| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Pinterest RSS Feed

Innovation News

Cincinnati Public Schools students create apps to "gameify" STEM concepts




Sixth grade math teacher Stephanie Bisher wants to open her students’ eyes to the business world.
 
Each spring, her sixth graders engage in the kind of learning experience most only hope to encounter after reaching adulthood. In 2014, in partnership with locally-owned Madisono’s Gelato, her students at Kilgour Elementary in Mt. Lookout were tasked with designing a mobile application that “gameifies” the ins and outs of the gelato business. The resulting app was launched just last month.
 
Kilgour was one of two Cincinnati Public Schools recipients of a $1.1 million “Straight A” inaugural grant last school year. The grant is intended to provide an incentive to deploy case-based Socratic learning techniques in the grade school classroom.

State-funded tablets in hand, students at Kilgour and Hyde Park School were able to apply skills gained in their STEM-related classes to real world business decisions. The apps that resulted were due to a collaborative effort between Cincinnati Public Schools, Northern Kentucky University's College of Informatics and nonprofit Partnership for Innovation in Education (PIE).
 
Cincinnati-based PIE is dedicated to developing transformational STEM K-12 educational tools that actively prepare students for the workplace. PIE provided mentors for the Cincinnati Public Schools app projects.
 
“It has been our pleasure to participate in this first-ever program, offering a curriculum found currently only in STEM graduate and undergraduate science, medical, engineering, mathematics, law and business programs,” PIE CEO Mary Schlueter said in a letter to Kilgour parents. 
 
The gelato project is now an important and much anticipated part of each Kilgour sixth grader's experience. The task facing Kilgour students each year is that of choosing a new gelato flavor for Madisono’s. From research/development and data collection to cost analysis and marketing, students take the process from start to finish.
 
“The math (the students) are doing is pretty complex, but not a single student complains,” Bisher says. “They use Excel spreadsheets, learn how to input formulas, all the kinds of things adults do in their daily jobs.”
 
The process culminated with a successful marketing campaign for Madisono’s at the Kilgour Carnival.
 
“There is no abstract concept here,” Bisher says. “The students can truly see the value of what they’re doing and self-evaluate as they go.”

The winning flavor last year was Triple Chocolate Dare. This year students will present their new flavor — vanilla with brownies, chocolate chips and a caramel swirl — at the Kilgour Carnival on May 16.

After the winning flavors are chosen, students proceed to the app development stage. With help from NKU informatics experts, last year's students came up with a fun, fanciful app called Gelato Hero. This app and the one created at Hyde Park School, Sweet Revenge, seem to be the first-ever examples of global apps created by elementary school students.
 
Due to the fact that the project placed heavy emphasis on the intersection of math and business as opposed to more advanced tech, Kilgour students had very little to do with the actual coding involved in the app creation. That said, Bisher believes that coding is the next step for tech education at the grade school level.
 
“Kids can absolutely handle it,” she says. “App development can and should be in elementary schools. It’s still in its beginning phases, but it’s definitely on the radar.”
 
Though the Common Core curriculum model allows little room for tech-based training, both Schlueter and Bisher believe a shift in mentality is coming.
 
“PIE is always looking for educators who love technology,” Schlueter says. “This is a relatively new opportunity in the last 5-6 years. We’re just now starting to encourage educators.”
 
Gelato Hero and Sweet Revenge are now available for iOS and Android for $.99 each. A portion of each app's proceeds will return to the school responsible for its creation.
 

Read more articles by Kristen Franke.

Kristen Franke is a Cincinnati native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Florida State University College of Law. When she's not editing the Innovation + Job News section for Soapbox Media, she works as a freelance technology writer.
Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts

Related Content