There’s no question that in today’s world, we all rely heavily on technology to solve problems, make our lives easier, and create innovations that change the way we live, think, work and interact with one another. Given the rate at which technology evolves, it has become imperative that schools begin introducing relevant curriculum that provides students with essential STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills, and set them up for academic and career success. With the help of the Healdsburg Education Foundation, Healdsburg Junior High is doing just that.
Seeking more ways to bring technology and innovation into the classroom, the Healdsburg Unified School District piloted the Mouse Squad program at the junior high during the 2016-2017 school year. Mouse, a national nonprofit that believes in technology as a force for good, develops curriculums for teachers across the country, enabling them to craft lesson plans that spark creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. At present, the program is open to sixth, seventh and eighth graders at HJH.
Recently, the Mouse Squad received an $11,000 grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). The grant funded the program’s curriculum costs and supplies, which range from basic tools and coding software to 3D printers, test turbines and more. With a strong focus on project based learning, the goal of Mouse is to “(help schools and educators) empower their students to realize their full potential — and the potential of technology — to solve real world problems and make meaningful change.”
Central to the mission of Mouse is to engage more girls and students of color, who are chronically underrepresented in STEM courses and careers nationwide, and empower them to become leaders. It was because of this that the Healdsburg Education Foundation sought out the support of the AAUW, linking the Mouse mission to the AAUW’s passion to create equity for young women through education. Though the boys still outnumber the girls in Healdsburg’s Mouse Squad, HJH is confident that once the program becomes more well established, those numbers will even out as more girls become interested and participation increases.
The man in charge of bringing this program to life in Healdsburg is Patrick Daniels, an enthusiastic young teacher with a broad smile and a contagious energy, who serves as the K-8 Instructional Technology Coach when he is not teaching Mouse Squad. Daniels leads his students through lessons about networking, software and systems development, games and simulations, coding, and more. Though the program is still relatively new to the junior High, Daniels has already witnessed its impact on student confidence, excitement about learning, and team-building skills, among other socially beneficial outcomes.
Students who have gone through Mouse programs nationwide report that their experiences helped them feel better prepared for college and careers, inspired them to start their own businesses, tackle problems they saw in their communities and feel empowered to create lasting change. Healdsburg Junior High is confident that as the Mouse Squad develops in our community, they will begin to hear similar feedback as students graduate and reflect on the educational opportunities they received and how it helped form them into the individuals they become.
For more information about the Mouse program and read student testimonials, visit www.mouseca.org. To donate to this program and others that serve Healdsburg public schools, visit the Healdsburg Education Foundation (HEF) at www.hefschools.com. For updates about what donation dollars are accomplishing in the community, and to be informed of events benefitting schools, follow the Healdsburg Education Foundation on Facebook.
Kira Ehrmann is the development coordinator for the Healdsburg Education Foundation.