February 2


No. 9

Learning about computers through play
Creativity and fun may not be words that immediately spring to mind when most people think about computers, but they form the building blocks of Jerry Guarino's technology classes at Gig Harbor Academy.  With his experience as an English teacher, his years spent programming for small insurance and large technology companies, and the creativity that comes with being a published author of short story trilogies and screenplays, his is a multi-faceted approach.  "No matter what grade the kids are in, the learning should be fun," he says emphatically, pausing before adding, "AND teach them a skill."

In Kindergarten, this learning comes through the use of educational apps on iPads, reinforcing language arts and number skills.  The focus is all on the fun at this age, which helps them to build confidence.  "If they get frustrated early, you can lose them."
This same creativity is applied to learning coding, which begins in first grade at GHA.  The very logical processing needed to create sequences and build commands is made fun utilizing a program called Kodable.  Games are incorporated to lay a foundation for the skills needed to code more complex projects using the program, which is part of the curriculum through third grade. 
This moves the children from iPads to using Chromebooks, a device Mr. G purchased to expand the technology program through funds given to him from last year's auction. 
"Chromebooks are great for using cloud-based programs the students need;  such as, productivity apps, working on projects through Google Drive, Slides and Docs. Best of all, the teacher can see their work from any computer."  He also likes that it links to the real world by incorporating the skill of typing that GHA students learn in second grade, as the Chromebook has a proper keypad.

In fourth and fifth grade, the children increase their coding skills through use of a program called Scratch, which is a programming language developed by the MIT Media Lab.  Students can create interactive stories, games and animations, building upon the lessons they have learned about coding in prior years at GHA.
As the kids become proficient in coding, collaboration begins happening within the class.  "The kids here are very happy to help others, which is a nice part of this school," says Mr. G, explaining how he uses the different proficiency levels to create a mentoring environment which enhances the retention of the material.  This interaction often leads to an "enthusiastic" learning environment, but Mr. G just laughs and chalks it up to part of the process.  "The fun is obviously going to increase when they are exploring and producing results together." 

When asked the benefit of learning coding at an early age the answer comes quickly.  "As the children work on coding challenges to create conditions and loops in a certain number of moves, they encounter difficulties and have to problem solve."  Mr. G's analytical and creative sides blend effortlessly to link technology to the bigger picture, "They are learning skills that apply to life." 

Let's Say Yes! -We're at $32,960
Projects approved from student brainstorming
4th grade hit 100%  Party time!
Back in December our students and staff brainstormed items that they would like to see at GHA.  Thanks to many of you who have contributed so far, we are able to say yes.  In addition to the items we've already shared with you, we are going to be able to fund the projects listed below. 
  • Outdoor storage shed with outdoor toys, requested by Preschool and PreKindergarten.
  • More Chromebooks - So far we are able to fund 3rd and 4th grade.  With more funds we can cover 2nd too!
  • Outdoor equipment - Variety of sports equipment for P.E. 
  • New goal nets for soccer!
  • Drums for Music - Two sets of Tubano drums. 
  • Spanish games, books and tools. 
  • New sod for the play field! 
  • Parking lot resurface and gravel.
Our stretch project:  Covered area for rainy day P.E. and gathering space. 
Rain follows us from Fall through Spring. Our kids need fresh air even when it is wet.  So, let's give the kids a way to stay dry, get fresh air and have room to move for P.E. class!  

We are currently researching various options that are affordable, versatile and aesthetically appropriate. In addition to P.E., this area could be used for summer camps, gatherings for Colors, and even outdoor class time in marginal weather.

We need to raise another  $10,000 for this project.   Can you help? 

Please give so our kids can be active in nature even when it's raining. 

To Donate - click here to go the Annual Project Fund page on our website!
To find out more contact:   admissions@gigharboracademy.org

Participation Chart - Party time for 4th Grade!

9% PreSchool (blended)
5% Pre Kindergarten
36% Kindergarten 
40% First
43% Second
62% Third
100% Fourth
20% Fifth
46% Staff
88% BOD

  • Classrooms with 100% participation will be thrown a thank you party in their classroom.
  • Donors of $1,000 and over will once again be invited to a thank you reception.
  • When staff reaches 100% we'll deliver them their favorite morning beverage in class.