"Seize the opportunity to involve community volunteers and technology to increase student achievement and productivity."
The senior citizens of Green Valley, a retirement community neighboring Sahuarita, are a valued resource. They are being utilized to promote student productivity and learning. One group in particular, the members of the Green Valley Computer Club, spend 25 hours every week helping students at Sahuarita Elementary School (SES) learn to use computers. The average age of these volunteers in 70+ and they are all retired! Most retirees do not dream of spending their time teaching young children complicated new skills. The volunteer program at SES has given the seniors a link with the youth of tomorrow, and the students think their senior mentors are "wonderful."
In 1979, SES principal, Mrs. Harrington, envisioned a computer lab as a means to promote technology in education and to enhance learning. She enlisted the support of the community enrolled in the Safeway, "Apples for Students" program. This program earned the school the computers, printers, and software needed to begin a computer lab. The school district provided a classroom and an aide to support the computer lab. The Green Valley Computer Club, whose membership swells to approximately 800 during the winter months, took the initiative to start a volunteer program to staff the computer lab and assist students in learning computer skills. They expanded their interest and wrote grants to obtain additional monies to network the computers and to purchase additional materials for the lab. The Green Valley Computer Club recently received the national REACH award for their volunteer efforts in public schools.
The Green Valley Computer Club volunteers assist in teaching computer skills to over 550 students in grades K-5. The program provides students 20 to 40 minutes each week for learning to operate computers, keyboarding drills, creative writing, geography, spelling and math fact drills, graphic arts, and commercially produced education games. The volunteers act as mentors during the regular class hours, helping students through assignments and offering personal guidance and attention. They have been instrumental in getting members of the community to donate computers and printers to be used in the individual classrooms.
Recently, the Green Valley Computer Club volunteers have begun working as mentors to the teachers. They advised the teachers on the different applications of computers to complement the work that is in progress in the classroom. They have developed a basic math facts program which drills students and provides immediate feedback and praise. The volunteers are providing workshops for teachers to learn to develop "template programs" to create tests that are related to regular classroom assignments. The test will be self correcting in that it will provide the teachers with a score and test grade (percentile, letter, or descriptive grade). The test will provide the students with feedback, praise, and suggestions for further study.
Mrs. Harrington believes that Sahuarita Elementary is using its resources to enhance student learning. She states, "This includes seizing the opportunity to involve talented, senior citizens to interact with the youth and leaders of tomorrow while implementing technology to increase student productivity, enhance student achievement, and expand learning time."
For additional information:
Nancy J. Harrington
Sahuarita Elementary School
P.O. Box 26
Sahuarita, AZ 86929