Science teachers implement interactive technology

Archie Barton | Staff Writer

Junior Alexandra Huber is a student in the class that Planicka and Kreager have piloted using the Labo kits. They believe that the kits will help their students learn to better collaborate with their peers, and will encourage creativity in the classroom.

Science teachers are switching up their classes and venturing into the world of technology. 

Through the use of Nintendo Labo kits, Mason High School’s Intervention specialist Mike Planicka and Physical Geology teacher Cody Kreager teach students about the applications of technology in the classroom. Nintendo Labo kits are made of cardboard cut-outs and assembled to make items that can be added to a Nintendo Switch controller., which can be used to relay information back to the switch and create an interactive experience on the Switch Screen. 

Creativity is at the center of the class, teaching students the science behind how things work. An important part of getting students to understand concepts comes from the hands on interaction with the Labo kits, according to Planicka.

“My kids need visuals, they need to do things and the Labo kits are a cardboard STEM manipulative for them,” Planicka said. “Following directions on the Nintendo Switch screen, they can they build things like a fishing rod or a piano out of cardboard. These can be used to look at how the individual things are coded and some of the science behind infrared, cameras, motion detection, and gyroscopes.” 

Planicka and Kreager co-created this class five years ago, on the principle that it doesn’t matter what education level a student is at, they could take the class and feel apart of something, according to Kreager. 

 “We’ve got kids from all over the spectrum, from AP kids to special needs kids, all in the same class,” Kreager said. “They learn together and from each other, even learning about one another, which is fantastic.” 

 The collaboration of students was facilitated by Planicka and Kreager’s friendship. Planicka’s Applied Science class and Kreager’s Physical Geology class came together to share what they had learned and their technology in one interactive lab experience. 

“Mr. Planicka told me about his students building fishing rods and playing his game and I love fishing,” Kreager said. “So he just shot me a tweet about it and I said, man, bring that up to my room and that just snowballed into a show and tell — it just came together.” 

Friends at school often want to work together on projects and share their passions, bringing a new level of excitement to their work. The same can be said for friendships among teachers, according to Planicka.  

 “I’m really good friends with Mr. Kreager and just like as a student, you often want to do stuff with your friends,” Planicka said. “Nobody told Mr. Kreager and I to get together. We did it because we both get excited about science.”

The goal behind both classes is to teach students about science, but for Kreager, giving students the opportunity to build connections can be more meaningful after the bell has rung. 

“I want them to remember geology in five years, but the reality is, they’re probably going to have memories about the people they were with and the experiences that they shared,” Kreager said. “So if in five years they see a kid from Mr. Planicka’s class and they go, ‘Oh, hey, remember the windmills and the Labo kits?’ Then I’ve done my job.”

Applications like the Nintendo Switch can also be applied to teaching students about more than science. Students can learn how to interact with each other and build relationships as a team, invested in building something as a production line. Each student has their own job and role in the creative process, according to Planicka.  

 “I’m trying to teach my kids in science and real world problem solving skills.” Planicka said. “The Switch really deals a lot with teamwork and they are really learning how to work together as a team, and how to not get frustrated.” 

Kreager encourages working with new people and expanding your connections and interactions with others, something he believes is rarely seen in such a large school with many teachers and even more students. He said that cooperation between students who may not know each other well can be just as an important learning experience as working with friends. 

“I think there’s this stigma that a big school can’t feel small,” Kreager said. “When you have a huge school, if you start doing activities like this, you’re starting to bridge the gap and create those networks and collaboration lessons.” 

With future events planned, both Planicka and Kreager want to continue to share their passion of science and build on their friendship. Exploring the avenues and trains of thought that have sprouted from this joint effort, they hope to give students an opportunity to form their own friendships, learn something about science and one another, according to Kreager and Planicka. 

 “I enjoyed it, it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done in many years.” Kreager said. “The moral story is: Enjoy what you do, get back to having fun. My kids had fun. Mr. Planicka’s kids had fun. We as teachers had fun and that’s what it’s all about.”

Photo by Archie Barton.

Graphic by Aadrija Biswas.