By Briana Vannozzi
“I just want to say thank you for this amazing experience and I hope you do really well in the future,” said Courtney Ivins.
Sixth-grader Ivins is recording her final video message to her digital pen pal in Amman, Jordan. Her Northfield middle school has been part of a new social enterprise called Level Up Village.
“Level Up is a collaborative program that involves coordinating with students in another country on a design project. In this case the students are designing solar powered flashlights,” said Kevin Jarrett.
The program sets up K through 9 STEM and arts-related global, virtual classrooms. Level Up Village pairs the schools and provides the curriculum. Together with the help of 3D printers, they engineer solutions to real-world issues.
“They created in Tinkercad the 3D representation of the box. They had to add the holes for the lights and the on/off switch, and what they’re doing today is they’re going to be assembling those kits together. There’s a solar array that goes on here and the battery pack goes inside. It sits outside and charges up and becomes a solar powered flashlight,” Jarrett said.
“I thought it was cool because we get to meet someone from another country and do designing and edit their designs on Tinkercad and stuff,” said sixth-grader Dominick Haymaker.
“So the kids record their messages and upload them. If they work on a file or design something they can upload that. Then the students from the other country can download them and work on them and send them back. So it’s all web based and very smooth,” Jarrett said.
At Northfield Community Middle School, students use what’s called the digital shop. It’s a lot more technical than the shop class of years ago. Laser and 3D printers are common tools here, making the global lessons — like no electricity in regions — all the more important.
What did Ivins learned that was different about their lives compared to hers? “Normal day things like the songs, the way they dress, the schools they go to like they have to wear uniforms, and they have different foods they eat and also a different language,” she said.
“We learned about Jordan and how a cow is actually their sacred animal which is pretty cool, so we couldn’t really mention hamburgers,” said fifth-grader Olivia Hull.
Twelve students participated in the program this go around, but the hope is to roll it out for an entire grade level by next year.
Level Up Village has 14 partner schools in New Jersey — a mix of public and private — but they expect that list and their global reach will only continue to grow.