Bus inspires Basalt kids to dive into computers | AspenTimes.com

Bus inspires Basalt kids to dive into computers

Analy Luquin (lft) and J.R. Krueger, both second graders at Basalt Elementry, play Bugdom after finishes their lessons on the Education Staion bus. The bus, sponsored by the Jared Polis Foundation travels around the state teaching children about computers. The bus is outfitted with Macintosh Imac and Ibook computers. Jacob N. Ware photo.

Half of the students from Vicki Patterson’s first- and second-grade bilingual class at Basalt Elementary School experienced a mild case of educational torture last week.

Ten of their classmates visited the Education Station, a special bus fitted with iMac and iBook computers, on Wednesday and weren’t able to stop talking about their great experience.

The remaining 10 classmates had to wait until Thursday to visit the high-tech bus, and they could hardly stand the delay. It was sort of like going to bed on Christmas Eve while staring at the unopened presents piled under the tree.

The wait paid off. The 10 students who took their turn Thursday filed into the bus and dove into computer lessons directed by facilitator Tom Schwieger.

They politely paid attention during a lesson on the inner workings of a computer before the fun stuff started – interactive lessons featuring a creepy-looking bug named Vinny the Virus, a crossword game and a video game called “Bugdom.”

The kids paired off at one of the two desktop or three laptop computers. Ms. Patterson was excited to see those at the laptops figure out almost immediately how to control the cursor with their finger rather than a mouse.

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Kelsey Richards and Claritza Santos paired up at one desktop computer and had to learn how to handle the keyboard as a team to make their caterpillarlike bug negotiate an outdoor landscape. They had to avoid giant slugs while capturing prizes and rescuing ladybugs from spider webs.

It was clearly the highlight of the one-hour session for the girls. Ms. Patterson was thrilled about the entire experience her class had in the Education Station.

“It expands their world,” she said, noting that only a few of her students have a chance to work on a computer at home.

Basalt Elementary students also are exposed to computers once a week in the computer lab, but computer and technical coordinator Candy Green jumped at the chance to bring in the Education Station for additional training.

The high-tech classroom on wheels makes free visits to schools throughout Colorado. It is funded by the Jared Polis Foundation, which has a mission of increasing kids’ exposure to computers.

Polis has founded, funded and operated several high-tech start-up companies. He also was CEO from 1996-99 of Bluemountain.com, a successful electronic greeting card company.

The 1996 graduate of Princeton University has won numerous “young entrepreneur” awards and was elected to an at-large position on the Colorado State Board of Education in fall 2000.

His foundation has two initiatives – bringing the Education Station on the bus to schools, and collecting and refurbishing computers for use in computer labs around Colorado.

Schwieger, who graduated from Colorado University last May, is one of two foundation staffers who drive the bus to schools. “I love this chance to inspire them,” he said.

Schwieger graduated with degrees in business and Spanish. His language skills are particularly helpful when working with Colorado’s growing Hispanic student population. He directed a Basalt class in Spanish Thursday morning, although the written and verbal instructions on the computer are in English.

Schwieger spent Wednesday through Friday at Basalt Elementary and was scheduled to return in two weeks to work with the middle school students. The Education Station has interactive programs designed for all ages of kids, up to seniors.

Green said she learned of the opportunity to bring the bus to Basalt’s schools during a conference last summer. It’s a great supplement to her computer labs because it meets many state technical standards.

“I wish we could have this more,” she said.