Computer Explorers is preparing kids to solve global problems (and the kids think they’re just having fun)

Kim Storch is the director of enrichment for Canterbury School in Fort Myers, Fla., where she handles after school programs and summer camps. She works closely with Computer Explorers franchisee Michelle Hershey, who provides tech-savvy programs for students.

How long have you been directing at Canterbury School?
I’ve been with Canterbury for 25 years, mostly as a parent. Both my kids have gone through here. I’ve been director of enrichment for five years. I was deeply involved as a parent and a volunteer before joining the payroll.

What do students like about Computer Explorers?
A lot of the programs are very hands-on, like the LEGO robots they get to build. Of course, kids love LEGOs. The parents love that it’s a STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). With computers, the kids have a good time. It’s second nature to them to interact with computers, and parents realize that computer literacy is going to be a vital component for their kids to be successful in the future.

What do teachers like about it?
I think the teachers like the fact that the Computer Explorers teachers are exceptional. They have wonderful knowledge of the material. They’re very organized; they’re very prepared. They’re very professional. Everything that they say to the kids is positive. We at Canterbury are very directed toward 21st century education, and toward collaboration. The world is becoming flatter. Students who are culturally and cross-culturally aware are more tolerant and can problem-solve. We instill in our students a huge social responsibility. The computer enables our kids to work in teams and work with their peers and problem-solve. Now is a good time for kids to learn that teamwork is the best way to work. It will be important for analyzing complex problems in the future. Now, they’re having fun and they don’t even realize that they’re learning new skills that they will use in the future. And it’s an overlay of different age groups who are having a good time with their peers in a safe and positive environment with positive role models. Computer Explorers is part of our family.

During summer programs we have a rotation of teachers, and they’re all terrific and as dedicated as the owner of the franchise. They’re all just A-plus. I would not think of anyone better than Michelle Hershey and her staff. They have great ethics and positive attitudes, and a willingness to adapt instruction to all levels of children. I would never think of using anyone else in our enrichment programs for computers.

What changes do you see in students?
The classes that they offer are always updated and new. So it’s fresh for the kids, and they are able to build upon the skills that they learned previously. It’s not stale or stagnant. The kids just jump right in.

How do the lessons carry over into class?
I think when they are able to use their critical thinking and problem-solving, their communication is enhanced, and so is their collaboration and their creativity. It gets them leaning toward innovation. It’s huge. It’s opening up doors for them as far as the global landscape.

How do students react when it’s time for Computer Explorers?
They’re very excited. As the teacher enters the room, none of the kids are saying they’d rather go outside or hang out with their friend Johnny. It’s really amazing. They think of it as a form of play. They don’t even realize that they’re learning engineering concepts. They know they have to listen and follow instructions. They can’t just be playing on the computer like they do at home. It’s easy even for the small ones during the summer. We have 2- and 3-year-olds who have never used the mouse before, and they listen and follow directions and they want to learn because they know that the other kids already know how to use computers, and they don’t want to be left out.

Does it change the way children interact with one another?
I find them to be more tolerant and accepting. They’re learning social responsibility. They can’t be hurtful. They have to cooperate if they want to be successful with their projects. Our kids are wired for this. Obviously, watching small children, you can see that they’re hard-wired for using computers, and it’s going to make them more socially responsible and able to solve the big problems in the future as far as getting along with our partners in the world. It’s just amazing how much they can accomplish and how much they get done through use of the computer.

What Computer Explorer offerings are most popular?
Anything with the word LEGO. Right now we have LEGO Junior Engineering and treasure hunting with robots, and that’s very popular. Everything basically with the word “LEGO” in it is what the kids gravitate toward. And anything with the word “robotics,” the parents are interested in, because they understand that that’s where innovation takes place. They want to see their kids learn the skills that will help them do great things for themselves.

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