Giving Stories

First Grade Teaching Assistant Kathleen Mayer P '12 Shares Professional Development Story

Integrating technology practices into the first-grade classroom has been a passion of mine during the past few years. So I jumped at the professional development opportunity to attend Creative Technologies Bootcamp sponsored by Teachers College, Columbia University during the summer of 2018. The boot camp offered five different hands-on STEM workshops which allowed me to explore new ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. Of particular interest to me were the workshops on stop motion animation and creative coding.  

While I have been utilizing photography and video production in the classroom, I have always wanted to expand my abilities with stop motion animation. During this workshop I was able to understand the basics of the stop motion film production process through telling stories, creating characters, and animating movement.  Immediately I realized I could guide our first-grade boys to produce a stop motion animation when we write our annual class story about the Little Yellow Chicken. This year we developed a story about the Little Yellow Chicken wanting to live Sacred Heart Goal 3. Each boy in first grade was eagerly involved in the production of the video and it was presented to the entire Lower School to tremendous applause. I also had a chance to share my knowledge with the third-grade on a stop motion project where each boy developed a story about Native Americans in the winter and used stop motion technology to tell their story. It was amazing to see how using a piece of technology brings out creative and captivating storytelling among our boys.

Going into the boot camp, I only had a rudimentary understanding of coding. But the creative coding workshop gave me the insight I needed to feel comfortable teaching coding to the first grade. Each week the first-grade boys eagerly anticipate our Tech Time class. Since the start of 2019, I have been providing hands-on coding lessons using Scratch Jr. While I have been teaching the basics concepts of coding, the benefits of problem solving and resiliency are apparent as the boys try to improve upon their projects. Mr. Geraci and I are so excited about the boy’s coding abilities that we are going to incorporate coding into our language arts curriculum.

Being able to expand my professional talents and share them with our boys is possible due to the generous donations to The Fund for Princeton Academy. I have been associated with the school for 16 years (14 as a faculty member) and I have witnessed firsthand how these contributions have allowed not only me but all faculty members to expand their talents and bring new ideas into the classrooms. 

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