Innovative Learning Part 1
District 56 tackles real-world workplace.
Part 1 of 3 articles
Applying learning to the real world, it has been a staple of high school education for many years. Now, District 56 educators are finding, by high school, it might be too late to make real progress in adapting students to today’s ever-changing workplace. It starts – they believe – in elementary school.
Real-world applications, collaboration, the “new language” of computer coding, the ability and willingness to become bi-lingual – all these are prized by modern employers, who have the options of sending their workers anywhere in the world. Have these skills, and you can write your ticket to almost any job. “We are envisioning Spanish in elementary schools,” said Brenda Schrantz, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. “In our world, our children need to be bi-lingual.”
Go to almost any college, and you find students there who already are. Just last week, Presbyterian College staged its annual International Day – all students showing their cultures speak more than one language. Their native tongue, of course, and English, the “universal” language.
These are the young people our American liberal-arts college and technical college graduates will compete with in the workplace.
Schrantz and Josie Kate Haupfear, director of federal programs, are leading the charge to find money and expertise to bring the District 56 faculty into new methods of instruction. Clinton Elementary has become the district’s first STEM elementary school. Joanna Woodson has a learning lab that looks like a spaceship. “We want our students to exceed grade level,” Schrantz said.
“We want to meet and exceed grade level and implement higher level thinking skills – real-world applications. The jobs that are here now will not be what they will see. We have started the process with Project Lead the Way, implementing STEM classes and computer coding. In kindergarten, state standards say we will introduce computer science and there are standards in K – 12. It’s a new language, and our students need hands-on experience and problem solving.”
STEM (Science, technology, engineering and math) is the focus at Clinton Elementary. Also, it evolves into STEAM (add arts) through the collaboration of teachers Ami Vaughn and Anne Lane. Last year, CES brought in Mission to Mars and was gifted a floor-map of the moon for space travel lessons. Next year, Eastside Elementary will unveil its core instruction – “each school will have its own highlight,” Schrantz said - It is an exciting time for schools.”
The State Reports Cards came out yesterday (Oct. 1), and Schrantz says the district is looking forward to assessing how the state says the local schools are doing. “We are teaching no longer at the basic level,” she said. But, for those students who need basic level, there is remediation and differentiated instruction.
At Joanna Woodson, the Acellus Lab has tables and stools in a spaceship-type environment to offer all-inclusive education. District 56 instructors trained on the lab last month and welcomed in colleagues from Greenwood District 50. Acellus STEM-10 is “empowering today’s students to be tomorrow’s innovators,” a facts sheet says. It is a 10-year program.
“Acellus STEM-10 is a major initiative engineered to significantly increase the number of students prepared for high-tech careers right out of high school. Rather than the usual games associated with STEM, this program is a serious education endeavor. … The first 6 years of the program focus on STEM instruction, starting with coding in the 3rd grade, and adding complexity each year. In the 9th grade, students then branch into a Career and Technical field that matches their interest.”
At Clinton Elementary (Project Lead the Way), “PLTW Launch’s 28 interdisciplinary modules bring learning to life. The program empowers students to adopt a design-thinking mindset through compelling activities, projects, and problems that build upon each other and relate to the world around them,” a facts sheet says. “And as students engage in hands-on activities in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science they become creative, collaborative problem solvers ready to take on any challenge.”
Next: What is an Acellus STEM-10 lab?