Far from a blank slate

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 27, 2010

By David Vitrano


GARYVILLE – Louisiana First Lady Supriya Jindal paid a visit to Garyville/Mt. Airy Math and Science Magnet School this week to present the school with an interactive whiteboard package worth $70,000.

The money came from a donation from Marathon — part of a $28,000 commitment on the part of the oil company — to the first lady’s Supriya Jindal Foundation for Louisiana’s Children. Rich Bedell was there to represent Marathon, which has committed the money specifically to be used for schools in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Said Jindal, “The Foundation is extremely proud to have partners such as Marathon who have helped bring this technology to Garyville area schools. With hard work, we have the opportunity to make a lasting and positive difference in education.”

The $70,000 will buy Promethean interactive board as well as response units for each student and installation and training for six classrooms at GMMS.

This was no mere photo-op for Jindal, however. The chemical engineer routinely shares her passion for math and science with students when she makes such visits — something she has done frequently over the past few years.

Jindal played a “Jeopardy!”-style game with the youngsters to not only demonstrate how to use the boards but to sneak a little learning in as well. Jindal is a strong believer in the power of the interactive whiteboards, citing, “A study recently released shows a 17-29 percentile gain in academic achievement in classrooms with such systems versus classrooms without.”

Statistics may go a long way toward proving a point, but they are meaningless if the students are not on board, which shouldn’t be a problem if Candace Robertson’s second-grade class is any indication.

Nakemah Edward and Kejuan Bolden, both 8, each said their favorite part of the day was playing the game with Jindal, while Amari Bernard, 9, just enjoyed learning “how to press the buttons on the Promethean Board.”

Other students liked learning about the state of Louisiana. “We heard people’s names from the government,” said Deontae Davis, 8. His classmates Rolija King and Wantrell Williams, both 8, said they enjoyed learning about the state bird and flower while Angelica Carter, 8, said, “I learned about Louisiana and how learning is fun.”

Jindal would surely be delighted knowing some of the students’ fondest memories from the day concerned learning about math and science.

Calvin Gardener, 8, who also served as Jindal’s assistant during the game, and Kyla Brown, 8, said they enjoyed adding and subtracting, and Elijahnae Nelson, 8, said, “We learned about our senses.”

But perhaps the best lesson of all was learned by Brandon Gilyot, 8, who said, “I learned that learning can be fun in many different ways.” He added, “In the world you need to know those things.”

Even the teacher learned a lesson that day. “I learned that we have all these wonderful technologies, and it’s nice to know where the support comes from,” said Robertson.