and tested solutions to collapsing walls and toppling buildings. Using their results and observations, they created buildings, tested them on shaker tables and 'slow-Mo' videoed the building's response to identify areas of improvement.

Innovations in Learning Management Systems

This fall, Google Classroom is being piloted in the AWR 6th-grade Health classes, and the learning management system has helped transform the classroom into an innovative, collaborative, engaging, and differentiated learning environment.

Teachers can drive critical thinking and problem-solving by posting higher level thinking questions, and students have been empowered to take responsibility for their own learning with the ability to communicate electronically with teachers throughout the school day.

In addition, exposure to the management system will prepare students for the more extensive use of Google Classroom at the middle & high schools.

Since the program has started, several K-6 teachers have shown an interest in adapting the system for their classroom, and teachers have collaborated on the training required for the implementation across additional grade levels.

Well done to everyone involved in this initiative to expand technology use across all the grade levels.

Community and Industry Partnerships Inspire Students to Code

Every year the Technology Specialists provide a Week of Code in which students have extended opportunities to engage in coding using robotic activities, online programs, and various iPad apps. This year's Week of Code program was enhanced by visits from technology Industry specialists from Google and Barclays.
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Google employees living in New Providence visited the second-grade classes at AWR to help them navigate through a series of primary coding activities designed to expose the students to a variety of computation strategies.

In addition, Google presenters visited the high school Advanced Placement Computer Science classes to discuss the projects they are working on and the industry-wide skills necessary for success in a computer science career.

Barclays employees, from the Barclays Digital Eagles, some of who also live in the community, visited the fourth-grade classes at Salt Brook to introduce Scratch, a coding program devised at MIT. Students used Scratch to program a shark game and navigate their way through various challenges. It was a fun experience for all.

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Virtual Reality Goggles

The Virtual Reality (VR) Goggles, provided by a generous NPEF grant, have been used with Google Expedition software in all district schools and have proven to create an immersive, engaging and innovative educational experience.

Students at different grade levels have taken virtual trips using Google Expeditions to the Statue of Liberty, the San Diego Zoo, the Amazon Rainforest, the moon, or back in time to the Civil War.


First-grade students went on an Ocean Safari and saw whales, dolphins, sharks, and ancient turtles. They learned about their habitats, methods of communication, dietary habits, and lots of other interesting facts.

Second-grade students were able to enter a bee's hive safely without worry of getting stung! They learned about how the different types of bees work together to pollinate flowers and make honey and helped reinforce some of the science concepts addressed in the classroom.

Fourth-grade students visited volcanoes, earthquakes sites and examined fossils using the VR Goggles as part of their scientific study of Soils, Rocks, and landforms.

Fifth-grade students studying Ancient Egypt in social studies traveled to the ancient Egyptian Pyramids. Lead by their teacher, students got to experience these ancient structures and investigate their role in the Egyptian culture of the day as if they had gone to Egypt to see them in person!

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Middle school students have visited the Holocaust Museum, experienced the difference between how humans and a number of different animals see the world, explored landforms and volcanos, and taken a trip as part of the Westward Expansion.

High School students have traveled to the inside of cell organelles, investigated Quantum computing, and taken a trip through the heart.

Creating VR Experiences

The VR Goggles also allow students to create and download their own 360-degree virtual experiences into the program. Members of the Salt Brook SWAT (Students Who Assist With Technology) Team recently visited the Salt Box museum with the first-graders, met the mayor, and took pictures with a 360-camera, donated by the NPEF. These photos were then used to create a virtual field trip to the museum that students of all ages can access.

EZ Robots

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This year Programming and Innovation students at the high school have been working with EZ-Robots, an innovative and powerful robotic platform purchased with a recent NPEF grant. The robots can be coded using a proprietary coding language that helps expose students to new ways to address coding in a real-world problem-solving application. Students investigated how to program the robots to perform a series of functions such as walking, sitting and then standing, lying down and doing push-ups.

Innovations in Software Applications

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Students in Aerospace Engineering have been investigating the physics of flight. As part of this process, students use an X-Plane software-based flight simulator to explore and gain the basic skills required to safely and accurately pilot an aircraft during takeoff, level flight, and landing.

A recent NPEF grant was used to purchase flight simulator joysticks that enhance the piloting and provide real-time controls and movement simulating the cockpit experience. The joystick allows the pilot to control movement across five axes, providing control of everything from the throttle, prop, and mix, to aileron and elevator movement and allowing students to experience the intricate details of aircraft flight. Thank you to the NPEF for this innovative equipment.