Case Study: Prosser School District
2023-10-20 / Staff Writer / Case Study
“For students to see that there are other people outside of where they live that do all of these wonderful things…they have those same opportunities, they just need to be exposed. The possibilities are endless.” - Eric Larez, Director of Migrant and Bilingual Education, Prosser School District
Prosser School District is a K-12 district located in Prosser, Washington. It serves a student population of approximately 2,495 students.
Eric Larez is the Director of Migrant and Bilingual Education at Prosser School District. The Migrant program’s mission states that the “Migrant Education Program funds support high-quality education programs for migratory children and help ensure that migratory children are not penalized in any manner by disparities among states in curriculum, graduation requirements or state academic content and student academic achievement standards.” The Bilingual education program utilizes a structure of learning that “uses two languages, one of which is English, as a means of instruction to build upon and expand language skills to enable a student to achieve competency in English. It teaches concepts and knowledge in the primary language of a student, while the student also acquires English language skills.”
Meeting the needs of all students is top of mind for most educators. As the Director of Migrant and Bilingual Education, Eric Larez cares deeply about providing his students access to engaging, high-quality educational experiences that will open the door to future opportunities.
When he reviewed his district’s World-Class Instructional Design & Assessment (WIDA) results, he found that the main factor limiting their students from transferring out of the program was expressive language in speaking and writing. Planetarium systems can aid schools in meeting science standards and provide immersive, supplemental material to augment what is taught in the classroom. In order to maximize their potential, planetarium systems must be easy to use and not require an inordinate amount of training. Users should be able to learn the programs quickly and be able to create presentations intuitively. There must be support structures available to assist educators in crafting the most impactful experiences.
He commented, “We have a large number of long-term English Language Learners in high school. They speak social English with no issues, so they go under the radar. But it’s the expressive language part of the WIDA test that really shows that they lack the academic component of language.”
So he asked himself:
- How do we get kids to talk about academic language?
- How do we get them to write using academic language?
Larez wanted to create a rigorous program that helped students develop these critical speaking and writing skills. He knew that he wanted science to be the driving force for teaching reading and writing within content and language development. He thought, “What if we get our own inflatable planetarium?” and began his research on available options.
Selecting Digitalis Planetarium Systems
Digitalis stuck out to Larez because it provided an opportunity for children in the Prosser School District to access something that was previously unavailable to them, since the nearest planetarium:
- Required transportation
- Charged an entrance fee
- Was only open certain days
Larez said that in all of his research, Digitalis emerged as a front-runner for several reasons. Apart from being local to their area, Digitalis also provided the capabilities and applications that were far better suited to Prosser School District’s needs. Larez stated, “For my English language development components, and for closing the language gap, students need to dive into the content. Digitalis allows us the opportunity to support core courses at the school in a way that stimulates their curiosity and creates more questions.”
Digitalis systems are also user-friendly and accessible. Larez shared, “We have students with mobility issues and access into the dome is extremely easy for them.”
“One thing I would say is that Digitalis has helped me provide an opportunity to close the access gap for kids, especially the kids I serve in my programs,” Larez noted.
Excitement about the Digitalis Portable Planetarium Dome at Prosser School District has exploded. The district is committed to using the system as a learning tool, not a novelty experience. Larez explained, “We try to communicate to the students that it’s not the first and only time they are going to be there. We want them to know it’s a tool. They will be in class and learn about a concept. Then they get to go into the dome and have the opportunity to see how it works, to play around with it, and to ask questions. They understand that the planetarium is part of their total experience, and they are so appreciative of it.”
Community support has also grown as the district has developed their learning programs with the planetarium. “When we have done these presentations, the response from families and students is overwhelming. We have had some school board members participate. They are blown away that this kind of technology exists, that it’s portable, and they are really excited that we can provide this service to our students,” Larez added.
Prosser School District is in the beginning stages of training high school students with language challenges to use academic language in order to provide planetarium shows to the lower elementary students. It will give the older students practice with the content, with academic language writing, and with academic speaking skills. The younger students get exposure to that academic language, in addition to experiencing the visuals and content within the dome. Larez’s goal is to spark a love for science and provide exposure to the reading, writing, and speaking skills they need to attain.
Discover how Digitalis helps K-12 schools close the access gap and open a world of opportunities. Book a demonstration.