WESLEY CHAPEL — Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, are frequently used as a part of military, governmental and civil operations. Now, the devices also are being used as learning tools in a classroom at Woodland Elementary School.
In the fourth- and fifth-grade gifted learning class overseen by Bobbi Starling, students are learning a number of subjects with the help of more than 50 spider, parrot, sumo and large-scale drones.
"Any lesson or skill can be taught with these drones," Starling said. "And they are definitely engaged."
On a recent day, after reading and studying about the various applications of drones, Starling's students talked and laughed as they rotated among drone learning stations, programming the devices with the use of the Tickle app on their iPads.
At one station, they could program a drone to fly over a disaster scene made of Lego structures, thus learning simultaneously about the concepts of flight and disaster management. At another station, they could use drones as part of a high-tech bowling game, learning math skills through scorekeeping.
And right before the holidays, students powered a Santa-driven drone to fly high above makeshift chimneys and drop tiny wrapped gifts down their lengths.
Across the room, other students simulated spider walks with their drones, programming them to crawl up walls and even across ceilings as they learned both natural and technological science.
"Step back, everybody!" said Landen Patel, programming his app to make a spider drone climb up a wall. "I want to do this right."
Although his first attempt to make the drone fly "failed horribly," in his estimation, he kept trying until his drone flew high.
"Yeah!" he finally said with a smile.
Drones provide students with a fun way to learn, said fifth-grader Daphne Scott.
"You don't just learn with papers and pencils here. It's not traditional, and it's not boring," said Daphne, 10. "It's interactive, and you learn to solve real-world problems."
Kaden Lentz, a 10-year-old fifth-grader, said the drone project has opened his mind to a multitude of new learning possibilities.
"I used to think that it would be hard to program the drones to fly," he said. "But it's not all that hard. Now I'm interested in aerodynamics and science."
And aside from educational aspects, fifth-grader Bella Hicks said the drones are a whole lot of fun.
"Drones change colors. They flip; they dance," said Bella, 11. "They do so much. You wonder what will happen next."
Bobbi Starling said she has a good idea as to what will happen next for the students in her drone-driven class.
"What we have here is a room full of engineers," she said with a smile.
• Jan. 14 — End of first semester.
• Jan. 15 — Teacher planning day.
• Jan. 18 — No School, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
• Jan. 25 — Report cards distributed.
Center for the Arts at River Ridge, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey, (727) 774-7381.
• All-County Band concert, 4 p.m. Jan. 23.
• Stage Productions presents The Emperor's New Clothes at 10:30 a.m. and noon Jan. 27. Kindergarten through Grade 4. $4.
Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel, 30651 Wells Road, (813) 794-8772, cfawc.pasco.k12.fl.us.
• Weightman Middle School talent show, 9:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Jan. 21.
• Stage Productions presents The Emperor's New Clothes at 10:30 a.m. and noon Jan. 26. Kindergarten through Grade 4. $4.
• Academy at the Farm concert, 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28.
• All-County Chorus concert, 4 p.m. Jan. 30.
• Sanders Memorial Elementary School, a STEAM magnet school at 5126 School Road, Land O'Lakes, will host school tours for parents and prospective students at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Friday. Principal Jason Petry and the school staff will lead parents through each grade level, the collaboration center, outdoor classroom areas, the boardwalk and athletic facilities. Sanders was designed specifically to focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts and math. Florida Standards are embedded in all subjects. The school has unmanned aerial systems, solar panels and other high-tech devices, as well as computers and iPads for each student. For information, contact Kristie Newsome at (813) 794-1500.
• Pasco County Schools will hold parent information meetings for the two new STEM magnet middle schools that will open in August. The superintendent, the magnet school principals and district staffers will discuss the STEM magnet theme and programs that will be offered at each school. Parents will also will hear about magnet school application time lines and options for transportation. Meeting times are at 6 p.m. at the following schools:
• For Bayonet Point Middle STEM Magnet School
Jan. 11: River Ridge Middle School media center, 11646 Town Center Road, New Port Richey.
Jan. 12: Seven Springs Middle School cafeteria, 2441 Little Road, New Port Richey.
Jan. 13: Paul R. Smith Middle School cafeteria (for Paul R. Smith and Gulf middle schools), 1410 Sweetbriar Drive, Holiday
Jan. 19: Fivay High School cafeteria (for Bayonet Point, Chasco, Hudson, and Crews Lake middle schools), 12115 Chicago Ave., Hudson.
• For Centennial Middle STEM Magnet School
Jan. 11: Raymond B. Stewart Middle School cafeteria, 38505 10th Ave., Zephyrhills.
Jan. 12: Pasco Middle School auditorium, 13925 14th St., Dade City.
Jan. 13: Thomas E. Weightman Middle School cafeteria, 30649 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel.
Jan. 19: Dr. John Long Middle School cafeteria, 2025 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel.
Jan. 20: Centennial Middle School cafeteria, 38505 Centennial Road, Dade City.
Jan. 21: Chester W. Taylor Elementary School cafeteria, 3638 Morris Bridge Road, Zephyrhills
Parents of sixth- and seventh-graders at the host schools and those listed for the meetings at Paul R. Smith Middle School and Fivay High School, as well as those of current fifth-graders in the elementary schools that feed into them, are encouraged to attend. Elementary feeder schools for the Bayonet Point Middle magnet are Anclote, Calusa, Chasco, Cotee River, Deer Park, Fox Hollow, Gulf Highlands, Gulf Trace, Gulfside, Hudson Locke, Longleaf, Marlowe, Moon Lake, Northwest, Odessa, Richey, Schrader, Seven Springs, Sunray, Trinity and Trinity Oaks. Elementary feeder schools for the Centennial Middle magnet are Centennial, Cox, Double Branch, Lacoochee, New River, Pasco, Quail Hollow, San Antonio, Seven Oaks, Veterans, Watergrass, Wesley Chapel, West Zephyrhills and Woodland.
Applications will be accepted from fifth- to seventh-graders from feeder schools from Jan. 18 to 31. Students from non-feeder schools will need to apply for acceptance through the regular school choice application period, from Feb. 1 to March 1. Both application processes will involve a lottery to determine which students will be accepted.
• Children's Craft Corner, 2-3 p.m. Saturday at the New River Library, 34043 State Road 54, Wesley Chapel. Grades K-3.
• Lights, Camera, Action!, 2-4 p.m. Saturday at the South Holiday Library, 4649 Mile Stretch Road. Learn how to make your very own movies. Grades 4-7.
For information about special events at all Pasco County library branches, go to pascolibraries.org. For information about events at the New Port Richey Public Library, go to nprlibrary.org.
• Take Stock in Children scholarship applications are being accepted online through Jan. 24 for Pasco County students in Grades 8 to 10 who receive free or reduced-price lunches. Take Stock in Children, which provides scholarships, mentors and hope to deserving economically challenged students, is celebrating its 20th year. The program currently serves 160 high school students in Pasco County. Students must maintain good grades and behavior, meet with a volunteer mentor, attend college-readiness workshops and complete an annual project as part of their commitment to the program. Students completing obligations will receive up to a four-year tuition scholarship to a Florida public state college or university. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (813) 794-2134. For application, go to pascoeducationfoundation.org
• The Pasco Education Foundation is taking online scholarship applications through Jan. 31 for seniors graduating in 2016. All scholarship recipients will be notified in March and recognized at the Pasco Education Foundation's Scholarship Awards Banquet on April 21. For information and application, go to pascoeducationfoundation.org.
Send your school news to Michele Miller at email@example.com or by fax at (727) 869-6233.