The new principal at Melrose Avenue Elementary School plans to create a more technology-friendly environment for students when they return to classes on Aug. 18.
Mathew Needleman is familiar with the needs at the campus, having served as a Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) administrator who advised the staff at 136 schools — including Melrose Avenue Elementary — on how to best use technology in the curriculum. He officially became principal in May, which has allowed him to meet staff and become familiar with the school’s programs. Needleman added that he is looking forward to the first day of school next week and has big plans for the coming year.
“It’s very exciting. It’s my first position as principal,” said Needleman, who has been with the LAUSD since 2001. “All of the teachers are back and we have been preparing so we can get right down to business.”
Needleman said technology will be at the heart of all educational programs at the school, which is a Math/Science/Technology Magnet school. The campus serves approximately 330 students in K-5th grade, with students coming from neighborhoods throughout the city, Needleman said.
The focus this year will be on “project-based learning,” in which students complete projects that simulate real-world experiences. Every K-2nd grade students is issued an iPad, and every 3rd-5th grader is provided a laptop computer. All students will write blogs, and 5th graders will create a broadcast news program. They will interview people, write stories and serve as news anchors.
“It’s not just using technology for technology’s sake. It is using it in support of instructional goals,” Needleman said. “We are trying to build on the project-based learning approach. If we were doing something on the weather, the students would be meteorologists. If we are doing something on building bridges, the students would be engineers. It’s a real-world learning approach.”
The principal said the 1st-5th grade students will participate in a robotics program. The younger students learn basic computer programming through robotics, and 4th and 5th graders will compete with other schools in programming robots to complete tasks.
“It’s helpful in learning languages algebraic thinking,” Needleman said. “At any given time, 60 students are working with the robots.”
Needleman said he would like to implement is a filmmaking program. Students would write and produce their own short movies. He wants to involve parents as much as possible, and build relationships with people in the neighborhood surrounding the school, which is located on Detroit Street just north of Melrose Avenue.
One such partnership with the Melrose Avenue Business Improvement District resulted in three murals being painted at the school over the summer. The artworks have brought colorful facades to the school grounds, and Needleman said the students will be very excited to see the murals when they return next Tuesday.
“They are great,” he said. “They brought in some local mural artists and really improved the campus.”
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