Crompond Elementary School is using drones to teach fourth-graders in new ways.

Teachers Adele Kivel and Cari Byrnes, along with Technical Support Specialist Amanda Burns, have introduced drones into the curriculum as a new way to engage students in learning.

“It makes them more aware of the world and their surroundings,” Kivel said. “[Possibilities are] endless because you don’t really see drones in elementary school. So we got them and we weren’t sure where we were going with them and now the more we keep brainstorming, were just amazed at how far you can take this technology and how excited the children are to learn. That’s what makes it so wonderful.”

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The new technology is being incorporated into traditional lessons of poetry, math and science while adding to their skills in critical thinking, emphasizing the importance of teamwork and even expanding their concepts of philanthropy.

“If we see trees with no leaves, we can write that down, and if we see a hole, we can write that down in our poems,” said fourth-grader Kyle.

“If we fly them in the woods, we can find the perimeter of the area of the woods,” another student, Hannah, said regarding the drone’s applications in math.

And to figure out how long each child can fly the drone, the students use math to make sure their peers get a fair turn. 

“The drones can fly for 12 minutes. That’s why when we were in flight school, we only got three minutes each or else it wouldn’t be fair,” Hannah said. “If he went for five minutes and I went for five minutes, it wouldn’t be fair for the two other people ‘cause they only get one minute each.”

In addition to math and literature, the students are encouraged to come up with hypothetical ideas for drone use in real-life scenarios.

Fourth-grader Elise said her group came up with the idea to have drones disperse seeds in places that are suffering from deforestation, like Easter Island.

Hannah said that drones also can be used to help fight the bushfires in Australia.

Fourth-grader Michael said that his group had also been thinking of ways to use drones to help people in Australia.

“There’s no electricity because of the fires, so our group was thinking of putting a speaker on the drone to tell the people where the fires are or they can drop an up-to-date newspaper,” Michael said.

All four students said that using drones has inspired them to want to do something outside of school to help with them.

Byrnes said the teachers applied for a grant to buy the drones, which they received from the Foundation for Excellence.

“We realized there was a need for more technology,” said Bryrnes. 

Referring to the district’s superintendent, she said, “Dr. [Ronald] Hattar has talked about drone technology in the district before and we just kind of took the idea and were hoping we would get this grant and then see where it could take us. The big thing we can just keep saying is its endless possibilities. We don’t even know the possibilities that they have come up with in the short amount of time and even building upon the drones, saving Easter Island and helping the bushfires. These are two separate classes and just those ideas are just amazing, to see what the kids come up with, just with that one piece of technology and how they go so far with it.”

The drones also are advancing the concepts of teamwork and kindness.

Each student in a group is assigned a different task, like ground control, director and pilot, and they must work together to operate the drone.

“We try to encourage each other,” Elise said. “If someone makes a mistake, there are people to correct it so they get it right and we want to encourage each other and tell them that they can do it and they can count on each other.”

Hannah said they do an activity called Glow and Grow, during which teams tell each other what they did well and what they can improve on.

But most importantly, students are having fun while learning.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s about an 11,” Michael said.

“They’re always so excited when we bring out the drones and they’re always thinking of other projects,” Kivel said. “They’re aware of other drones that are flying out there now so they’re very aware of what’s going on in the world. They will develop those models that they’re making now, they will develop something really big in the future and that’s our purpose.”

The next flight chart for the students is flying military drones at West Point this April.

“We have a connection to West Point and we’ll be going up there and they’ll be flying the West Point drones. They’re going to be working with us and that’s very exciting to see how military drones work.”