Fort Mill Times

Orchard Park wins grant for interactive science materials

Students at Orchard Park Elementary School are getting some new "in-their-face" materials to help them learn about science and reading.

The school has been awarded the Sylvan Dell Publishing Resource Grant, which provides every computer in the school access to 35 e-books that can be projected in the classroom for interactive reading. The books are a blend of science, math and nature that engage the children's imaginations while teaching a lesson, according to Sara Dobie, the public relations coordinator for Sylvan Dell.

"We've gotten a great response," Dobie said. "Teachers love it and students love it. It's a great way of getting kids involved in cross curricular learning."

The educational resource grant was made available in June 2008 to one school in every district in the nation.

"A few months later, more than 1,800 schools have been rewarded with the grant," Dobie said.

Michael Pratt, the assistant principal at Orchard Park, said he heard about the Sylvan Dell grant from his wife, Lipi, who is a math and science teacher at the school.

"She heard about it at the National Science Teachers Conference in Charlotte," Pratt said. "The products are magnificent - something teachers could definitely use in class. So I said 'let's do it,' and I wrote the grant."

Pratt said the reaction from the teachers at his school has been positive and the products are getting a lot of use.

"We enjoy them a lot. We used to have some of the paper versions in our media center," Lipi said. "Now we can put them up on the smart-boards and make them huge. It changes how [the students] feel about the books. They're much more enthusiastic."

Lipi said the fictional stories are so well written, the students don't always realize they are taking in the scientific information until they think about it afterwards.

"They'll say 'oh yeah, we learned about rocks - and they learned about rocks in the story," Lipi said about the students.

The books also offer real-along features where students can get help reading one or any of the words in the text.

"The visuals are great," Lipi said. "We're lucky enough to have smart-boards in Fort Mill...so we're very excited."

Pratt said the materials have been used with most of the kids at the school.

"One feature our teachers have loved is that the books come in Spanish as well. It's another way to reach our kids," he said.

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