Byline: Mary Maraghy, County Line staff writer
S. Bryan Jennings Elementary School teacher Kathy McSheehy gives her students free access to her digital camera to use for reports and projects.
"If we are going to teach these kids about technology," she said, "we have to let them get their hands on it."
As part of a quest to better teach technology, McSheehy and four other Jennings teachers received a $40,000 Teaching with Technology grant from Hewlett Packard for what they call Project SMAC, which stands for science, math and careers. It is a yearlong project designed to show students how the skills they learn in school will be used in the career they pursue.
Following the guidelines, McSheehy and the other teachers, Kim Marks, Ilona Hagen, Cindy Sease and Susan Royer, were assigned mentors and enrolled in online teacher training courses. And each teacher received a state-of-the-art laptop computer called a Tablet PC valued at about $2,300 each. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart on Blanding Boulevard donated $1,000 for film, batteries, ink and other supplies.
Jennings was the only Clay County school, and one of five in North Florida, to qualify for the grant.
Students in second through sixth grade were asked to research and report on a career using their teachers' new computers or those in the school's computer lab, digital cameras, digital projectors, live interviews and photographs. Students determined the prerequisites for an occupation, the skills required, the pay scale, job availability, etc.
"It was fun. I learned about lightning strikes and the weather," said fourth-grader Ben Collier, who interviewed and videotaped meteorologist Steve Turco at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. "It's been a good experience."
The students took photographs or filmed real professionals on the job, such as lawyers, architects and musicians, to show daily responsibilities, duties, uniform, equipment and other details. They pulled together their research and visuals on a back board that was typed via computer and displayed during a "career extravaganza."
As parents and students wandered among the exhibits, it looked similar to a science fair. Students stood by their displays and answered questions.
Third-grader Brooke Lawrence, dressed as a veterinarian with lab coat, stethoscope and stuffed dog, told her classmates that being a vet requires four years of college and four years of veterinary school. …