At Torrey Pines Elementary School, in Southern California, there is a unique 5th Dimension program that runs during school hours. The program was initiated by parent volunteers at the elementary school, and is run in collaboration with the University of California, San Diego
Principal, Torrey Pines Elementary:
I just came to Torrey Pines as principal this year, and I was just very impressed with the 5th Dimension program, became aware of it when some parents came in and described to me that this program was occurring on our campus, that it was an in school program as opposed to an after hours program.
Teacher, Torrey Pines Elementary:
It' s really been exciting. The kids get to be on line, on the computers, for at least an hour a week, plus what we do in here just as a normal course of events. The advantage is they get to have someone there with them. Unlike just sitting there and fooling around playing, and not having any direction, it's a directed learning experience as far as what they're doing here. It's hard for me, with thirty-two kids, to do that. I've got six or seven adults in here now. And it's great. We can tail in social studies, science, math, anything we choose to do we can find programs that can meet those needs. But the advantage is the adults. The people working with kids.
5thD Site Director
Graduate Student, San Diego State University:
Probably the core of our team here is the undergraduates. We have 15 now. We started out with eight I think. So they're roughly put about three to four to a classroom. And even if those were our only people, we'd be stuck. So we have the two parent helpers I mentioned before, Ginny Gordon and Sharon Zell. And in addition to that luckily we have parent volunteers from almost every classroom. They're the ones that really push us over the top and really help us get the program off the ground.
5thD Parent Volunteer:
About a year and a half ago, a group of parents got together, and we decided that we needed to have more contacts with the University of California at San Diego, since we're only about a mile away from the campus. So we approached Dr. Cole at the university, and asked him if he would be interested in helping us set up a program here.
The parent volunteers at Torrey Pines Elementary continued to be instrumental in adapting the program for the in school context, working closely with both the university and the school.
5thD Parent Volunteer:
It's been a lot of work. The task cards, each task card probably take eight to ten hours by the time, play the game, and write the task card, and there is constant modification as the kids play the game using the task card, we see what works and doesn't work. Getting it started up has required a big effort --although other schools, we would be happy to exchange task cards with them if other schools were to start such a program.
Well we had to do a lot of adapting. As you can imagine, it's really different in school than it is after school. Some of the things are similar. For example, we still have task cards, which are the guides for how the kids use the games. One of the things we added on top of that was that we actually added worksheets. So as far as I know, the 5th Dimension at Torrey Pines here is the only one where they actually have to do a lot of writing. So not only do they have to do the task cards, but also have to do the worksheets. We also had the big issue of following curriculum standards for the state. Since we're not this informal after school learning, there's certain categories that we had to meet which were things like Geography and English and History. So we had to make sure that we incorporated games from all of those areas. So in order to do that, to make sure we were meeting those standards, we met with the principal, and we met with the teachers, so we got everybody's input.
I cannot believe the kinds of things that students are being asked to do with different generations of computers in classrooms, using programs that are a bit ancient, but the task cards, and the kinds of problem solving skills that they are involved with are just tremendous.