Evergreen Elementary School student Makayla Carr, right, helps classmate Samantha Rodrigues navigate her Chromebook during class recently. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

The kids at Evergreen Elementary School have discovered a great new tool for doing research and writing stories, thanks to third-grade teacher Therese Souers.

It’s called Chromebook, a small tablet-like, Google-based computer that let’s them access the web, do extra math projects and other school assignments.

Both Souers and Evergreen Principal Hugh Maxwell have strong backgrounds in technology and Souers is on the technology committee for the school district, so she’s “very much involved in the technology stuff that’s going on,” she said.

She first heard about Chromebooks at a technology conference she and Maxwell attended last year.

“One of the workshops was about a school that was doing STEM –– science, technology, engineering and math –– and the integration of their technology with all of that. And both Hugh and I got very excited about it and wanted to find a way to get that for our students,” Souers said.

It took several months of researching and writing grants, but Souers has been able to come up with enough funding from various sources to purchase more than 70 new computers for students in the school district.

And now Evergreen is starting to use the Chromebooks in a new school program they call Chromeworks –– a combination of Chromebook and homework.

It started as a way to get our kids who struggle involved in getting their homework done, in getting more reading and writing done and trying to figure out a way that would engage them, Souers explained.

“We’ve had an after school program for fourth- and fifth-graders, but it really was just giving them more of what they weren’t successful with during the day,” she said.

Part of the problem is that “a lot of our kids don’t have access to computers at home for anything but video games.

One of Souers’ former jobs was director of development for a community college so she knows how to write grants.

With a $5,000 grant she got for Evergreen from CenturyLink, the school was able to purchase a charging cart with 12 Chromebooks. Then she got a $6,500 grant from a foundation that paid for more computers.

“We also had some left-over LAP money (Learning Assistance Program) and now we have more than 70 computers. They’ll serve all grades but we’re sharing them,” she said.

In addition to helping the kids learn computer skills, they’re also learning about responsibility, Maxwell said.

“Responsibility is a big piece. There are always kids who can find their way around it but they’re taught that this is a privilege and if you violate the rules you’ll loose it,” Soures said.

According to Soures, one surprise benefit of the new computers is that kids who might not in excel their regular subjects are sometimes very quick to pick up computer skills, which they can then teach to the other kids.

“Maybe reading and writing isn’t really their thing but they know how to change the font size or insert a picture,” Souers said. “They figure those things out and suddenly their status in the class and their self esteem just rises because they become the expert and people want to be expert in technology.”

Kids and teachers alike seem to love the new computers.

“I think the Chromebooks are awesome,” said Makayla Carr, 8. “We have enough for our class so we can all have our own personal Chromebook and the cool thing is you can go on the web and search for what you like to do.”

Carr said if other kids don’t know how to use them, the classmates who have experience will help them.

Makayla’s classmate, Delmer Emans, also eight, likes Chromebooks. “I can type stories on them and sometimes that’s important. At first it was kind of hard but now it’s really easy and it helps me. I can do extra math and search for things on it,” Emans said.

For Souers and Maxwell, the bottom line is helping the kids.

“Our kids are underprivileged,” Souers said. “They don’t have the same privileges as a lot of the Harbor kids. We don’t want them to fall behind just because they didn’t have that access. We want to help our kids.”

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