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Prairie Middle School's Tech Lab Given Prestigious Honor

The Technology Education Program taught by Steve Taylor and Gary Rizzio was named the 2012 Program of the Year by the Technology Education Association of Illinois.

When it comes to technology education, Barrington’s Prairie Middle School is top dog.

The school’s Technology Education Program has been named the 2012 Program of the Year by the Technology Education Association of Illinois. According to District 220, the award recognizes a technology education program that provides fundamental knowledge about the development of technology and its effect on people, the environment and culture.

“[Tech Lab] It’s a hands on application that focuses on connecting science technology and mathematics under one content,” explained Technology Education co-teacher Steve Taylor. “So we kind of break down the walls of the traditional classroom… all the activities we have are 21st century authentic activities. So students for example in 7th grade they complete aerodynamics, desk top publishing, animation and those are the core contents.” 

In the extremely hands on classroom environment taught by Steve Taylor and Gary Rizzio, students are taught how to use technology and mathematics to create real world projects like catapults and carbon dioxide powered cars. Student Sydney Bakal finds the class challenging but of great interest.

“Tech lab helps me to understand more about what is technology and the different types of tech like transportation,” the 7th grader said. “Here at tech lab we learn about aerodynamics and stuff that really does appear in the world. We get to have electives and the electives are really useful because we can actually take them in and use them.”

The electives for seventh- and eighth-graders this year are plastics and manufacturing, computer-controlled milling, iMovie video production, digital video editing, auto exploration, web design, and carbon dioxide-powered racecars. Sixth grade students also learn about space and rocketry.

Rizzio has been teaching tech lab for 20 years. He’s clearly passionate about his job educating students at Prairie and loves to see kids excited about learning.

“I get a chance to see kids as they get older. And a lot of the kids they still say, when they made their CO2 car and stuff like that…they’ll still have their keychain they made while learning about plastics…so a lot of the kids say I made this 10 years ago in tech lab and still have it. It’s a cool feeling,” he said.

Students take tech lab in 6th through 8th grades, so Rizzio and Taylor have the priviege of watching them grow through the years. Taylor said that’s one of his favorite parts of working at Prairie.

“I think the kids make the job. It’s so fun working with them through each grade level…And in 8th grade, they kind of leave as young adults,” he said.

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