PONCHATOULA — Savannah Harris, 11, shot pictures with an iPod of scenes she had created with small figures of both people and animals.
The pictures were for scenes of her newly created digital book, a story about hopelessness.
“The story is about kids and how they have to go through hunger, hopelessness, and how they are bullied for it,” said Savannah, a student at D.C. Reeves Elementary School.
Some homeless children don’t know where they are going to live next, the fourth-grader said of the children in her story.
Savannah’s story is one of many created by students in Jamie Mixon’s classes.
Each student was instructed to create a digital book, write the narrative and take photos of either illustrations they created or scenes they set up using figures.
The project became possible thanks to a grant from Entergy, Mixon said. Mixon applied for the mini-grant in December through Entergy’s community giving program, and, with the money, was able to purchase four new iPod Touches and cases to protect them for the classroom. The students used the iPods and a digital storytelling application to create their digital book to share with classmates and family members, she said.
The students, who had been working on their creations for more than a week were still completing their books last week, sharing the iPods with one another after they created each scene.
Mixon, who teaches reading, English and social studies to fourth-graders, let the children choose topics that would address crises facing youth.
“These children have said some things in these little books that they probably wouldn’t have said to anyone else,” Mixon said.
The students first talked about bullying, hopelessness and other issues before starting their book.
Mixon said she talked with the students about a former student who was homeless and about food insecurity, which they consider as having minimal food to eat.
“These kids aren’t going to come to school and tell you that, but then we expect them to work and do projects but their biggest concern is what they’re going to eat,” she said.
Mixon said the project is an attempt to teach the students life skills as well as the proper use of English and to sharpen their reading skills.
As she created a page in her book, Savannah reflected on her feelings and what she learned during the project.
“It made me a little sad,” Savannah said.
“I know a child that’s homeless,” she said. “I think when people look at it (her digital book) they’re going to want to help people and then be thankful for their things and be happy to live in America.”
Trystan Ganey, 10, was passionate about his choice to pick bullying as the topic for his book.
“I used to get bullied, and it hurt my feelings,” Trystan said.
I want people to know that “it hurts people’s feelings when you bully someone,” he said. “It’s not the best thing to do, and it ruins their life, and it hurts their parents.”
Trystan said that he created his book on bullying for one reason: “so people will stop bullying.”
In addition to the digital books created by 54 students, Mixon uses the four new iPods, along with two she has already been using with her students, to enhance learning, she said.
The students currently use a history application for their social studies lessons and used a video-calling application with students in Kentwood using an iPad. The video-calling application allowed them to talk “face-to-face” using iPads, even through the students were more than 30 miles away.
The students frequently play educational games on the iPods to help broaden their knowledge, she said. The applications Mixon uses are all free, she said.
“It all adds to their experience,” Mixon said, while adding that the students have become much more “tech” savvy.
“This meets the needs of all of my students, not just the high-tech kids,” Mixon said.
Her goal is to eventually get an iPod for each student to use in the classroom, she said.
Mixon is now using DonorsChoice.org, an online charity, which connects people with classrooms in need, to purchase additional iPods for the classroom, Mixon said.
“This website allows individuals or businesses to donate the money for us to purchase an iPod,” Mixon said. “In my case, I already have some iPods to create this project but ... I could use more. If someone goes to the Donors Choose website and searches my name, they will see my project.”
“Writing grants and using websites like Donors Choose and We Are Teachers are some of the ways that teachers like myself get technology in their classrooms,” she said.
To view the students’ digital books, log on to http://tangischools.or//Domain 1480, or go directly to the school’s website, which can be found on the Tangipahoa Parish School Board’s website.