Technology helps Greencastle-Antrim sixth-graders study the environment

Megan Hahn and Josh Armstrong use a new microscope to examine bugs found on school property. Their environmental science class is benefiting from a grant awarded through a business and Chamber of Commerce partnership.

Greencastle-Antrim Middle School teacher Betsy Wilson is using an area grant to bring the outdoors inside for her environmental science students. The sixth-graders are studying “Protecting Biodiversity” using iPads and microscopes.

Wilson purchased six of each with the $4,224 she received from the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation. The organization distributed $14,500 to seven teachers in Franklin County using technology in an innovative way.

Wilson has exposed her students to invasive species, pollution, habitat destruction and over-consumption, focusing especially on the first two topics.

The youngsters, who are in the classroom for one semester, have been to Tayamentasachta and the school courtyard to check out what is occurring in nature.

With the iPads, they are tracking the invasive bush honeysuckle, which spreads quickly, but has a shallow root system, according to Penn State Extension. The students are also making videos on recycling, energy-saving tips, and reducing usage. These will be shared with other classrooms using Apple devices.

The tabletop microscopes let the students look at samples from the outside, such as the non-insect vertebrate sowbugs and scuds, and the caddisflies that entered a streampack placed on school grounds.

The technology equipment has been beneficial to the learning goals, said Wilson.

“They have helped the kids get a deeper visualization of things, helped with identifications,” she said. “The iPads have also allowed them to be so creative.”

The students have retained some concepts.

Riley Hayzlett explained how invasive plants become a nuisance.

“If you plant one, the birds eat them. The seeds spread rapidly around and you can’t stop them.”

He added his family farm had an invasive grass.

Emma Martin understood the ease with which pollution occurred.

“Human waste is when people throw away their belongings, like food wrappers, and it can go into the stream,” she said.

The microscopes were popular to examine tiny things. Paige Widder reported, “We are looking at things up close and learning how to use it. In owl pellets, which is owl puke, we found a skull. We zoomed in and could see the hair. I think it was a mole.”

Sarah Diller, fifth-grade teacher at the elementary school, received $1,941 for Science 360.

The grants were awarded in the fall, using money from Educational Improvement Tax Credit contributors including M&T Bank, Orrstown Bank and Susquehanna Bank.

“We would not be able to provide these grants if it weren’t for our generous business partners and the EITC program,” said Noel Purdy, president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber Foundation.

“As an educational improvement organization, the Chamber Foundation can accept contributions from businesses, and in return those businesses can  receive significant tax credits.”