Eureka City Schools expands award-winning EAST program

EUREKA— Eureka City Schools has big plans to offer its award-winning Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program to four elementary schools, the Transition Opportunity Program (TOP) and Zoe Barnum High School during the 2005-06 school year.

EUREKA— Eureka City Schools has big plans to offer its award-winning Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) program to four elementary schools, the Transition Opportunity Program (TOP) and Zoe Barnum High School during the 2005-06 school year.

“We are the first school district in California and third in the nation to bring EAST to this level,” said Michelle Hutchins, the district’s learning director of education technology.

Eureka City Schools recently received a $230,000 Enhancing Education Through Technology competitive grant from the State of California, to expand its EAST program, offered at Eureka High School and Winship and Zane Middle schools, to include four elementary schools, TOP and Zoe Barnum High School.

“We are now the only district in California where students in grades 4 through 12 can experience the collaborative learning environment provided by the EAST experience,” noted Hutchins. “The EAST program will now serve a total of 800 students as 500 additional students join from fourth through twelfth grades.”

Eureka City Schools pursued the expansion of EAST to include grades 4 and 5 with the belief that early introduction of EAST program tenets will increase student commitment to their learning process.

EAST students are encouraged to find a school or community problem to solve, document their progress, and present their results/status using technology.

The EAST model was chosen because of a nationwide history of success and the success experienced by Eureka City Schools’ students. Based on a limited study over the past four years, Eureka EAST students experienced a 15 percent increase in attendance and a 40 percent decrease in incidences involving discipline. In addition, at-risk students are less likely to transfer to independent study or alternative education if they are involved in EAST. Almost 90 percent of Eureka EAST projects directly involve the community and 20 percent of student projects concern issues about race and ethnicity.

Students from the Eureka High School, Zane and Winship EAST programs attended the 2005 EAST Partnership Conference held in Sacramento where each program received “Superior” ratings. Several EAST projects with significant community impact were recognized with awards at the annual conference including “Youth Relay for Life,” “Gotta Serve Somebody; Humboldt Vietnam War Memories,” and “Youth Ready to Respond,” a cross-age disaster preparedness education program. More than 2,000 middle school and high school students were there to represent the hard work of over 20,000 EAST students from over 220 schools in 6 states.

Hutchins credits the EAST Lab facilitators for creating a dynamic program. “The success of our EAST Labs is a testimonial to the awesome instructors we have directing these programs; Jennifer Johnson and Ron Perry at Eureka High, Jamie Bush at Zane, and Dana Jacobs at Winship.”

The new elementary EAST program, serving students in grades 4-5, will allow teachers to develop lessons rich in real-life experiences. Much of their initial work will focus on analysis of instructional methods and student learning through video work. With this information, they will refine their lessons and include technology as a component for increasing student access and achievement.

“Assuming we can secure the funding, we plan to include the remaining two elementary school in the near future,” said Hutchins.

Both Washington and Grant Elementary Schools will each receive 32 laptops with wireless network capabilities that will all connect to the Internet from several buildings on the campuses. Adding to the existing technology, the laptops will be dispersed between target classrooms to ensure daily integration of EAST philosophy. Laptops provide flexibility to the number of computers used with students on a given day resulting in the number of students per computer averaging 2.4 students per computer at Grant and 3.4 students per computer at Washington.

Jefferson Elementary School will receive 10 multimedia workstations dispersed throughout 3 classrooms that will bring the number of students to computers to 5:1.

Lafayette Elementary School will receive 15 multimedia workstations located in one classroom that teachers will rotate their students through on a daily basis. The shared classroom will provide 2 students per computer initially, but after renovations are complete and computers are dispersed, classrooms will have a 7:1 student to computer ratio.

All computers purchased are designed to run advanced software applications. Several of the applications come with campus licenses and some with home licensing for students.

“The home licensing and laptop check-out programs will address the needs of students who would not have the means to acquire experience in these applications any other way thus helping to address the “digital divide,”” remarked Hutchins.

The four elementary schools will have their EAST programs up and running by October, according to Hutchins.

The EAST program at TOP School and Zoe Barnum High School will serve academically at-risk students, provide teachers a professional development center and host family technology nights. The classrooms will be used after school for various programs and become a place where students and their families will have access to technology for the purpose of learning