GREENSBORO — Giggling. Shrieking. Ducking.
As the fourth-grade students took turns piloting a set of drones at Next Generation Academy on Wednesday, some turned spectating into a sport of its own.
“There’s no screaming in drone flying,” Natoshia Anderson told them.
Anderson, the vice president of implementation and training for Woz ED, showed the drones to the fourth-graders during a stop at the school on Wednesday.
The Greensboro charter school recently invested in the company’s Career Pathways program — purchasing curriculum, materials, training and technology — with plans to start using it in classes next school year.
Woz ED is a new company founded by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Back in the 1970s, he designed the Apple II, one of the first mass-produced personal computers.
“I built the Apple II because I wanted one and it didn’t exist,” Wozniak said in a news release. “Nurturing an engineering mindset and computational thinking in the young minds at Next Generation Academy will give them opportunities they may have never known existed.”
Next Generation is expected to be the first school in the country to put in place all 10 of Woz ED’s pathways programs in a single year. Those include: coding, engineering, cybersecurity, mobile development, animation, data analysis, virtual and augmented reality, robotics, artificial intelligence and, as you might expect, drone piloting.
“I always want something that will prepare our kids for the future,” said Sam Misher, Next Generation Academy’s chief executive officer and founder.
Misher said he looked at the products of some competitors, but liked Woz ED because of opportunities for students to continue to explore and build on past learning as they transition to middle and high school.
Next Generation Academy offers grades K-4, but has plans to continue expanding one grade each year, adding a fifth grade next year, and then continuing through the middle and high school grades.
When it started in 2018, Next Generation Academy was located in World Victory Church on Cliffwood Drive. The school later relocated to a building in a shopping center near the Wet N’ Wild water park in south Greensboro — the former campus of Virginia College, which still had classrooms and much of its equipment.
Misher said that the school is paying about $30,000 for the Woz ED career pathways program, with curriculum, training, technology and materials included. The money came from fundraising and regular operating funds.
Since the charter school receives about $8,000 in public dollars a year per student that enrolls, if the pathways program helps attract at least four more students, he sees the program paying for itself. The school has a waiting list for next year at some grade levels, but as of Wednesday there were spots open for kindergarten, Misher said.
On Wednesday, Anderson started introductory training with teachers in small batches during the day and then showed some technology to fourth-grade students toward the end of school.
Normally, she said, students would start out learning about flight and some of the related vocabulary — buoyancy, height and so forth — before they ever put their hands on a drone.
But on Wednesday, Anderson let students jump right to it, navigating the lightweight drones, which were specifically built to be flown inside.
“You are trying to learn how to control it, but once you get it, it’s kind of easy to control,” fourth-grader Christian Powell explained.
To learn about programming, students could also play with the Ozobot Bit robot, which can follow a line drawn on paper and perform different movements, like stopping and turning, based on patterns of colors drawn into its path.
To be successful in implementing all 10 career pathways in one year, Anderson said a couple of things should be addressed. First, teachers need to be thoughtful in planning the schedule of what students do — and when.
Second, teacher training is key. Wednesday was just the very beginning of the company’s work, with the bulk coming this summer.
But Anderson also said the mindset that teachers bring to the program is also important. She said training won’t cover everything in the curriculum.
And for some teachers, she added, that’s difficult to deal with because they are used to wanting to be the experts in their classrooms, and can be uncomfortable with telling students, “I don’t know.”
“It’s for the teachers to learn to play also,” she said. “You put things in place and you never know how they are going to turn out.”
Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.