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GenOvation shows new learning with technology in District 304

GENEVA – Getting a list of spelling words on Monday to memorize for a test on Friday is old school.

In Geneva School District 304, it’s been discarded in favor of a computer program called Words Their Way.

Caroline Winsininski, 9, a third-grader at Western Avenue Elementary School, demonstrated the program on a laptop, with the words rainbow, awake, crayon and oddball.

“Awake. Rainbow. Crayon,” Caroline said, emphasizing how the long “a” sound is similar in each word.

“Oddball is the one that does not belong,” Caroline said, as its “a” is an “ah” sound, not a long “a” sound.

This innovative teaching program was one of many on display Nov. 14 to the public at Geneva High School, 416 McKinley Ave., were introduced to the district’s innovative practices and technologies in the classroom.

Third-grade teachers Kristine Rathunde and Christina Kovarik from Western Avenue were also present to explain further about how the program works.

“Words Their Way is a developmental spelling program that allows kids to learn at their own level to learn word patterns instead of just memorizing how to spell certain words,” Kovarik said. “By sorting the words into specific patterns, it allows them to manipulate the words to learn how to use the pattern to spell new words that maybe they haven’t encountered already.”

The program, and its accompanying videos, allows the students to be where they need to be without going into something too difficult or below their level where they would get bored, Kovarik said.

“When I was in school, and when Mrs. Rathunde was in school, every student in the whole class got the same list,” Kovarik said. “Every Monday, we would learn how to spell the words and every Friday we would take a test on them. And even if we had not mastered those words, we would still have to move on to the next list.”

By contrast, their students are learning to master spelling patterns at their own pace, Kovarik said.

In the demonstration of computer science and software engineering, high school students Asher Sprigler, 14, and Jonathan Spitler, 16, showed how colored blocks on a computer screen combine for predefined functions.

In one simple example of an ice cream cone creator, a person can choose a cone, chocolate or vanilla ice cream, and with or without sprinkles, Spitler said.

When Spitler touched the button for completion, the image of a chocolate ice cream cone with colored sprinkles popped up on the screen.

In an engineering display, Colton Benjamin, 16, Clayton Wagner and Ethan Fuller, both 15, demonstrated their work on a solar-powered boat: A small engine set in a Styrofoam meat tray with two halves of a pool noodle for pontoons.

Its maiden voyage in a kiddie pool did not go well, so they were troubleshooting.

“The goal is for it to run on solar power, but also to use a hydrogen fuel cell to get a small DC motor to run,” Fuller said.

Ken Montague of St. Charles attended the forum to see his granddaughter, Delainey Montague, 13, demonstrate using a computer program to track dry ice reactions.

“I was impressed with the variety of the experiments,” Ken Montague said. “And the ability to use the computer in such unique ways for the classroom. It’s amazing.”

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