Growing to Scale: Theatrical Journeys-Embedding STEAM into Early Childhood Education Through Multi-sensory Guided Pretend Play

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Young child engaging in The Journey Playbook
Courtesy Photo

As students attend school during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to support  learners in thinking “outside-the-box” and practice problem solving skills.  Young children often engage in pretend play, acting out observations and experiences they have.  Educators know children learn through play and the importance of providing children with interdisciplinary learning opportunities in languages they are familiar with. Through, her project, Growing to Scale: A 3-Phase Teacher Development Initiative of The Theatrical Journey Project,  veteran CentroNía staff member and theater artist Elizabeth Bruce, developed and published a bilingual STEAM curriculum enhancement for Pre-K children to “become science problem solvers who remedy science problems through handson simulations of real phenomenon. They are experts who solve the problems and emergencies presented in each journey.”

The concepts presented in The Journey Playbook are valuable to educators as The Journey Playbook provides fun opportunities to guide young children through play as they learn STEAM concepts and develop problem solving skills to become experts in solving problems most children experience regardless of socioeconomic factors and educational setting.  Located in Washington D.C., CentroNía overwhelmingly serves low and moderate income and immigrant families, a majority of whom are Latino, African, African-American, or bicultural. CentroNía’s holistic approach provides a bilingual, multicultural environment where children and families they serve receive the support and encouragement they need to succeed.

What were the goals of the project and how were they achieved?

Elizabeth Bruce wanted to support the expansion of the strategies presented bilingually in the Theatrical Journey Playbook: Introducing Science to Young Children through Pretend Play to scale by expanding a previously funded Teacher Development Initiative locally, regionally, and internationally through CentroNía’s Institute. To reach her goal, she created the project, Growing to Scale: A 3-Phase Teacher Development Initiative of The Theatrical Journey Project.

As one can imagine, with the undertaking of her project, there were many steps Elizabeth Bruce needed to accomplish.  She planned to produce and translate The Journey Playbook, train educators, collaborate with educational and community partners and disseminate The Journey Playbook.

She planned to :

  • Embed the Journey Project Teacher Development with CentroNía Institute’s Development of Laboratory Pre-K classrooms led by Master Teachers, who will become Trainers of Trainers with Four CentroNía Sites.
  • Have participation from Pre-K Colleague Centers through linkages with DC Public Schools, Public Charter Schools, and Early Childhood Centers.
  • Collaborate with the CentroNía Institute to present about The Journey Project’s methodology within the  Early Childhood Education, STEM + Art =STEAM, or arts education sectors, locally, regionally, and/or internationally
  • Create and distribute low-tech teaching tools for Journey Kits for participating Lab Classroom Master Teachers.
  • Partner with CentroNía’s pro-bono partners, including engineering professionals to conceptualize/design low-cost, multi-use, inter-changeable, space-saving devices as Journey teaching tools.
  • Print and broaden promotion of The Theatrical Journey Playbook and Teacher Development Program through press, social media, and professional networks.

What progress was made toward her goals?

Elizabeth completed final production and translation of The Journey Playbook! She co-facilitated in Spanish with CentroNía’s Food & Wellness staff, providing Professional Development/Teacher Training Workshops with CentroNía Teachers through a bi-weekly series of workshops on The Theatrical Journey Project to Early Childhood Educators.  Educators participated in either the English or Spanish cohorts.  The workshops/training included The Theatrical Journey Project content and process and integrated nutrition and wellness content explored through the journey process.  She also provided  bi-weekly Journey Project demo/training workshops with all Pre-K Lead Teachers and Assistant Teachers at CentroNía Maryland and co-facilitated (with Robert Michael Oliver, PhD, of The Performing Knowledge Project) workshops on Creativity and Dramatic Engagement for CentroNía Early Childhood, StudioROCKS, and Family Center teachers and staff. Here are a few other highlights from the project efforts:

  • Facilitated year-round journey workshops with: Pre-K/Junior Pre-K/Early Headstart Classrooms at CentroNía.
  • Presented bilingually with Spanish translation workshops engaged in 1 ½ hour hands-on demonstration of The Journey of the Sick Teddy Bear, complete with teddy bears, stethoscopes, thermometer, vocal/physical warm-ups, etc. Explanatory debriefs followed each section of the workshop, with a Journey Project one-pager, sample journey, and curriculum methodology handouts were provided. Through this experience, Elizabeth received “Excellent engagement and feedback!”
  • Presented a Training of Trainers on the methodology and pedagogy of the Theatrical Journey Project for Early Childhood Home Visitors.
  • Facilitated a collaboration between CentroNía Family Center and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).
  • Nurtured additional elements of the Journey Playbook/Project Teacher Training Project including:
    • Disseminating mini Journey Kits to Early Childhood Classrooms.
    • Planning CentroNía Family Center parent-child journey workshops.
    • Developing new journeys with CentroNía Food & Wellness , specifically on topics of hydration, circulation, vitamins and nutrients, and oxygenation.
    • Highlighting Journey Project techniques and methodologies
      during teacher assessments using the “CLASS” assessment tool.
  • One bilingual Journey Project collaborating teacher, Phoenix Harris, previously adapted her own variation of a Teddy Bear Journey as a final project for her Masters’ Degree at Trinity Washington University.

Exciting plans for the future

Project leaders participated and networked extensively at conferences and submitted proposals to continue to present, disseminate, and train teachers on The Journey Playbook.

The Journey Project is collaborating with the “Changing the Face of STEM: A Transformational Journey” event targeted to under-represented communities (Latinos, African-Americans, Native Americans) at the National Academy of Science in June 2018.

Elizabeth Bruce and others within CentroNía leadership have engaged in/are pursuing extensive and accelerated outreach to educational colleagues and organizations (nationally and internationally) receptive to Journey Project/Playbook teacher training, project collaboration and replication including English-language cohorts and one Amharic-language cohort (with translation). Additional plans include continuubg to facilitate workshops at CentroNía with Kinder/1st Graders; having weekly Journey workshops with CentroNía Universal Pre-K Classrooms, and continuing with fundraising for Journey Project Replication/Video Tutorials.

Early Childhood Educator and student engaging in The Journey Playbook
Courtesy Photo

How has The Journey Playbook affected the learning of students and/or teachers?

The learning of students and teachers has been deeply affected both directly, through the extensive hands-on Journey workshops, hands-on teacher trainings/professional development, conference presentations, and indirectly through the production, promotion, and dissemination of the Theatrical Journey Playbook: Introducing Science to Early Learners through Guided Pretend Play, as well as promotion of the Journey Project introductory video, webpage, and promotional materials.

Extensive outreach to major educational partners, schools, and institutions has been and continues to be underway, with projects for teacher training/project replication or adaptation with educational colleagues and Journey Playbook distribution to at least 135 educational colleagues and targeted teacher training/project replication, funding, or other support activities.

PreK/Early Childhood Educators/Teachers engaged directly in collaboratively journey workshops, collaborations, mentoring/modeling, and other teacher training.  The Journey Project began working for the first time with younger children, ages 2 ½ to 3 years old, with remarkably successful results when the project was adjusted to a slower pace with fewer activities per journey, plus repeating the same journey from week 1 to week 2. This addition allows the Journey Project at CentroNía to engage the same cohort of children for a full three years.

What challenges were experienced along the way and ideas for improving the project?

Elizabeth states, “I have learned that the process of engaging educational colleagues and their organizations as
targeted teacher training/project replication collaborators is a longer, more gradual process of deepening relationships and inviting educational leadership to observe/engage with the Journey Project, and especially to commit to teacher training/project replication. Colleague educational organizations, like most nonprofits and schools, are deeply engaged with their ongoing operations and missions and extensively committed to operationalizing, maintaining and funding their organization’s endeavors. Hence, learning about and embracing a new, even highly simpatico, methodology or pedagogy calls for a strong relationship and decisions by leadership to advance mutual commitment to in depth teacher training and project replication. Laying the groundwork for such partnerships, however, promises to come to fruition within a time frame of 1-2 years. Reaching critical mass for project replication/teacher training, thus, is anticipated once extensive ground-laying has been done.”

Further reading

Theatrical Journey Playbook

What is STEAM Education?

Three Core Concepts in Early Development

Academic Literacy Institute: Addressing literacy in low income/low literacy English-only students and English Language Learners (ELLs)

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photo of people reading
Literacy helps connect people

Educators are on the front lines in addressing the low levels of student academic language literacy resulting from the phenomena of modern family life: both parents working full time, limited oral language acquisition in the home resulting from the economic pressure on families, and increased student screen time.

Ellen Guettler at Irving school in Bozeman, MT is implementing The  Academic Literacy Institute (ALI) to improve the instructional competencies of district teachers via intensive professional development to better serve two identified district populations at risk: low income/low literacy English-only students and English Language Learners(ELLs), for whom English is not their primary language.  As such a project has many components, The Academic Literacy Institute (ALI) is a three year project.

What were the goals of the project? 

The Academic Literacy Institute (ALI)  is a three-year project aimed at improving the instructional competencies of District teachers via professional development to shift the ‘culture of instruction’ to better serve two identified district populations at risk:

  • low income/low literacy English-only students 
  • English Language Learners (ELLs).

Their goal is to increase student knowledge of academic vocabulary via explicit vocabulary instruction in Tier 2 critical thinking vocabulary like ‘evaluate /classify / infer’ and Tier 3 content specific vocabulary like ‘perimeter / figurative language / hypothesis.’ This explicit instruction, coupled with the use of language frames, visual aids, and graphic supports, helps low literacy / EL students acquire and comprehend the academic vocabulary they need to be college and career ready.

How were these goals achieved?

ELL staff members, Ellen Guettler and Kathleen Johns trained K-8 ELL teachers on explicit vocabulary development and provided comprehensive data folders on each individual ELL student’s needs, using STAR reading and math data, WIDA ACCESS scores, a writing sample and a summary report from the previous year’s teacher. Teachers were allotted time during the trainings to analyze their ELL student data files in order to plan individualized sheltered supports for academic vocabulary development for their ELL students.

At the trainings, teachers learned about the stages of primary and second language acquisition, explicit vocabulary instructional strategies, and the importance of using graphic organizers to teach Tier 2/3 vocabulary to low literacy students in order to contextualize academic learning.

Teachers were allotted time during the trainings to analyze their ELL student data files in order to plan individualized sheltered supports for academic vocabulary development for their ELL students.

17 (K-12) district teachers attended a two-day WIDA training titled, “Scaffolding Learning Through Language”.  Twelve of those teacher participated in a two-hour online follow up with the WIDA workshop facilitator and Ellen Guettler to share their scaffolding implementation strategies. 

ELL staff developed 1-1 sheltered instructional supports for teachers districtwide with the development of an online resource page to support teachers in implementing explicit vocabulary development through the use of graphic organizers, Tier 2-word lists, YouTube instructional videos, literature support materials, and strategies to help teachers make the content more comprehensible for the district’s low literacy and EL populations. 

In this first year, what progress did they make towards their goals?

The entire first year was about creating an infrastructure to address the numerous existing programmatic holes in serving the district’s ELL students. The following processes and procedures were developed:

  1. An ELL Pathway teacher list is being compiled and computerized so that ELL student placement is formalized at each site to build teacher/site competency in addressing literacy needs of ELL and low language students.
  2. Online professional development supports were developed so that academic English literacy supports (Tier 2/3 vocabulary sheets, graphic organizers, language function charts, etc.)  are all available via one website.  Professional development instructional videos on effective vocabulary development are also listed.
  3. A VISTA application was submitted and approved to support 3 sustainable ELL program goals:

With the ELL program growing by 50% in the first year of the project and no bilingual materials available, time was consumed by translating forms and supporting ELL families in accessing community resources.   To further the VISTA goals, teachers, administrators and area agency leaders met twice at ELL working group meetings to identify the needs in the education and community agency arenas. Issues, goals and next steps were identified.    As a result of the UBD work, a lack of explicit phonics instruction districtwide for late arrival or low level EL students were identified as a roadblock to acquisition of academic vocabulary. As a result , a pilot program was planned.  The pilot will include all K-3 students in a predominantly ELL Title 1 elementary school, all late arrival ELLs, as well as ELLs scoring 3 or lower on the reading portion of the ACCESS 2.0 exam district wide. The curriculum of the pilot phonics program will be the Imagine Language and Literacy program. to address the identified need for explicit phonics instruction and remediation of their K-2 and late arrival ELL students who slip through the cracks and never master the requisite phonics skills to read fluently. With this additional instruction, they hope that students can engage in Tier 2/3 vocabulary development they need to access college and career readiness. With 152 students in the Title III program and only two staff members, the online curriculum will ensure every student receives the phonics instruction they need to proficiently read in English so they can access the core content standards equitably. 

How did their project affect the learning of students and/or teachers?  

Their project objectives were the catalyst for systematic ELL program improvement via professional development of teachers and infrastructure development.  Their mentor continually focused on the conversation of creating program sustainability and on the importance of establishing procedures that ensured that end, regardless of who was at the helm.

The steps they took in the first year moved the ELL program in the right direction. Over 65 district teachers understand the vital importance of vocabulary development and sheltered instructional strategies to ensure ELL and low language students have access to the academic vocabulary they need to be successful in school and beyond.  As a result of the PD trainings, district teachers are more receptive to ELL supports and accommodations than ever before. They are much more cognizant of the role that academic English language development plays in the success or failure of a student, because they have a clearer understanding of second language acquisition theory and the role that Tier 2 and Tier 3 vocabulary acquisition plays in student achievement.  For the first time in the district’s history many teachers actively referred to the WIDA English Language Proficiency Standards and the “Can Do” Descriptors in their lesson planning. Although there is still much work to do in this area of instruction to maximize Tier 2/3 vocabulary acquisition, the groundwork was laid, and their teachers are receptive to this instructional paradigm shift.

What challenges did they experience and how they are addressing the challenges to improve the project?

Ellen reported, “this project was full of unanticipated challenges and roadblocks. As the adage goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know until you do,” definitely applied in this project.” Due to addressing the need for shifting negative teacher attitudes toward time set aside for professional development in a year when they were piloting a difficult new math curriculum, addressing a 50% increase in EL enrollment overnight, and realizing the myriad of social and procedural issues that were impacting the project implementation and EL achievement in school, they redefined the year 1 goals of the project.  

Although there was a significant focus on teacher professional development and training, Ellen’s mentor quickly shifted the focus of her energies as EL Coordinator to address the infrastructure issues that were preventing her from dedicating the time she needed to the project goals of providing ongoing teacher support of effective vocabulary development strategies in teacher classrooms.  By addressing the EL program infrastructure in the first year and part of the next year, Ellen will be better able to meet the time commitment and PD goals of the project, which focus on facilitating teacher engagement and reflection on their instructional processes throughout the year. In this way, teacher competencies in academic language and literacy instruction across content areas will be developed.

To improve the project, in addition to providing face-to-face trainings, Ellen is eager to create screencast trainings that will be accessible 24-7 online. The resources will be available to all district teachers to better meet the professional development needs both in intensive trainings and bite-size chunks for teachers to watch and utilize when they have specific EL questions and instructional needs throughout the year.

Ellen plans to utilize and share with parents the easy-to-access curriculum provided in the Imagine Learning and Literacy program her school is piloting. Ellen plans to continue ELL Family Literacy Nights but with a new focus on family engagement using the Imagine program. The Imagine program, offers a preview of all instructions for the English phonics and academic vocabulary curriculums in 26 different languages.  This easy-to-use literacy tool will be supportive in engaging entire families.  

As Ellen states, “diving in this project has been a bit like opening Pandora’s Box” due to discovering the layers upon layers of “missing” procedures.  With the steps they have taken to address the “missing” procedures and by building a sustainable infrastructure, we at the McCarthy Dressman Education Foundation are excited to see how this project progresses

photo of a person reading a book
Research shows there are many benefits to reading

Further reading

 

Developing a Bilingual, Culturally-Relevant Writers’ Workshop in the Elementary Grades: Supporting students in discovering their voice as writers

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At many schools with a large bilingual population, student’s cultural and linguistic resources must guide instruction in order for children of color to find success in the current educational system. Caroline Sweet and her colleagues at Perez Elementary School in Austin, TX hoped to develop on site a model of writers’ workshop that embraces bilingualism and incorporates students’ cultural backgrounds.  They believed that what is developed at Perez can guide other campuses desiring a high-quality bilingual writers’ workshop as a model for developing students’ written expression while simultaneously giving students agency in their learning.

What were the project goals?

The goals of their project, Developing a Bilingual, Culturally-Relevant Writers’ Workshop in the Elementary Grades, fall into three categories.

Goals of the project
Project photo

  1. Implement a writers’ workshop model in language arts instruction across the campus in Kindergarten through 5th grade. 
  2. As Caroline’s school has a strong dual language program, they needed to merge their dual language program model with the tenets of writers’ workshop to reflect the biliteracy development of their students as readers and writers. 
  3. Caroline also wanted to ensure their students develop a positive self-identity throughout their school experience. To accomplish this goal, they used culturally-relevant literature as mentor texts throughout writers’ workshop. 

What was their process to accomplish their goals?

  • They consulted with the Heart of Texas Writing Project (HTWP) at the University of Texas to train K-2 teachers on the foundational concepts of writers workshop.
  • They partnered with the Austin Independent School District to provide, two full-day professional development sessions to where their consultant from the HTWP and a language arts curriculum specialist from the district trained K-2nd grade teachers on writers’ workshop as this method of teaching was new to most of the teachers in the sessions.  
  • The trainers of the professional development sessions modeled lesson ands and teachers watched writers’ workshop mini-lessons conducted by their colleagues.  
  • Caroline co-taught with a first grade teacher for a week long unit.
  • Their consultant from the HTWP co-taught with a first grade teacher once a week for 6 weeks. 
  • Their first grade team members provided peer observations frequently.

What did they accomplish?

  • They have helped teachers change their mindset about what is writing
    photo of student writing
    Writing helps students discover their voices
    through lengthy conversations among colleagues about how letter formation and handwriting is an element of instruction outside of the writers’ workshop. They are working on valuing the production of our emergent writers.
  • They celebrated the writing products of their youngest writers with writing displays and held celebratory publishing parties in K-2 in which parents and community members were invited to read students published work 
  • The built a community that continually supports teachers 

Next steps:

  • Caroline has planned a full day planning session with their constant from the HTWP.  
  • Caroline and their consultant from the HTWP have invited all K-5th grade teachers to attend two trainings in which the goal of the trainings is for teachers to create at least a two week unit based on a genre study framework.
  • Some of  the teachers at Perez Elementary school submitted proposals to present at professional conferences regarding the writers’ workshop methods they are using their classroom.  They hoped they will grow many teacher leaders.  
  • Several of the teachers have been accepted to the Heart of Texas Writers Project Summer Training Program, which is part of the National Writing Project to further their knowledge and training in the teaching of writers.  
photo of teacher reading to studnets
Culturally-relevant literature supports students in developing a positive self-identity

What are their ideas for improvement?

  • Peer Observation: continue more focused peer observations in K-2nd grades that include debriefs to allow for support especially in content focused coaching and utilize explicit protocols that involve pre-conferences, observation, and post conferences
  • Evaluation of Student Products: Allow for planning time to continue to create and improve the rubric for K-2nd grades and then create the differentiated rubric for 3rd-5th graders.  Further discussion and planning should occur regarding language of choice and building opportunities to create variety in audience choice.
  • Buy-in: some teachers were ready and willing to try new ways of teaching based on the training they received.  Some teachers had more difficulty understanding the need for writers workshop in their classroom.  They would like to create a shared mission to allow students to guide learning and implement responsive teaching practices.
  • Planning:  More planning time was  needed to create units with culturally relevant texts to give students experience in a variety of genres. They are thinking the planning component with culturally-relevant texts might need to occur as part of their professional development days.
  • Collaboration with Biliteracy Committee:  They will work with the biliteracy committee to add writers’ workshop into the biliteracy framework as an essential pedagogical element in each classroom whether the classroom is a dual language classroom or not. They would like to define how they use language in the writers’ workshop that promotes biliteracy.

Further Reading

 

The Best of Buena Vista: Community Based Learning and Student Journalism

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Student Journalism, Education Week
Learn more about student journalism, Education Week

As students embarked on “the Best of BV” they strengthened writing skills, practiced responsibility and accountability. Their plan was to work with the arts council to empower students to cover local sports, art, academics, business, city government, events, nature, hiking, and personal topics on social media.  This program set out to expand academic opportunities for students while improving community relations. As the students become progressive storytellers, they would also examine their community and their assumptions about it.

What were the goals of this project and how were they achieved?

The Goals of the Best of Buena Vista were to expand the current program of weekly video announcements made by and for the student body of Parry McCluer High School (PMHS). This goal was met through the Facebook edition of the Blue Library. It is where the Best of Buena Vista stories are published, read, and commented on by the school and local community. The project team created opportunities and experiences for the students to interact in an intergenerational setting allowing them to learn from community elders. Student led interviews allowed for interaction with community elders. 

The team also wanted to disrupt the negative small-town mindset by engaging students in interviewing adults about their positive contributions to the community. This goal was achieved in every single story published. 

The project also aimed for students to benefit economically by increasing writing skills; exercising responsibility and accountability; and improving their storytelling and communication skills. They were also very successful with this goal as students wrote articles, met deadlines, mentored one another. While doing this, they managed coordinating interviews and and publishing articles. The program was successful despite interruptions due to COVID-19.

What did the project participants learn?

The team determined students were successful with little assistance from the mentors. Since the students were prepared with questions and knew what to do it was clear that eliminating this role would help the program. They reevaluated and began using student “assistant editors.” Their main responsibility was determining what stories should be written and which students would write them as well as working with the “reporters” to edit stories turned in. They oversaw the entire process for one week’s worth of stories.

With this new plan and practice in place, they began to present to the entire student body. During presentations to individual English classes, there was a need to combat some students’ negative points of view. but many offered the response, “I didn’t know that about Buena Vista.”

What was the impact of this project?

Despite COVID-19 challenges there was overwhelmingly positive feedback about the program, from students and community members alike.

One student interviewed the town historian. He was so impressed by the experience that he chose to donate his payment to the scholarship fund in the historian’s name. Many students acknowledged how nerve wracking it was to talk to the person they were assigned. Whenever they finished, they always had a smile on their face and pointed out several things they had learned. The intergenerational interactions were key to the success of this program. Students, parents, and community members consistently liked and followed the page when each story was published. 

 A local supporter of the program, Dawn Dickinson, wrote about the community’s response in this way:

“The Blue Library has been a meaningful, informative asset to our school and community. Stories of people and local memories have served as a bridge to the past and allowed our student body to react to our city’s strong heritage. Student interaction with people who can share local history and lore has given our young writers a new perspective on what’s good about our small ciity…..

This grant, coupled with an enthusiastic leader, has awakened a new generation to the positive aspects of our beautiful city. The timeliness of this positivity is perfect!”

Explore Community Based Learning

Joining in the Present to Build an Equitable Shared Future: A Collaboration of Teachers to Study How they Embody the Principle of Equity

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Photo of fists in circle as in representing coming together
Teachers collaborating helps address inequities in student achievement

Adam Kinory at the School of the Future in New York, NY and his colleagues are educators who sought to reconstitute the long dormant New York City Chapter of the New York State English Council and National Council of Teachers of English. The chapter will be open to any teacher, across content areas, that seeks to improve their instruction of reading/writing, with the nucleus of teachers being from their school. The process of forming a chapter, will provide a vision around which teachers at the school can unite, learn to improve their ability to collaborate, while also address inequities in student achievement. By coming together in service of starting a NCTE chapter they hoped to prioritize creating a shared, preferred, vision of the future over of the self-flagellation and critique that too often results in pessimism and disenfranchisement.

What is the project and their goals?

 Join in the Present to Build an Equitable Shared Future is a collaboration across teachers to look at how they embody the principle of equity in interactions with each other and students they teach. To accomplish this, they had two goals.

  1. They wanted to read a shared text, using protocols, and rotate the role of the facilitator. They sought to create a sense of “equity” amongst teachers and empower them with the tools they needed to take charge of their own professional development.,
  2. Using this core group of educators, They wanted to form an affiliate chapter of the national council of teachers of English (N.C.T.E..)to plan a conference, where participants would have a shared experience of creating something new. Through their new chapter creation, they could adjust social norms and reflect on how equity informs decisions that are made.

What did they accomplish?

The project goals were met and new a project was created.

Photo of the book Community by Peter Block
Community by Peter Block

Using the teachings of Peter Block’s text Community, they rotated the role of the facilitator, and used the protocols of the National School Reform Faculty, and ensured that everyone was “equal” in the control they had over the destiny of the group.

In re-starting the New York City chapter, Adam joined the board by request and attended board meetings regularly. They learned that the United Federation of Teachers (U.F.T) already had an existing New York City affiliate of the N.C.T.E., however the affiliate was dormant. The N.C.T.E wanted to restart the chapter but did not have a point person to do this for them. Adam worked with the representatives of the U.F.T to restart the committee and held two committee meetings.

Shared read became a separate project. Teachers across grades 6-10 met and engaged in a shared read of professional text, and used it to explore how to improve equity in teacher-teacher and teacher-student relationships. In creating equity by conducting a shared read at school, they established a common vocabulary as to the characteristics of an equitable community and have taken steps to integrate those characteristics within their pedagogy. Teachers have reported that their participation has led them to re-conceptualize how to interact with their students, reconsider curriculum, and clarify their own sense of mission and purpose.

What challenges did they come up against?

Trust was the most basic challenge. Building trust was a challenge in reinstating the affiliate committee with the U.F.T. Trust was a challenge that made it uncomfortable to collaborate with people that Adam had not worked with before and to make sure people felt free to talk. Participants did not immediately take to the text of Community.

Exciting Projects

The committee has less than dozen people from across New York City.  They hope to grow the committee over the new few years. 

Photo of the book freedom and accountability at work by Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block

They are considering two specific protocols to utilize within their practice.

They are considering a shared read of Freedom and Accountability at Work by Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block. By having a shared read of this text, participants will have the opportunity to explore how to deal with the anxiety that comes from having choices and control over our own lives and dealing with the denial that those choices exist as such denial often leads to hierarchy as people trade their freedom for certainty. If we accept our anxiety and explore the root of it, we can create equity in our relationships with ourselves and others.

The Second consideration for a shared read is Collaborating with the Enemy, by Adam Kahane.  If this shared read is chosen, participants would explore how to build equitiy and agreement even when they fundamentally disagree with the most basic assumptions of those they engage with. They want to move from the broad sense of “equity” by design to choosing and usingPhoto of the book collaborating with the enemy by Adam Kahane specific protocols to evolve the way they structure interactions that address the following questions: How do we maintain a stance of equity when interacting with those who seem to diametrically stand in opposition to us? How do we clarify the choices before us so that we do not blame some outside force (other teachers, the principal, parents) for our own disappointments? What does equity look like when we are attuned to our own neurosis?

 

Further Reading

 

Global Learning Experiences Take Students to New Heights: Collaborating with Students in Other Countries On The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals

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Photo of students collaborating
Project Photo

It is often said that teachers create magic in their classroom.  Kathryn Crawen at Ashford School in Venon, CT took creating magic to a global classroom with the project, Global Learning Experiences Take Students to New Heights.

They are developing an exciting and immersive cultural exchange for students from Kindergarten to 8th grade using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a launching point for project based learning and collaboration with students in other countries (both in person and virtual). Students in K-8th grade will be immersed in school-wide projects that connect them with their global peers, working to engineer solutions the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This project is the first of its kind to utilize these parameters and tools laid out by the United Nations.

What is the project and their goals?

The goal of the project was to create global competency opportunities through international student-led collaborations focusing on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Students met the following criteria defined by the Asia Society: 

  1. Recognize perspectives from around the globe 
  2. Communicate ideas to diverse populations
  3. Take action to design innovation solutions to global problems
  4. Investigate the world

Prior to their collaboration, 7th and 8th grade students completed a reflection rubric on their global leadership skills. The rubric included questions and scales for the four criteria from the Asia Society (above). The same students completed the survey at the mid year point and on average they moved 1.8 levels on the global leadership rubric. 

The students had the opportunity to practice recognizing perspectives from around the globe by using Skype with German students on topics such as climate change, gender equality, and sustainable economics. They communicated ideas through presentations both in Germany and within the local community. They took action through creating an interactive GIS map of indicators of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. And, most importantly they had the opportunity to investigate the world through the district’s first exchange program. 

What did they accomplish?

Students created the first part of a StoryMap on ArcGIS. Each student generated a question based on a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal. As a whole school, they collaborated with their German friends to discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and how to meet them. Most of these collaborations were done via Skype, though they had substantial collaboration while in Germany as well.  Kathryn Craven states, “It was fun to watch them all grow while working to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.”

photo of two students
Project Photo

How has this project affected the learning of students and/or teachers?

Katheryn Craven and her colleagues were thrilled and honored by how involved their whole district got in the Global Learning initiative. In addition to making progress towards the goals listed above, their major achievements for this year were: 

First International Exchange for Ashford School:

They participated in the first international exchange ever for their district. Most of their students had never been out of the country or on a plane before and grew enormously while in Germany. This exchange was life-changing for the core group of 20 students, and also reached every part of their school through virtual collaboration and exchanging ideas and solutions back and forth. See students working on their exchange here: http://ashfordabroad.weebly.com/ 

First District Wide Teacher Exchange in the state of Connecticut:

photo of teachers and students
Project Photo

While they were in Germany collaborating with other schools, they realized that teachers could also benefit from teaching abroad. They met with administrators at the German partner school and then in their home district, and came up with an idea for a reciprocal exchange in which teachers

switched classes for three weeks. Since their district is so enthusiastic about the partnership, it allowed them to use district funding for this – a sign that the relationship is going to continue for a long time! 

Schoolwide Global Learning Initiative:

All students have engaged in Skype sessions with partner classes where they talk about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, they were accepted as one of four Empathy Project schools in the United States. This means that each student in the school in grades 1-6 will have a virtual partner school in a different country. 

Collaboration on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals:

Their collaboration focused primarily on students developing solutions to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Students have worked on solutions to goals like UNSDG-13 (Climate Change) by holding a maker drive. 

What challenges did they experience and how they are addressing the challenges to improve the project?

One challenge that they faced with getting the program up and running was that some people in small towns can feel intimidated to get involved with international exchanges. In fact, prior to the proposal, their school had never had an international exchange before, and many students had never even spoken to someone from a different country. However, the support and the enthusiasm about global learning garnered by this grant helped them to overcome these problems. They used to have children who struggled to converse with anyone with an accent. But through these in-person and virtual exchanges, their students’ natural curiosity helped them overcome these challenges as they learned that people in other parts of the world have amazing stories to tell. Currently, each classroom has a virtual partnership, and they were blown away by the difference in their students when it came to talking with people from around the world. To continue their growth in this area, they would like to begin collaborations with non-Western countries so students can continue to gain different perspectives from around the world. 

Further reading

Cavity Nester Citizen Science Study: Field Biology Boosts Math and Science

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American Kestral
Photo from https://madisonaudubon.org/

In 2012, HawkWatch International (HWI) created a school-based “Cavity Nester Urban Bird Study” in partnership with the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE) in 2017. Designed to be a student-led expansion to the project, the study has allowed them to start studying all cavity-nesting birds living in urban settings.

In this project you’ll learn more about how citizen science increased student awareness related to cavity nesting species, specifically the American Kestrel, a species in decline across much of its natural range. Both the Salt Lake Center for Science Education (SLCSE) and Farmington High School participated.

What were the goals of this project?

Barn Owl from Field Journal
Barn Owl from Field Journal , Project Artifact

The goals for this project were to collect data that allowed an understanding of the
survivorship and reproductive success of the American Kestrels, and to reinforce high school math and science concepts by allowing students to gain hands-on experience in field biology. Students would complete a field journal where they would record observations, collect data, and draw conclusions. They would also present their findings at a symposium open to their peers, families, and the broader community. The journals and presentations were to be shared to draw attention to the project and its benefit to local students.

How did they approach the project goals?

This goal was achieved through several visits to each classroom, a total of eight visits — focusing on project and monitoring procedures, natural history information about American Kestrels and other cavity nesters, nest check ethics, and how to determine the age of nestlings. They brought in live birds to connect students to the natural history of raptors, as well as actual monitoring equipment for the students to become familiar with the technology used and to ensure a comfort level with the process. 

Participation in Large Scale Citizen Science

Working directly with the students and teachers in the classroom and in the field to practice and understand the necessary protocol to monitor the nest boxes, capture photos and videos of the activity in the boxes, and to enter their nest box data. Project leaders worked with students and teachers to learn how to use the technology employed to check the nest boxes and how to use the data platform, Jotform, to enter the data. And they participated in the regular monitoring of the nest boxes.

Journaling for students and lesson plans for teachers

They developed sixteen lesson plans related to both math and science, as well as a journal developed with teachers for students to keep track of their own data. The journal also included some valuable reference information about the American Kestrel and the nest box procedures.

How did they achieve their goals?

Through the project, three visits were offered to SLCSE and five visits to Farmington High School. These visits helped develop relationships with students and teachers. At each visit, they established an aspect of the project, covering the concepts of natural history of cavity nesters, procedures for the project, and practiced how to use the technology and equipment necessary for the project. This was accomplished using Powerpoint presentations and actual equipment in the classrooms. 

Additionally, they went out with the students and teachers on nest box checks to make sure they understood the process and equipment use.

What was the impact of this project?

Here is a quote from one of the participating teachers. 

“We have a student at our school who is autistic and struggles socially and academically. In an effort to provide opportunities for students of all abilities, we’ve invited this student to participate in our nest box monitoring because of his love of birds. Each week we checked the nesting boxes, and this student was required to complete all of his homework to attend because he was not actually in the statistics class. He did not miss a week. He is constantly telling me about the new information he is learning about random raptors. Just today he went out with his group to check his assigned boxes and there were some people there from Hawkwatch who were kind enough to point out some nearby raptors. His enthusiasm about birds keeps growing.” -Emma Chandler, SLCSE science teacher 

Working on this allowed educators to develop and execute an in-depth citizen science program. They often only see students for one class period and then part ways, but with this project, programs were offered for teachers and students on a regular basis throughout the semester. They were able to share their passion with them and engage students in a way wherein they started looking forward to checking boxes and developing “relationships” with the nestlings in their assigned boxes. Having the students see science careers that happen outside the lab and working directly with scientists was beneficial for students in considering higher education and career opportunities in science.

What challenges did they encounter?

Project Photo
Project Photo

They budgeted for 12 cameras for Farmington High School, but had to allocate 4 of those cameras to SLCSE due to wear and tear on the older cameras. In an effort to mitigate this challenge next time, they plan to meet with the administration of Farmington High School to encourage support for allowing the students to check boxes during school hours. They will also ensure there is a camera and set up for each group, rather than a certain number per school. 

The other challenge faced was ensuring timely and accurate data entry by the students. A greater focus was needed in emphasizing the importance of entering the data in a timely manner from the nest box checks. The same is true for the accuracy of the data entry by the students. A fair amount of time was spent by staff going back and verifying data entries with students and/or teachers. In the future, they plan to practice data form entries more diligently with the students prior to actually checking nest boxes in an effort to prevent these kinds of challenges moving forward.

Explore Citizen Science

No Benchwarmers Allowed: Student Sportswriters

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It’s pretty common to use sports as a means to get kids out of their seats and on their feet. But what if we flipped that thinking? What if there was a way to use sports as a way to engage students in writing and literature that they normally wouldn’t look at twice. That is what Jeff Mann at Belzer Middle School is trying to do with his program No Benchwarmers Allowed.

Empowered young people.

What is the project and their goals?

 No Benchwarmers Allowed is a unique, hands on literacy project that will connect middle school students’ love of sports to reading and writing. This project will create two key components that no middle school has ever offered:

  1. Create the first nationally available sports magazine written entirely by middle school students,
  2. Create and offer the first middle school language arts class that will teach the traditional standards in a non-traditional and engaging way using sports literature and sports writing.

In short, sports will be “the bait” that lures students to becoming better readers and writers. What’s exciting about this project is Jeff’s clear knowledge of his students interests and passions, and how he planned on using a near universal love of sports to get them excited about reading.

What did they accomplish?

In August, the sports class was created and put into place. Once established, the planning for the curriculum was ongoing throughout the year. Meanwhile, the writing and reading for the course was adjusted to not only fit the students interests but also to help have completed writings from which to select for the magazine.

According to Jeff, the students displayed a clear interest in writing and reading more than they would have in other traditional language arts classes.

Students began submitting pieces from about October and they concluded the writing portion at the end of March. This left April for selection, editing, ideas, and publication of the journal.  The journal was a big success, despite some timing hiccups that prevented publishing by the original date. But they were distributed by the principal throughout the school and a number of other educators were asking about how they could get involved.

In the end No Benchwarmers Allowed made students work harder than they thought they were going to have to, the writing took much more time than any of them anticipated, and the final product came out much better that they’d had hoped.

What challenges did they come up against?

 While most students took a sports centered approach, there were still some outliers and the teachers needed to make adjustments to keep those students engaged as well.

Some of the larger challenges dealt with the publishing of the sports magazine, but with the premier issue out, and now armed with the knowledge of how it works timing wise – they ae much better prepared to tackle this in the new year.

Another idea for improvement would be to bring in more professional sports writers in order to demonstrate how a love of sports and a love of the written word can find a great synthesis between the two. Hopefully, this exciting program will continue to turn out great products in the form on their magazine as well as to keep the students plugged into books.

Further Reading

Quest for STEM

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Marian Girls hard at work at the Clavius Project Robotics Jamboree (Project Photo)
Marian Girls hard at work at the Clavius Project Robotics Jamboree (Project Photo)

There are a lot of gatekeepers in this world, barring women from careers, hobbies, and involvement in popular culture. And this year is, for many reasons, been called the year of the woman. So, what better time to focus on getting our girls plugged into fields of interest that have been traditionally closed off to them by these arbitrary, and mostly unwritten, rules. This is what the Quest/STEM program at Marian Middle School is all about.  Marian Middle School is an all girls school, so what better place to put this pilot program into practice.

Goal

In order to understand the things they’ve accomplished, we need to understand what their stated goal was when conceiving the program. The goal was to get Marian Girls to be workforce ready critical thinkers, creative problem solvers with the skills to be highly employable in STEM careers. But even simple goals often require multi-pronged approaches as there is no one avenue into the myriad of career possibilities in the STEM field.

Marian Girls in STEM Lab Class (Project Photo)

What did they accomplish?

Broken down into a three-pronged approach, the educators focused on the following:

  • Learning through project- and inquiry-based learning and the Engineering Design Process
    • “Through their STEM Quest classes this year, students were given a choice in the projects they wanted to take on based on their interests and passions. Some projects that were undertaken included rebuilding two motorized scooters, creating original video games, developing animal-friendly beauty products, designing a school prayer garden, and building a virtual school tour for the school’s website, among other projects. All projects were real-world tasks requiring students to research, plan, design, build, and evaluate. They applied learning from their traditional courses to create original work. Working with peers through the design process challenged students to think creatively, to work collaboratively, and to continuously evaluate their work to improve their product. Though it can be difficult for adults and middle school students alike, through this process Marian students are building a myriad of skills that make them highly employable for internships, positions, and opportunities available to them at their age and on which they can grow in the future.”
  • Increasing interest in STEM careers
    • By using a simple survey to collect data from students regarding their top three career interests they were able to categorize these careers, identifying those with a STEM focus. Year after year, comparisons are made and trend lines are established as each class moves from fifth grade through eighth grade. Students who named a STEM related career in one of their top career choices this school year include:
      • 13/15 5th graders (87%)
      • 15/17 6th graders (88%)
      • 16/17 7th graders (94%)
      • 17/17 8th graders (100%)
        • Overall Total — 92%
      • Through their STEM classes and Marian programming, they have been exposed to professional careers they may not have previously considered. As a result, the range of occupational interest’s students are considering for their futures is as impressive as it is diverse. Careers of interest from the survey include music producer, veterinarian, architect, marine biologist, computer engineer, paramedic, farmer, pediatrician, plastic surgeon, photographer, zoologist, neurosurgeon, cardiac surgeon, entrepreneur, obstetrician/gynecologist, film editor, forensic psychologist, federal agent nuclearmaterial courier, nurse, and occupational therapist, among others!
    • Making statistically significant gains on STEM areas of standardized tests.
      • Marian students took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in September 2017 which includes Science and Math components. 72% of eighth grade students made significant gains in math and 67% made significant gains in science as compared to previous scores. The small sample size makes 1 or 2 outliers significant. All sixth and seventh graders made significant gains in math. Science averages of our student body increased in 5 of the 6 domains tested. Student averages in 4 of the 6 domains are now above the national average as compared to only 1 above the national average last year.

A couple of exciting projects

One of the more exciting projects is the Prayer Garden.  Students performed research on prayer gardens, as well as a number of other themed types.  By assessing the needs and space available to them they were able to identify the elements they would propose.  After a presentation, complete with visual aids, to the principal they were given the go ahead to purchase supplies and begin construction.

The other project is the Animal-Friendly Beauty Products.  By researching practices that impact animals and products that already exist they planned, budgeted, purchased and actually made some products including animal-friendly nail cuticle oil.

In order to evaluate the success of the products, they created a survey that was distributed with the products to solicit feedback They subsequently revamped their products based on feedback for redistribution.

Not only that, but 19 Marian Girls competed in the Clavius Project Robotics Jamboree at St. Louis University High School in January. Out of 27 participating schools, Marian students won the first-place platinum award, and on top of that, were also awarded the Leadership with Distinction Award for their evident teamwork, persistence, and problem-solving skills.

And an even more unique feather for this projects cap: An article was written on the National Nuclear Security Administration website about one of their 7th grade student’s curiosity in becoming a Nuclear Material Courier! This is a testament to the students’ increased interest in many different STEM related careers!

What are some of the challenges they faced?

Lab experiment in our new STEM Makerspace (Project Photo)
Lab experiment in our new STEM Makerspace (Project Photo)

As exciting and successful as this project has been – it is not without challenges.

They’ve tried to be proactive about revising the programming and goals based on student interest, progress, and feedback.  One difficulty they faced was the length of time students need to complete a project and how difficult it is to determine at the outset. They plan to figure out how to include more flexibility in scheduling. Additionally, timing is important in the optimal utilization of workshop space and sharing of available technology to meet everyone’s needs.  Ideally, they could more regularly engage community experts in STEM fields as facilitators and instructors for the students.  However, school hours are also work hours, which makes optimal engagement difficult.

These challenges aside, they have made great strides in accomplishing their goals and we at the McCarthy Dressman Education Foundation are excited to see how this project progresses.

 

 

 

Girls Quest for STEM

Posted on Updated on

There are a many gatekeepers in this world, barring women from careers, hobbies, and involvement in popular culture. And this year is, for many reasons, been called the year of the woman. So, what better time to focus on getting our girls plugged into fields of interest that have been traditionally closed off to them by these arbitrary, and mostly unwritten, rules. This is what the Quest/STEM program at Marian Middle School is all about.  Marian Middle School is an all girls school, so what better place to put this pilot program into practice.

Their stated goal.

In order to understand what they have accomplished, we need to understand what their stated goal was when conceiving the program. The goal was to get Marian girls to be workforce ready critical thinkers, creative problem solvers with the skills to be highly employable in STEM careers. But even simple goals often require multi-pronged approaches as there is no one avenue into the myriad of career possibilities in the STEM field.

What did they accomplish?

Broken down into a three-pronged approach, the educators focused on the following:

  • Learning through project- and inquiry-based learning and the Engineering Design Process
    • “Through their STEM Quest classes this year, students were given a choice in the projects they wanted to take on based on their interests and passions. Some projects that were undertaken included rebuilding two motorized scooters, creating original video games, developing animal-friendly beauty products, designing a school prayer garden, and building a virtual school tour for the school’s website, among other projects. All projects were real-world tasks requiring students to research, plan, design, build, and evaluate. They applied learning from their traditional courses to create original work. Working with peers through the design process challenged students to think creatively, to work collaboratively, and to continuously evaluate their work to improve their product. Though it can be difficult for adults and middle school students alike, through this process Marian students are building a myriad of skills that make them highly employable for internships, positions, and opportunities available to them at their age and on which they can grow in the future.”
  • Increasing interest in STEM careers
    • By using a simple survey to collect data from students regarding their top three career interests they were able to categorize these careers, identifying those with a STEM focus. Year after year, comparisons are made and trend lines are established as each class moves from fifth grade through eighth grade. Students who named a STEM related career in one of their top career choices this school year include:
      • 13/15 5th graders (87%)
      • 15/17 6th graders (88%)
      • 16/17 7th graders (94%)
      • 17/17 8th graders (100%)
        • Overall Total – 92%
      • Through their STEM classes and Marian programming, they have been exposed to professional careers they may not have previously considered. As a result, the range of occupational interest’s students are considering for their futures is as impressive as it is diverse. Careers of interest from the survey include music producer, veterinarian, architect, marine biologist, computer engineer, paramedic, farmer, pediatrician, plastic surgeon, photographer, zoologist, neurosurgeon, cardiac surgeon, entrepreneur, obstetrician/gynecologist, film editor, forensic psychologist, federal agent nuclearmaterial courier, nurse, and occupational therapist, among others!
    • Making statistically significant gains on STEM areas of standardized tests.
      • Marian students took the Iowa Test of Basic Skills in September 2017 which includes Science and Math components. Seventy two percent of eighth grade students made significant gains in math and 67% made significant gains in science as compared to previous scores. The small sample size makes 1 or 2 outliers significant. All sixth and seventh graders made significant gains in math. Science averages of our student body increased in 5 of the 6 domains tested. Student averages in 4 of the 6 domains are now above the national average as compared to only 1 above the national average last year.

A couple of exciting projects.

One of the more exciting projects is the Prayer Garden.  Students performed research on prayer gardens, as well as a number of other themed types.  By assessing the needs and space available to them they were able to identify the elements they would propose.  After a presentation, complete with visual aids, to the principal they were given the go ahead to purchase supplies and begin construction.

The other project is the Animal-Friendly Beauty Products.  By researching practices that impact animals and products that already exist they planned, budgeted, purchased and actually made some products including animal-friendly nail cuticle oil.

In order to evaluate the success of the products, they created a survey that was distributed with the products to solicit feedback They subsequently revamped their products based on feedback for redistribution.

Not only that, but 19 Marian Girls competed in the Clavius Project Robotics Jamboree at St. Louis University High School in January. Out of 27 participating schools, Marian students won the first-place platinum award, and on top of that, were also awarded the Leadership with Distinction Award for their evident teamwork, persistence, and problem-solving skills. And an even more unique feather for this projects cap: An article was written on the National Nuclear Security Administration website about one of their 7th grade student’s curiosity in becoming a Nuclear Material Courier! This is a testament to the students’ increased interest in many different STEM related careers!

What are some of the challenges they faced?

As exciting and successful as this project has been – it is not without challenges. They’ve tried to be proactive about revising the programming and goals based on student interest, progress, and feedback.  One difficulty they faced was the length of time students needed to complete a project and how difficult it is to determine at the outset. They plan to figure out how to include more flexibility in scheduling. Additionally, timing is important in the optimal utilization of workshop space and sharing of available technology to meet everyone’s needs.  Ideally, they could more regularly engage community experts in STEM fields as mentors, facilitators and/or instructors for the students.  However, school hours are also work hours, which makes optimal engagement difficult.

These challenges aside, they have made great strides in accomplishing their goals and we at the McCarthy Dressman Education Foundation are excited to see how this project progresses.

Further Reading

·      Girls in STEM: Answering the Call for STEM Skills in Our Global Workforce

·      10 Ways to Prepare Our Daughters for STEM Careers | NetApp Blog

·      Preparing K-12 Students for Future STEM Careers – The Tech Edvocate

·      Starting Early: How to Address the Lack of Female Engagement in STEM at School