With Amazon’s help, Jonathan Alder is thinking big

(Posted Dec. 16, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Through a partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Jonathan Alder Local Schools will be encouraging students and the community to “think big” starting next school year

AWS is donating $100,000 to the school district to convert a classroom at the high school into a Think Big Space. The idea is to provide students in grades K-12 with a place to stretch their imaginations, creativity, and problem-solving skills and explore career opportunities.

AWS will outfit the room with resources, as well as brand and furnish it, according to Dr. Misty Swonger, Jonathan Alder assistant superintendent. The school district will provide one teacher who will receive training from AWS. The company will send mentors to the space regularly to show students how to use the type of tools and technology Amazon employees use in their jobs.

“Workforce development is a big thing for (AWS),” Swonger said, noting that the company is funding Think Big Spaces in areas where they are creating jobs.

AWS launched its first Think Big Space last fall at an elementary school in Virginia. The classroom at Jonathan Alder will be the company’s first Community Think Big Space. In addition to instruction for students, AWS and the school district will host Maker Days, opening the space to parents and the community at large.

Swonger said the school district first learned of the Think Big Space opportunity on the morning of Dec. 14. By the end of the day, a proposal was put together and a timeline put in place.

Right now, the idea is to have elementary school students make field trips to the space, then take resource kits back to their classrooms to continue learning. The focus will be technology, coding, robotics, and the like.

For older students, the focus likely will be a mashup of math and career development, with resources and guidance geared toward things like quantitative reasoning, data analysis, statistics, and probability. This framework would align with the Ohio Department of Education’s proposed plan to issue new math pathways next school year that nurture workforce and career development.

“Amazon will have the donation to us by December with the goal of having a grand opening next August,” Swonger said of the timeline.

She noted that the project will be ongoing and always evolving. The $100,000 coming in December is just the first round of funding.

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