South Texas Elementary School to Offer Drone Classes

As technology advances faster than ever, how kids prepare for careers changes, too.

The Facts reports while most high schools are expanding their reach through specific career and technical education programs such as video game programming, one teacher at Sweeny Elementary School thought career prep could start even earlier -- with drones.

"I bought my daughter a drone last year for Christmas and she loved it immediately," said Matthew Way, STREAM lab teacher at Sweeny Elementary School. "I started thinking in my mind of a way to incorporate drones with the students' learning because I knew it would engage them."

The school's STREAM, or Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art and Math, lab program is designed to expose kids to as much as they can be exposed to at an early age so they can discover their passions early-on.

"We're not preparing kids for the future," Sweeny ISD Superintendent Tory Hill said. "We're preparing kids to create the future."

Flying drones will help prepare children to create the future and will segue into the high school CTE programs. Through the course, children will develop critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication. Flying a drone is also already part of many careers, like journalism, law enforcement and engineering.

"We have a lot of kiddos from low-income families in this district and disadvantaged enrollment has a high rate at the elementary school in particular," Sweeny Elementary School Principal Michael Heinroth said. "More exposure at school takes the pressure off of families and opens the door for these kiddos who would never get to do this otherwise."

Once the course officially starts next year, enrolled fourth-grade students will break up into four roles -- a job pilot, a data analyst, a spotter and a materials person. First, the students will learn on a simulator in a computer lab. Once they get to flying, Way will focus on teaching kids the difference between a toy and a tool, partly by having students learn to care for and fix the drone.

Right now, three fourth-grade students in particular -- Vance Smyth, Gabriel Hernandez and Myla Way, Matthew Way's daughter -- are hoping to join the program once it officially launches. They all worked on a drone project already in the STREAM lab class as an introduction to the drone course.

"Here, it's kind of easier because we get to do it on an iPad," Hernandez said. "I have a drone at home, a little one with a controller, and it's hard because I kept crashing it into the roof."

Next year, if they participate in the course, they'll be able to teach fourth-grade students what they already learned. This is the way the program will go each year after the first year to help fifth-grade students develop leadership skills, Way said. The drone class will focus on all aspects of STREAM just like other lab projects.

Students at Sweeny Elementary School can sign up now to be a part of the drone course for next school year.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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