Each year Hamburg Area school directors include a significant amount of money in the district budget for the purpose of providing students with better ways to learn and prepare for their future.

On April 8 school directors were given feedback on how some of those funds were spent at the high school.

In engineering teacher Greg King's classroom students use 3-D printers, virtual reality systems and the latest software to bring their idea into focus.

"Each piece of software was free (to the district) through partnerships we've been creating," King said. "The money given by the board goes into purchasing hardware.

"My job is to think one to two years ahead and ask 'what can we introduce'."

King has introduced advanced visualization and simulation to his students which allows, through 3-D computer graphics, the ability to virtually touch an object before it's built.

"You can walk through a building that doesn't exist, its created by software," King said. "Students can see what it looks like to walk through the building."

The software is utilized by architects, engineers, designers and contractors.

King's class is an example of Customized Learning which tailors curriculum, teaching methods and learning environment to meet the abilities and learning styles of the students.

Math teacher Andrea Heckman has seen newly painted walls, new student furniture and a reconfigured classroom improve student performance and interest.

"I see a big difference in engagement and communication is better," Heckman said.

Students like the wall color change from egg shell to blue and khaki, according to Heckman.

Students also liked that the chairs are more comfortable and separate from the desks, and that the desktops are larger allowing more space and elbow room.

The new furniture allows Heckman to reconfigure the room in several ways, which could not be done with the previous furniture.

"This was money spent by the board on active learning spaces," Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf said. "The notion of customized learning, it's students taking ownership of learning."

Another example of customized learning came from English teacher Stephanie Palerino.

Instead of giving her class the same book to read, she provided students with 19 books to choose from, which allowed students to pick a book that interested them.

Students were put in small groups of three or four to discuss their book.

"They were engaged and very passionate about the stories they chose," Palerino said.

Students told school directors that it was "more fun going to class' and that 'we were emotionally connected with our books'.

"(Customized learning) is getting people to be creative in thinking," Mextorf said. "One size does not fit all."

The next meeting of school directors is Monday, April 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the James A. Gilmartin Community Room.

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