This spring, 300 seventh graders from West Junior High in Boise will “travel” to New Orleans on a virtual field trip to the National World War II Museum. Thanks to the vision and efforts of World Studies teacher Paige Somoza, a new Tandberg 990 Video Conferencing System will be installed in the West Junior High School Library that will transport her students to another time and place. Mrs. Somoza was one of 12 Idaho educators awarded funds from telecommunications giant CenturyLink’s “Innovative Uses of Technology in Education” grant program.
Mrs. Somoza had an opportunity to visit the National World War II Museum in the summer of 2010 and was impressed by the exhibitions and educational programs. When she recalled her motivation to seek the CenturyLink grant, she said, “I knew we couldn’t fly all of our students to New Orleans, but I kept the idea in the back of my mind how much more they could relate to world history and how great this experience would be for them.”
In her fourth year as a World Studies teacher (she also taught three years of French), Mrs. Somoza took a class on grant writing as part of her Master’s in Educational Technology. She discovered a potential answer to her dream with the grant opportunity from CenturyLink.
“CenturyLink’s grant for Paige Somoza’s classes will enhance her ability to make social studies come alive for her students,” said Dr. Don Coberly, Superintendent of Boise Independent School District. “We are so pleased that Mrs. Somoza was selected as a grantee. She is an exceptional teacher who will put this new technology to great use with her students.”
On Monday, April 30, seven groups of Mrs. Somoza’s students and those of fellow World Studies teacher Rich Richardson will rotate in 45-minute sessions through the West Library as a museum guide nearly 2,000 miles away takes them on an exploration of A Day of Infamy: The Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor.
The students will return from their trip with a deeper understanding of the conflicts and lessons learned from World War II, and the West Library will await the next virtual journey. With video-conferencing equipment in place, librarians and teachers at West are thrilled with the potential for future field trips, virtual classes, staff training, author visits, and more.
West principal Tim Standlee said, “Because of the hard work of Mrs. Somoza and other West Junior High staff members, our students will have a learning opportunity like no other. These students will never forget this virtual field trip and the information learned from it. By having this access to cutting-edge technology, West Junior High School students will never view history in the same way.”
By Becky Proctor
Librarian, West Jr. High School