This summer, when visitors to Haines wonder where the best restaurants, hotels and shops are, they’ll find out: there’s an app for that.
For now it’s called “The Haines Walkabout” but that name could change. The creators are three seventh and eighth grade students at Haines School. They’re designing the smart phone app as part of a pilot class taught by Superintendent Ginger Jewell. It’s basically a test-run to see if it would work in the full-time curriculum.
“It’s an app about Haines,” said seventh grader Dylan Chapell. He clicked through the app on his laptop screen. “Here are all the buttons for what the different tabs are. So we click on food, it takes us to screen with a bunch of different restaurants. The only one completed so far is Mountain Market so we click on that tab. And it brings up a map where Mountain Market is and information about it.”
The class uses an educational program called MAD (Mobile Application Development) Learn to create the app. There are templates you can use and it’s sort of a drag-and-drop process, although the students have had to do some Photoshop and HTML coding to get it just right.
The three students have a client: Helen Alten, the director of the Sheldon Museum. Turns out, when you have someone to answer to, making an app is much more than clicking keys on your computer.
“They thought, you know, make an app. Sit down and we’re gonna be on the computers right away,” Dr. Jewell said. “But I made them go through the project management piece, you have to meet with the client, you have to find out what the client wants…that was definitely the more difficult part of it.”
The students say all the designing and brainstorming that goes into the app is more complex than they expected.
“It’s kind of like you have to make sure you get it right, cause you don’t want [the client] to be disappointed,” said 13-year-old Marirose Evenden. “So it’s kind of like you have some pressure.”
“The first time that they actually started to work on the app, they were saying ‘hey we could do this, we could do that.’ It’s great to watch the light bulbs go on,” Jewell said. “And part of it has been, did your client say they wanted that?”
The app started out focusing on the museum. There’s a tab dedicated to information about the museum and its exhibits. The students proposed expanding the app from focusing just on the museum to an app that encompasses everything a visitor might need to know about Haines.
“And then they brainstormed, ‘Well gee, if I didn’t know anything about Haines, what would I want to know about?'” said Jewell.
Later this week, Dylan, Marirose and eighth-grader Corbin Holm are preparing for their second “client meeting,” where they’ll show Alten what the app looks like and how it works. If all goes well, MAD Learn will put it in the iTunes and Android app stores by March 10th.
Jewell says she read about MAD Learn in a technology magazine. She wanted to give it a try in the middle school, because she says middle schoolers have less choice in what classes they take than high schoolers.
“And I miss being with kids so this was a nice way to be able to combine need for the community, doing something that I really love, and getting back with having kid contact every day.”
Jewell sits on the museum board. That’s how she learned that Alten was interested in bringing the museum more “up-to-speed” technologically. Jewell says she thinks classes like this are important because they give students real-world experience.
Corbin thinks he could take what he’s learning here and make a business out of it.
“Right now all of us are underage and we are technically not able to work, but next year I’ll be 14 and able to work,” Holm said. He thinks he’ll start out making apps and then maybe move on to game design.
Alten, at the museum, isn’t worried about leaving the app design in the hands of young teenagers. She says, if a person has passion for something, they’ll do a “stellar job” no matter what their age.