Teacher Development Grant 2020-2021 Project Summary
DeKalb Middle School • DeKalb, TX
In education, many times students have stated, “Why do I have to learn this? Where will I ever use this in real life? How is this applicable to my life?” In many instances, students struggle to make real-life connections to the conventional pencil and paper method of classroom teaching. In consideration of 21st-century students, it is important that educators strive to provide authentic, novel, and updated instructional practices that individualize the needs of students living within the modern realm of education. Just like modern technology, games, and cellular devices, it is evident that students crave hands-on, interactive, and engaging experiences that are relevant, spark curiosity, and lead to inquiry-based understanding. When it comes to the project, Inside Out: Linking Experiential Learning Within Classroom Science to the Real World, the science department at DeKalb Middle School is dedicated to changing the conventional classroom practices of pushing paperwork, sitting silent, and learning about the universe in a confined space by literally opening the doors, changing the classroom environment, and developing an outside, farm-based classroom where students can truly discover how the world revolves. While seeking to provide immediate, physical applications to questions pertaining to why, where, and how, the DeKalb Middle School science department is going to utilize peer-collaboration, best practices, and groundbreaking inquiry-based research to foster higher-order thinking, develop critical-thinking skills, and implement life-applicable knowledge in a way that monumentally impacts the way that all teachers teach and all students learn. While collaborating as a team, the participating teachers will utilize elements of experiential learning in an outside, farm-based classroom to design aligned curriculum, implement life-applicable lesson plans, develop a system of curriculum reflection, and modify instructional practices based off of peer experience, feedback, and student learning outcomes. As guiding principles, the science department will focus on: 1. Comparing textbook science curriculum to its real-life counterparts 2. Utilizing inside manipulatives that correlate to outside life-applications 3. Exploring how all facets of life can be connected by applying where and how to answer why 4. Incorporating instructional practices that unite the community, staff, and students 5. Developing systems of financial self-sufficiency in relation to natural science, farming, and gardening In terms of professional development, the teachers will gain the subject-specific insight and knowledge by establishing an experienced advisory committee composed of project-specific experts and career professionals. With the assistance of field-specific specialists at colleges such as Texas A&M University – Texarkana, the curriculum design process will be created by combining input from multiple sources of knowledge. Ultimately, aside from significantly impacting the lives of students, the support from the McCarthey Dressman Education Foundation will assist DeKalb Middle School in developing an interactive outdoor system of instruction that will allow educators from all around the world to witness the project’s implementation process. By utilizing weekly interactive video reflections, live stream software, and public discussion forums, the development of an Inside Out classroom will open the discussion to what truly makes a lasting impact in the lives of students from all spectrums of life.
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