2nd Grade Startups with a Global Impact: A Pay it Forward Project

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iPad Based Business Project Benefits Children in Africa

It is far too often that education simply consists of students taking in and regurgitating information, which does little but display retention skills.  What is oft overlooked is how each student is developing as a person.  So what if you could tie school work and kindness together in a way that teaches 21st century skills?  That’s what the educators at St. Vincent’s Catholic  School in Salt Lake City are doing.  Their Pay it Forward project aims to both educate students about venture capitalism while also tuning up their social conscience by letting needy students in Africa be the beneficiaries of their profits.

St. Vincent de Paul students multiply their blessings - Photo from Intermountain Catholic
St. Vincent de Paul students multiply their blessings – Photo from Intermountain Catholic

How does Pay it Forward work?

The idea is exceedingly simple.  At the start of Spring 2010, educator Rhea Hristou, project creator, gave each of her second graders five dollars.

“The children were asked to use that $5.00 as “seed” money to begin [their own startup] – some type of business venture that will turn the $5 into at least $15.00. Over one month, they could use the money for ingredients for cookies or lemonade for a food stand, posters for a garage sale, beads for jewelry to make and sell, or whatever they choose. At the end of that month, students do a presentation displaying their venture.”

Hristou then assisted the students in taking the profits and using them to gain entry for three children in Africa to a school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame Mission in Uganda.  Pretty cool, right? The project doesn’t stop there.

Integrating iPads

Hristou also requested ten iPads for technology center in her classroom to allow her students greater access to information about the children they were benefitting. Describing the benefit of these devices, she noted how many learning opportunities arose: “…apps to learn about the geography, cultures of Africa, a newspaper app to look up African current events, Math apps to help with funding and money collection, tools like Skype or email to communicate with the children in Uganda, and use presentation apps to help students present their ideas to the class.” The class based set of iPads were made available not only to the second grade, but also after school for other projects.

How can you replicate this program?

While ten iPads may seem like an expensive purchase for a school, they were lucky to find an independent donor to match five iPads if they were able to come up with the remainder. Remember, iPads aren’t necessary to begin teaching your students about business while also filling them with a social conscience.  Using resources like those available through Pay it Forward Day, the charity chosen could be anywhere in the world.

When students know that they are making a tangible difference in their world, it fills students with a sense of pride while also bolstering their motivation to succeed at their task.  If real lives are being affected, then the effort must be greater.  An important lesson for any student.

This project started in 2010, so where are they now?

Student created startups were varied and ran the gamut from dog walking to making and selling pot holders to bake sales but the results were astounding!  While only aiming to make a ten dollar profit on each student, Hristou was filled with pride to receive back an average of sixty five dollars a student. The iPads also were a hit, both for the teachers and the students. It allowed them unprecedented access to their African counterparts, while also providing tools and resources that expanded and shaped their world view.

The “Pay It Forward” model is an obvious success.  Educating students while also giving them a more worldly view of their planet and filling them with a social conscience.  In an increasingly globalized world these skills cannot be emphasized enough. For more information on the ideas in this project, please visit the websites below.

Further Reading:

 

Lesson Study: Improving Science at Willow Field Elementary School

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Students investigating how the liquids move and change in bottles as they roll down a clipboard ramp. A data collector and teacher Sue Osborne (blue shirt) watches the students' reactions.
Students investigating how the liquids move and change in bottles as they roll down a clipboard ramp. A data collector and teacher Sue Osborne (blue shirt) watches the students’ reactions. Microphones connected to iPods are used to record students’ discussions and utterances.

One of the biggest factors in positively impacting student learning is teacher’s self efficacy and skill in communicating quality instruction.  If you aren’t a natural communicator, this isn’t the easiest skill set to develop. With an increased emphasis placed on ELA (English Language Arts) and mathematics instruction at the elementary level, science instruction seems to have fallen through the cracks.  The teachers at Willow Field Elementary in Liverpool, NY have developed a proposal to address that very issue.  How do they plan on doing this?  Through “Lesson Study.”

What is lesson study?

It’s also known as kenkyu jugyo in Japan, where the technique was developed. It’s focus is on teacher collaboration to discuss learning goals and planning actual classroom lessons.  This is followed by observation and revision so that other teachers can benefit from it. According to their original proposal, a lesson study cycle begins with a team of educators who determine the content on which they want to focus for the purpose of preparing a research lesson. In this case, it is with a focus on science education, though the model can be adapted to fit any subject.

Graphic from National Teacher Enquiry Network's What is Lesson Study?
Graphic from National Teacher Enquiry Network’s What is Lesson Study?

How does the project work?

The project team meets regularly to study and discuss the national, state and local standards and reviews educational research regarding the content. In Willow Field Elementary’s case, they’ve been studying the new National Framework for Science Teaching, recent journal articles from the field of elementary science education and consulting with the Department of Science Teaching at Syracuse University to become more knowledgeable in elementary science content and teaching practices. Using what they’ve learned, they will collaboratively write a lesson plan, which will be taught to a group of students while at the same time having the lesson video taped for further discussion. All of this is done with the end goal of improving instruction.  How specifically? By starting to teach more science than in the past, teachers gain comfort and improve teaching effectiveness. When combined with studying the national framework, research literature, and the data they have collected about student’s learning process and outcomes, teachers can more easily pass on what they have learned to other professionals.

What did the teachers study?

Three questions, specifically, are guiding teacher learning in this project.

  1. How do we design science instruction that makes students’ thinking visible?
  2. How can we meet our students’ needs and simultaneously address the new science framework?
  3. How will evidence of students’ learning be used to help us revise our original lesson?

How did they find the time?

Because lesson study requires teachers have time to plan, observe and reflect with each other, scheduling is difficult. With the logistical challenges inherent in this model, they have certainly faced an uphill battle.  Gearing up in August was required; team members needed time to plan. The project went into full swing of September 2012 with nine elementary school teachers and a building principal meeting a Syracuse University doctoral student and science education professor to discuss the overview of the Lesson Study process to those new to the method.  Shortly after, they met to determine their over all research focus.

Their goals:

  1. Students will be problem-solvers.
  2. Students will be inventive, creative and curious.
  3. Students will be risk-takers.

To help focus their efforts, teachers broke into three smaller teams, each dedicated to a grade and content specific focus.

  • 2nd Grade Science- Understanding the Specifics Matter (two second grade teachers, doctoral student)
  • 4th/5th Grade Science- The Force of Magnetism (two 4th Grade and one 5th Grade teacher)
  • 6th Grade Art – Observational Drawing to Support Sketching in Science Notebooks (two Art teachers, one 6th Grade and one 3rd Grade teacher)

Once the teams were in motion, they could follow the traditional model for the next semester. So after a year and a half of the program, how is lesson study impacting the students and teachers of Willow Field Elementary?

Students observing the properites of a liquid in bottles before investigating them as a data collector looks on.
Students observing the properties of a liquid in bottles before investigating them as a data collector looks on.

Impacting teachers, students, and administrators

With time, support and resources for lesson study, what were the teachers of Willow Field Elementary able to achieve?

  • Teacher participants gained further pedagogical content knowledge with regard to science content knowledge, observational drawing and uses in science and, constructivist methods of teaching elementary science (versus direct instruction)
  • Teacher participants expressed increased self-efficacy and confidence
  • Students gained experience collecting data
  • Students benefited from the many revisions to the lesson during the lesson study cycle
  • Students engaged in authentic scientific experimentation
  • Students gained content knowledge
  • Students who volunteered on the Professional Development Day had the benefit of seeing their teachers as learners.  They also experienced pride in playing a role in their teachers’ professional development.

In their project update, members wrote “Our lesson study team garnered increased support from the district administrators.” Seeing the model in action “allowed them to recognize the benefits of lesson study as an authentic model of professional development.”

Teachers debrief after a second grade lesson study..
Teachers debrief after a second grade lesson study.

How could the project be improved?

With all of the positive outcomes, members reflected on ways to improve on their experience. They found it especially challenging to differentiate lesson study for the experienced and novice participants, though in future iterations this problem may simply solve itself through teacher collaboration.  Scheduling and logistics, as always, was a nightmare.  But the biggest problem they faced was that the current school structures do not support lesson study mechanisms. In order to widely adopt this model for nationwide consumption, a massive overhaul of our education system would be needed.  However, for the individual school this method can prove invaluable in improving teaching and communication skills thus facilitating improved learning.

Further Reading

Schools in the News using Lesson Study

Project Go! Lab Classrooms offer job-embedded professional development

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"We are changing the way we provide professional development for teachers by making sure the work is being done in real classrooms, with real students, and in real time."

One of the problems facing educators today is the lack of time for personal and professional development. With overcrowded classrooms and heavy course loads it has become very difficult for many teachers to hone their craft or improve their teaching skills.  This is a problem the teachers surrounding Project Go! at Rowe Middle School in Portland, Oregon are trying to address. Their strategy? Take a proactive approach to change, by improving and sharing their teaching craft through lab classrooms. Project Go! involves an ongoing series of lab classes, opening classroom doors to coaching in the midst of teaching.  With classes often at capacity and teachers being forced to take their own, limited, time for professional development this project takes bold steps toward teacher development.

How does it work?

The first step Project Go! has taken to ensure teachers and educators have the time for professional development is to write half day substitutes into the budget.  That way a teacher isn’t required to come in on an evening or weekend and they can rest assured that some one is teaching their students. With this half day, the teachers are given the opportunity to participate in teaching labs.  Teachers participate in a preliminary meeting, lab site learning and debrief. With teachers being given opportunities to participate in these half-day labs, Project Go! supports their goal that “every educator engages in effective professional learning everyday so every student achieves.” Instructional practices, behavior management techniques, and pacing are all things to be discussed and deconstructed for the benefit of the educator. When paired with ongoing assessments, the teachers quickly find themselves with more education resources at their fingertips.

Teachers need learning structures that empower them professionally and enable them to collaborate with colleagues. (2010, ASCD)

So what do these labs look like? 

Each lab takes a half day: an hour for a pre-briefing/discussion of what will be seen, the actual teaching, and the debrief to name and discuss what was seen, analyze the teacher choices and the student engagement.  This model integrates the professional learning along with the learning of their students who will be gleaning the direct benefits of their teacher’s professional development.  Not only that, the students will get to observe the review process where the teachers discuss with each other on their progress as teachers, and at the same time giving the students a better understanding of the tools and methods that will be utilized in the future.

How is this program unique from other professional development or peer review proposals?

Project Go! supports the newest teachers in the profession, setting the environment of a school in which doors are open, risks are taken, feedback is honest and immediate change is an ongoing reality. Mid-career teachers, who have often gotten used to being the only adult in the room, will find it energizing, intellectually stimulating and welcoming to either share their practice or participate by watching and dialoguing about a colleagues craft. Veteran teachers are equally invited into an invigorating opportunity for growth; many veteran teachers have so much to teach our newer teachers but have no means in which to do so. By facilitating the purposeful opening of the teaching practice Project Go! provides a time and place for teachers to participate without hamstringing them by adding extra workload.

What has been learned in the three years this project has been operating?

According to their report, the program has had a significant affect on teacher learning and therefore on student learning.

“We are changing the way we provide professional development for teachers by making sure the work is being done in real classrooms, with real students, and in real time.  This models the metacognitive processes that teachers go through as they plan, teach, and reflect.  A pleasant and meaningful surprise that has manifested itself throughout the past three years has been our students observing and learning from our metacognition. Students share how much they learn from listening to the teachers dialogue with one another. They give us insight into what is helpful/not helpful in the process of teaching new information.”

That being said, they have not been without their challenges.  Scheduling labs around different teachers classroom schedules has proven more difficult than anticipated.  The educators also have some worry over the sustainability of the project, due to the sub coverage. This lead them to reach out to Portland State University and form a partnership with the goal of identifying new strategies for sustaining this model. Though new strategies will take time to implement, teachers are encouraged by the practice of learning from colleagues in action.

All in all the teachers of Rowe Middle School have taken a very proactive approach to improving their craft and educational standards.  Through collaboration and evaluation, these teachers have seen improvements in both their educator peers and students.  With budgets growing ever tighter, this may be a difficult model for other schools to follow, but the rewards are clear.  Any school wanting to create an environment of professional cross-pollination, where teachers are working with teachers and students gain the benefit should look into building a Project Go! of their own.

Related links

Deadline for 2014/2015 Funding Is April 15; $10,000 Grants and $6,000 Scholarships Available

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Student teacher with class.
The Foundation sponsors proposals that enhance student learning and educational quality, paying particular attention to those that best serve the at-risk and under-funded.

Professor Sarah J. McCarthey, President of the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation, announced that the Foundation is now accepting applications for 2014/2015 academic year grants and scholarships. Deadline for applications is April 15, 2014.

For the 2013-2014 school year, the Foundation disbursed over $141,000 to efforts supporting minority and economically disadvantaged students. Funding was disseminated through grants and scholarships to innovative enrichment programs. McCarthey noted that successful projects are “outstanding in their conceptual sophistication, their real-world significance and their collaborative focus… help[ing] students achieve Common Core Standards, but also go[ing] beyond the standards to develop innovative contributions to their communities” (PRWEB, 2013). Examples of successful projects can be found on the Foundation’s blog including the service learning program for teens at the Center for Family and Community Outreach (CFCO) in Evansville, Indiana and Microfinance in Action, a global citizenship project designed to build leadership skills and teach economics in Memphis, Tennesee.

Student Teaching/Mentoring Scholarships are funded in the amount of $6,000 each Full-time student specializing in elementary or secondary education who are in their final year of teacher education programs at New Mexico State University, University of California at Santa Cruz, University of Texas at Austin and Stephen F. Austin State University are eligible to apply for the one-year Student Teaching Scholarships.

Teacher Development Grants and Academic Enrichment Grants are funded in an amount up to $10,000 each per year for a maximum of three years provided the eligibility requirements continue to be met.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to review frequently asked questions before applying.

The Foundation receives hundreds of applications each academic year funding from public, private and charter schools in both urban and rural areas. Including the projects mentioned above, the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation funded 22 enrichment efforts for the 2013-2014 school year. Recipients include the New York Urban Debate League and The Water Quality Project. The application deadline is April 15 of each year for proposals with significant potential to enrich the educational experiences for youth.

CFCO: Service Learning Builds 21st Century Skills, Engages Teens

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Connecting lessons learned in classrooms to real world applications is one of the great challenges in teaching.  Teachers and administrators at Harrison High School in Evansville, Indiana have come up with an innovative new classroom model to address that challenge.

What is the CFCO?

They have created the Center for Family and Community Outreach (CFCO), which aims to use student skills (built around academic content) to create documents, multimedia, events, presentations, and more for over twenty non-profit organizations in their community.

Educators are able to connect students with members of the non-profit community, creating a symbiotic relationship wherein the student gains valuable real-life skills and the non-profits get a free service.  Not only is it easier to engage teenage minds directly if they feel a sense of involvement and contribution towards the betterment of their community, it also helps teens build invaluable skills for the transition into their adult lives.

How can service learning support non-profits and drive engagement for learners?

There are many service learning projects around the country, but few, if any, that drives content in the classroom around producing products for non-profits. The CFCO model has elements of numerous trends in education, such as:

Students enrolled in the program also volunteered at the Evansville Rescue Mission to fill Thanksgiving Food Baskets.
Students enrolled in the program also volunteered at the Evansville Rescue Mission to fill Thanksgiving Food Baskets.
  • project-based learning
  • student-centered learning
  • and new technology,

but is truly innovative for the level of engagement it produces for students.

Poster to recruit CFCO students.
Students are engaged, build real world skills and earn credit.

This program has seven distinct goals.

  1. Research the non-profit groups and social issues in students’ communities.
  2. Hold ‘Round Table’ discussions with local experts on special topic issues using the latest online literature and information.
  3. Tour the non-profit facilities and volunteer with local organizations and events.
  4. Collaborate with leaders on project ideas and write formal proposals
  5. Use project based learning and technology to design and create materials
  6. “Pitch” their ideas through benchmarks and final presentations
  7. Openly communicate with the community through blogging and video reflections.

Importance of Community Support

Students are immersed in the tangible application of skills from the classroom, and since students know what they are doing will have a real impact on their community, it is readily apparent how seriously they take it. The program has relied on a tremendous amount of community support and is currently in it’s third year of operation.  Fortunately they continue to draw in new non-profit partners based on the satisfaction of their initial partners and publicity the projects have generated for the mission of non-profits in Evansville.

What is the impact?

So where are the teachers and students of Harrison High School now, a year into the program?  Reports have come back with very positive results, including:

  • Students have a sense of ownership and engagement in their work as well as their community.
  • Non-profit data shows that the community’s organizations have much higher perception of the schools and teens’ abilities after working with the CFCO.

Moving forward they plan on moving the program to a half day model, to increase student exposure, as well as continuing to nurture community involvement and contribution.

Comments from participants.
Comments from participants.

With such an easily adaptable model, educators around the country should be looking to Evansville, and Harrison High School in particular.  How they proceed could very well dictate how dozens of similar programs pop up in the future.  Community involvement and concrete links between lessons learned in the classroom and real world applications are key in both advancing education as well as building a student body that is invested in the present and future of their community.  While the saying “It takes a village to raise a child,” has been politicized as of late, I think we can all agree that fostering a child’s investment and involvement in his or her village can only lead to positive results.

For more information

Opening Classrooms with Teacher-Led Learning Communities

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Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie
Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning by John Hattie

As we wrote earlier this year, “Among the many challenges facing us in education one of our most formidable foes is the comprehension gap, across all content areas, between students of low socioeconomic status and those of high socioeconomic status.” The multi-year project Opening Classrooms to Close the Knowledge Gap‘s goal was to enhance students’ ability to develop literacy across the diverse content areas.  In the first post, we shared how teachers at School for the Future in New York City had addressed students’ ability to work autonomously through Peer Assistance and Review seminars that took place after school.

In this post, we’ll look at how the project worked to build a school wide culture of Teacher-Led Professional Learning Communities.

A professional study group around lesson analysis

To support the goal of building this teacher-led culture, School for the Future teachers engaged in a professional study group around a shared text, John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers.  This book challenged their thinking and pushed the teachers into incorporating many of the exercises into their own coursework.  A specific example from the book gave instructors a simple three-step process to analyze their own lessons by looking specifically at the learning intentions.

  1. What is the outcome I am tracking progress toward?
  2. How do I track progress toward that outcome?
  3. How do students track progress toward that outcome?

In establishing the learning intentions the teachers looked at two things; skills necessary for participation in a democratic society and skills necessary for success in secondary and post secondary school.

Improving feedback on persuasive writing

What did teachers choose to focus on?  Persuasive writing.

“We were intrigued by all of the different ways that we could offer feedback to our students,” shared Anna Casteen and HB Bruno (9th grade Inclusion Teacher and 9th grade Science Teacher) in their video presentation.
“We were intrigued by all of the different ways that we could offer feedback to our students,” shared Anna Casteen and HB Bruno (9th grade Inclusion Teacher and 9th grade Science Teacher) in their video presentation.

Although the teachers understood the need to zero in on writing performance, the students were somewhat harder to reach.   To assist, teachers established another simple method of tracking student progress that included a common rubric that was used on every persuasive writing task and an online grading platform accessible to students, teachers, and parents.

Every participant teacher constructed a video that encapsulated how participating in the study group enhanced their professional practice.  During the first year, only 11th and 12th grade teachers participated while in the second year it was expanded to include 9th and 10th grade teachers.

After the first year each of the participating instructors constructed a video encapsulating what they gained from participation and how the study group improved their professional practice. In this example, Scott Chesler, Inclusion Teacher, explains the impact of the teacher led professional development community.

In the videos teachers spoke how the group led them to alter how they gave feedback to students, leading the students to get to know more about themselves as writers. Teachers noted in their annual report that they are attempting this change from the bottom up rather than the top down.  For example, teachers like Stephanie Van Duinen (9th grade social studies) asked students for feedback about the course and then analyzed the information. When she learned that a signifigant group of students needed more feedback, she worked with her professional learning community members to form an action plan for providing “in the moment feedback” so that students could use the information to improve their work as soon as possible.

This was a highly rewarding experience as it forced me to reexamine my beliefs about my own personal practice and think not so much about my methods of teaching but about their effectiveness.

-Stephanie Van Duinen, 9th Grade Social Studies Teacher
School of the Future, Manhatten, NY

One teacher reported that the course helped him realize that student expectations have a high effect on performance so he reimagined his course to track individual student goals, regularly meeting with the students as he coached them forward. Jessica Candlin, 11th Grade English Teacher, presented how she used commenting features in Google Docs to support enhanced feedback for student writing in the slides below.

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Teacher-led collaboration creates powerful connections

Although there was a certain amount of trepidation when new teachers were introduced into the program during the second year, the collaboration ultimately led to powerful connections between  educators. Teachers reported they could have started earlier in the year to complete the project.  While it seemed like March would be an ideal start time, as most teachers have “settled” into their schedules, it made it difficult for them to get their video materials together in time for the deadline. In the future, the teacher led professional learning community will be able to draw on the important learning experiences from this project and continue making an impact on student literacy.

Learn more

Explore the following articles about teacher-led learning communities to learn more.

Minority and economically disadvantaged students benefit from unique enrichment programs

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[Our] projects are outstanding in their conceptual sophistication, their real-world significance and their collaborative focus. Our newly funded projects help students achieve Common Core Standards, but also go beyond the standards to develop innovative contributions to their communities.”

-Sarah J. McCarthey, President
McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation