Monday, November 18, 2013

LASD Partners with zSpace

Every year in LASD is filled with exciting learning opportunities, but this year there are more than ever! During the past four months, we have been building out a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) program at all of the elementary schools. Thus far the focus has been on creating STEM opportunities outside of the classroom such as lunch clubs, supporting the physical science strand and creating a new computational thinking/computer science strand for students beginning in kindergarten.  While those are the areas most visible at the school sites, the STEM team has also been working behind the scenes to develop a new robotics unit for grade 4 with Khan Academy and to explore possibilities that will enhance the learning for students in STEM.  While we are constantly seeking out innovative opportunities for LASD students, we are clear that these innovations must help produce better learning outcomes. Our exploration has led us to develop a fantastic new partnership with zSpace.  

Just over two years ago, we forged a relationship with zSpace, at the time a small company who had developed an immersive & interactive holographic platform that had many possibilities to make learning more interactive for students.  While we were blown away with the technology and explored the possibility of partnering in some way, we determined it wasn't the right time.  Fast forward two years to now and we have once again engaged in conversations with the team at zSpace.  There have been several interesting developments both within zSpace and LASD that make it the right time to move forward with a partnership.  zSpace has a new focus on education and we have built out a STEM program creating the perfect space to pilot their technology.  Explaining zSpace is challenging, so I encourage you to check out their website and watch the short video on their homepage to get a glimpse into what might be possible.

Through our partnership with zSpace, we will help to develop and expand STEM learning tools in Earth, space, physical and life sciences for students in third through eighth grade.  Fifth grade students at Covington and Santa Rita Schools will be the first to implement the zSapce STEM stations through a virtual hands-on lab on the circulatory system.  Covington and Santa Rita will be joined by Springer and Gardner Bullis Elementary schools as well as Egan and Blach Junior High Schools before the school year ends in June 2014.  Should the first two phases of our pilot be successful, we plan to engage all nine LASD schools in phase three beginning Fall 2014. 

We will be hosting an open houses on Monday, December 9 from 5 - 7 pm in the Covington STEM lab and encourage you to come experience zSpace.  Experiencing zSpace will allow you to better envision how we will use it with students to enhance and extend their learning. 

Our STEM team continues to meet weekly to ensure we are building the very best program built on best practices, current research and the cross cutting concepts articulated in the Next Gen Science Standards.   The LASD STEM team is currently attending the first statewide STEM conference in Sacramento, where two team members are presenting are robotics and CSTEM. The development of a STEM program wouldn't be possible without the incredible support of our parents and the Los Altos Educational Foundation.  Thank you!  It is an exciting year of learning for all involved, but most importantly for our students!

Contributed by Alyssa Gallagher, Director of Strategic Initiatives & Community Partnerships

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