Students in LeFlore County go on a 'virtual field trip'

Wednesday, December 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A recent article in US News and World Report featured Howe, Oklahoma Public Schools in an article on innovative teaching techniques.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells hit the road Wednesday to show us what they are doing in Howe.

Starla Horton a 7th grader at Howe Public School in LeFlore County is piloting an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle, an ROV at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. She's putting the ROV through its paces hundreds of miles away, using the numbers on a keypad.

They're on a virtual field trip. Technology coordinator Lance Ford: "A trip to Florida for many kids might as well be a trip to the moon." Most of the families in Howe live below the poverty line, but using some souped up technology and the Internet they can go almost anywhere.

"We've taken them to the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York, we've taken them to San Diego, California, all using this type of equipment." The equipment was paid for with a grant. The room they are in was renovated with a grant. The local district paid almost nothing. This is not just a gee whiz trip to Florida, there is class preparation for a couple of days ahead and follow-up lessons too. Not everyone got to pilot the ROV. Some were mapping what they saw; others were looking for identifying specific kinds of fish.

There was an instructor in Florida who could see the students in Howe and who could ask and answer questions, and the kids learned something. 7th grader Ashley Thorburg: "I learned what ROV's are and what they use them for." Ford: "We're bringing content to these kids that 80% of them would never have an opportunity to have."

It's really all about learning.

By the way, the Spanish teacher in Howe uses the same technology to teach Spanish to students in Thackerville, south of Ardmore.