Kindergarten? There’s an app for that.
The kindergartners in Courtney Niemeyer’s class at Eagle Cliffs Elementary started school on Wednesday with a box full of crayons, glue sticks, safety scissors and shiny new iPads.
Niemeyer, who had used two iPads with her first grade class year, saw the potential the little machines had to transform learning in the classroom.
“I just saw how engaging it was,” she said.
Like many Billings teachers, Niemeyer writes to the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools every year for small grants made available to classroom educators by donors.
A grant last year paid for the two iPads she used with her first-graders, and when she wrote in this year, she requested grant money to do something similar.
She got a note back from Tom Wardell. A Billings native, he and his wife Susan live in Georgia but came up through SD2 schools and have donated money to the Education Foundation in the past.
In his note to Niemeyer, Wardell asked what she thought she could do if she had an iPad for every child in the classroom.
She told him the potential was limitless. He agreed and bought her classroom 20 iPads. And then she found out she’d be teaching kindergarten rather than first grade.
Tom asked her what she was going to do and she said she wanted to “prove to people kindergarten is where to start” with technology.
The iPads allow her students to learn shapes, colors, numbers, letters, spelling and reading, all at their own pace. The programs encourage the students to push themselves, and the iPads make a digital recording of their work so Niemeyer can see her students’ progress and where they need help.
And the students love it.
“I got to find all the shapes,” said kindergartner Olivia Mitchell.
“We do shapes and numbers and letters,” said classmate Addie Klein.
“It has really fun shapes and stuff,” Olivia added. “It also has really fun bingos.”
Niemeyer’s hope is that by the end of the school year, the iPads will have helped her students develop innovative thinking skills and learn creative problem solving.
And she hopes the Wardells at some point can visit her classroom.
Tom Wardell “did all of it,” she said. “Amazingly generous.”