“iPads for Orcas” Celebration Rolls Out New Learning Opportunities for Port Graham School
Wednesday, September 21, 2016, rolled out iPads for Orcas, a festive celebration in Port Graham School. Students, staff, community, and guests gathered in anticipation for every student to be presented with their very own iPad for use in school. Before presenting the devices, Principal Kleine explained to the joyful audience how this project came to life.
Until just a few years ago, Port Graham was not only geographically isolated—technology more typical of what students on the road system experience was not available, as the internet was exceedingly slow. In 2014, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District subsidized a microwave broadband upgrade in Nanwalek and Port Graham, allowing much faster access. As students and staff watched neighboring Nanwalek School enter a new way of learning through the Apple ConnectED Grant, staff and site council supported efforts for iPads to become a reality for Port Graham students.
Through requests, Port Graham School was awarded donations from two corporations that important to Port Graham residents. Chugach Alaska Corporation donated $10,000, and through the Paluwek Heritage Foundation, Port Graham Corporation provided $4200, the remainder of the funds that would have provided a 1:1 implementation. However, Port Graham experienced a population explosion this fall, growing from the expected 29 students to 36! Determined to put ipads into every student’s hands, the staff opted to use rollover funds from the school budget for the remaining iPads.
Principal Kleine expressed thanks to everyone who helped this innovation, and invited students to be like the orcas for which they were named. She invited them to swim into the digital world, exploring safe places on the internet, and apps that would help them increase their skills. She encouraged them to dive as deeply as they dared into their research, learning to think more deeply as well. In this celebratory environment, she asked everyone to be partners in this new way of learning, and “to keep a joy of learning in our school, using our strength of helping each other as we leap into this new world of technology!” Teacher Devin Michel read the vision statement for the project, encapsulating the ideas by asking students to “Develop the way we think, the way we work, and the tools we use to expand our minds.”
As words of gratitude and invitations to learn were presented, students were signaled to express their joy with kazoos and pompoms whenever Principal Kleine sounded her tambourine. Finally, each student’s name was announced in a commencement-like manner, and elementary teacher Ms. Devin Michel presented each with an iPad, followed by congratulatory hand-shakes from Second Chief Martin Norman, site council secretary and staff member Heather O’Domin, and secondary teacher Colby Way.
Title VI tutor Camille Parry guided students in front of a poster thanking Chugach Alaska and Port Graham Corporation. After a group photo, and cake, students went to classrooms to turn on their iPads and take their new devices for a spin. The activities were riddled with smiles and laughter as the “iPads for Orcas” came to life!
Story contributed by Nanwalek School and Port Graham School Principal Nancy Kleine