- Associated Press - Monday, November 28, 2016

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) - Once students began opting to trade in precious recess time for more time in the classroom, Teri Gonzalez knew the school’s investment had paid off.

“If it helps them to begin nurturing that love for science, I’m willing to allow them more time to learn,” the fifth-grade teacher at Magee Elementary School said.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (https://bit.ly/2gdcS3V ) reports the investment comes in the form of 57 Wi-Fi microscopes purchased by officials at the school for its K-5 student curriculum. The microscopes were purchased using a $25,000 grant offered to the school from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education Monsanto Fund. The school became eligible for grant nominations once local farmers from the Calallen area recommended the school as a potential recipient for the award.

“Once we heard about the nomination, we jumped all over it,” said Melana Silva, the math and science curriculum coordinator for K-12 at Calallen Independent School District.

Once awarded in September of 2015, Silva says officials were chomping at the bit, hoping to utilize the grant to its fullest potential.

The money from the grant provided the school with 57 Celestron Micro Fi Wi-Fi microscopes equipped with kits including a tripod stand, several workbooks, and mineral packets including small samples of soil, sand, and seeds. The microscopes allow items to be magnified up to 80 times their original image size. The images produced can then be displayed on up to three different mobile devices via the microscopes’ wireless capabilities. Students can take pictures or record video using the microscopes’ downloadable application.

Silva also purchased several veneer probes used to measure ph levels, temperature, and velocity levels for the high school students.

“It was very competitive,” she said. “There was only seven grants awarded throughout the state. We were very fortunate.”

The microscopes arrived at the campus in late November 2015. It didn’t take long for school instructors to integrate the microscopes into the classroom curriculum.

Gonzalez, who teaches fifth grade, says the microscopes are perfect for her students, who are constantly bringing in items from home hoping to utilize the capabilities of the new technology. Throughout each class, students enthusiastically approach Gonzalez, wanting to show her the images they’ve captured using the microscopes.

“They now have a greater appreciation for what they’re seeing and they want to learn more,” she said. “They’re very investigative.”

The students are using the microscopes to study the life cycle of beetles. Once a larva hatches from an egg, the students are able to capture the larva’s growth via the digital enhancing capabilities of the microscope. After being fed for a number of weeks, the larva are then put into smaller capsules where they form into pupa. The specimen then go into a state of metamorphosis. They emerge as beetles, which are eventually used as a source of food for Lizzy, the classroom’s pet lizard.

“It helps to give the kids a head start and shows them that life is cyclical, in more ways than one,” Gonzalez said.

Over the last year with the microscopes, Gonzalez has also shown her students the life cycle of crickets, crayfish and butterflies. In April, Gonzalez will take the classroom out into the wild to allow the fifth-graders to discover live specimens on the campus grounds.

“My goal is to get them hooked on science, and these microscopes are definitely helping them understand the micro world out there,” Gonzalez said.

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Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, https://www.caller.com

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