Software project helps students learn about the Renaissance

JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education recently heard about the success of a new library software project used to teach ninth graders this school year.

Johnstown High School Library Media Specialist Dylan Thomarie gave a report last week on a program he initiated from a mini grant provided through the Johnstown Teachers Association.

“Overall, I would say this has been the most successful project we have run through the library with myself and the other teachers,” Thomarie said.

District Superintendent Robert DeLilli said the district’s JTA mini grants go back to 2000. Over the years, there have been $16,000 worth of grants generated for various uses, he said.

Thomarie said his mini grant allowed the library to purchase software based somewhat on the video-game series “Assassin’s Creed.” He said he linked the game into the classroom program teaching the Italian Renaissance – a European period of cultural change from the 14th to 16th centuries. That period is covered in the Global 9 curriculum for ninth-graders, he said.

Thomarie said he set up the curriculum project so it would “exploit” the features of the game, but not have to strictly follow the game sequence. He said one such task involved finding Renaissance painter and inventor Leonardo DaVinci. He said students were provided a map to follow, and the exercise helped augment the students’ map abilities.

“The data showed our students weren’t sound in map reading skills,” Thomarie said.

He said there was 99 percent involvement in the program by the ninth-graders, with an 80 percent completion rate of all assignments. He said the project will be available to ninth-graders next school year.

“We thought it was extremely successful,” Thomarie said of the learning project.

DeLilli said Thomarie can be recognized for a job “well done,” noting the project is also aligned with new national Core Curriculum standards the district must follow.