During the Professional Development day on October 20th, teachers at Rodgers Forge Elementary got a chance to play—yes, even teachers need playtime, too! Teachers were given a few hours to interact with a number of low tech and high tech tools that our school has on hand for teacher and student use, including but not limited to, drones, 3Doodler pens, Makedo cardboard kits, Ozobots, Spheros, littleBits, Strawbees, Makey Makeys, and Cubelets. Teachers spent the morning trying out the tools and looking for ways to give their students challenging and rigorous learning opportunities with the tools. Rodgers Forge Elementary has the unique experience of being one of three BCPS elementary schools partnering with Workbench, a Baltimore-based technology company that is leading the way through hands-on and project-based learning. Teachers were also introduced to the Workbench Platform on this day, and they were supported in using some of the new tech tools both in person and remotely through web conferencing by Danika and Zach, two amazing Workbench employees. Keep an eye and ear out for some awesome project-based learning ideas to be shared from our teachers!
Seventh grade students have an exciting opportunity during the fourth quarter at Ridgely Middle School. Social studies teachers Stephanie Strayer, Elizabeth Charette, and Ryan Brown plan a project-based learning activity for the last weeks of the school year. Both students and teachers find that this authentic learning reaches levels far beyond their expectations.
Principal Susan Truesdell promotes PBL by providing staff members with professional development on the topic. When the seventh grade social studies teachers suggest replacing a unit with this project, Ms. Truesdell recommends planning time with Kathy Kelbaugh, a BCPS STAT teacher with PBL experience.
The ultimate goal for the students is to create a proposal for an outdoor learning space on the Ridgely Middle School grounds. There are checks for understanding along the way: a persuasive writing piece that identifies the impact on student learning taking two important documents into consideration--the American Disabilities Act and BCPS policies; a budget proposal and blueprint—including an arrangement of sustainable furniture and an art component; a final presentation for a panel of experts based on ample research. Mr. Brown comments that he is quite grateful for student devices. He admits that this tool is indeed valuable on a daily basis.
Students vote for their peers’ presentations in order to narrow the number of groups to present for the panel. Eight groups make it to the final round on June eighth. The expert panel includes experts in education as well as the community. All reflect on this project with the utmost respect for the evident effort put forth by students and teachers. “Impressed is an understatement,” says one panel member.
Julie Lin, Erica Lee, Anning Cui, and Isabella Wan have the winning proposal based on the evaluation of the expert panel. Julie explains the project as, “easier and freer in structure allowing for more creative ideas.”
They split the roles, “When we had questions, we would text each other. After doing work on our part, we would always revise together. As a group, it’s good to look at what everyone else is doing,” Erica suggests.
ll group members suggest tackling only one PBL a year. They feel it is a stressful activity. “Good stress,” they agree. They admit to working well together; however, they also admit putting lots of pressure on themselves. When comparing PBL to a regular World Cultures unit, one explains that while they remember things about Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, they, “… learn how to apply the knowledge and use it in real life during this project,” according to Isabella.
Anning adds, “Working with a budget is an important life skill. We will need this skill in the future as adults.”
The teachers are thrilled with the outcome. Students certainly rise to the occasion throughout the process. “They are in the hallway calling Lowes, for instance. They interview BCPS personnel about the budget and policies. Many times all group members are working on a different task,” Ms. Strayer reflects.
Now that we have a design, it’s time to enact the plan. The Ridgely community can’t wait to see the result.
I am the STAT teacher at Ridgely Middle School. When I say that, some people think I teach Statistics; however, that’s not it at all, regardless of the name. STAT is an acronym that stands for Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow. The STAT initiative in BCPS has one goal in mind, and it is to create a globally-competitive student. That student will be familiar with 21st century technology, more learner-centered environments and strategies, and instruction that promotes critical thinking and analysis—all through an equity lens. As STAT teacher, I assist teachers and students in this transition of teaching and learning.
We have 70+ teachers at Ridgely, and because of my position, I am lucky enough to see lots of the great things during the shift. It is absolutely amazing to watch. In fact, I like to take pictures to document when I can. Today, I review my camera roll to find a great deal of evidence that illustrates the journey. Let me share a description of the types of things I’ve captured as we move from traditional instruction to responsive instruction.
Images of learner-centered spaces: faux campfires, Hogwart’s Academy, learning nooks, comfortable seating, (computer) stations, a stage, a quiet corner, posted student/class goals, displays of student work, posted visual resources for students, teacher-led small groups
Images of teachers diving deeply into professional development: understanding and helping students understand the updated grading policy, learning and applying multiple levels of questioning and annotation strategies, exploring digital tools that best assess student understanding, teachers presenting, rather than receiving, professional development, taking risks with new strategies and tools such as Break Out EDU, Discovery Education, formative assessment and feedback
Images of engaging lessons: use of manipulatives, exploration activities, similar skills taught through different modalities, questioning strategies, inspiring creativity—writing, art, projects, BreakOutEDU
Images of student-to-student communication: questioning, collaboration, assessing, coaching, presenting, student-friendly “I can” statements, college and career skill building, peer assessment with rubrics, project-based learning
Images of celebrations: student awards and achievements, teacher awards and achievements, Chinese New Year, school growth, brass ensemble spreading holiday cheer, staff team building—paint nights, holiday greens creations, appreciating counselors, administrative assistants, administrators, teachers, veterans, Honor Society inductions, artists on display, social club that unites special needs population with the mainstream population.
Images of proactive measures for success: 5th grade orientation, device information and distribution, vertical team meeting with feeder schools,
Images of school events: March Madness, Stuff-a-Bus with non-perishables, Career Day, field trips, assemblies, Arts in Action
These are a mere few of the images in my phone/camera. It makes me proud to see the fruits of Ridgely’s labor. I can’t wait to see what next year brings.
Fifth graders at Rodgers Forge Elementary have come to the end of their elementary school journey, and they are ready to take on the new excitements and challenges that middle school will bring. They took time to reflect upon their life so far, and they wrote and filmed “six word memoirs” using a FlipCam to capture an important idea in their lives. Check them out!
The Roman Empire is falling again and again in Ms. McGuire’s 6th grade World Cultures classes. Working in the Lighthouse Makerspace room, Students are designing and creating their own board games that capture the crucial components of the decline and fall of the empire. Students must include political, economic and social factors along with environmental factors such as geography and weather. Feather boas, strips of plastic, and are being re-purposed and refashioned into Uno and Pokémon Gladiator cards. An excited student explained, that “In our Pokémon game the goal is to get everyone else’s cards. We are learning that good weapons and shields, and lots of practice made the armies strong. When the Romans didn’t have any of those things any more, that’s when the empire started to fall.”
STEM Night at Windsor Mill Middle School was a resounding success this year. Just like every other year. Organized by Science Department Chair, Anu Bajpai, and 6th Grade Science Teacher and Team Leader, Katie Dell, the evening offered students and families an abundance of science and math related activities. Guests could make ice cream in the science lab, personalized ‘zines in the makerspace room, or living seed necklaces. The WMMS greater community also played a huge role in the evening. The gymnasium was a future scientist’s dream. Students and parents tested their driving skills with the P13 Robots and UMBC’s Baja race cars, or their flying skills with WMMS drones. And the pièce de resistance? An inflatable planetarium hosted by Dr. Storrs courtesy of Towson University. Eighth-grade Science Teacher, Josh Foorhogue, said the WMMS STEM Fair “allows students to interact with professionals who are currently working in STEM careers and high-school students who are pursuing STEM careers. Students can see that a career in STEM is a real possibility.”
Have you heard of this thing called a Makey Makey? If not, you should definitely check it out. When fifth graders at Rodgers Forge created PSAs in Scratch, they wanted a cool and interactive way to share them with their classmates. Enter…the Makey Makey! It’s a simple device that turns everyday objects into a touchpad. Students built an object of their choice in the school’s makerspace, such as a remote control or a TV frame with different buttons on the front, and they hooked up the Makey Makey wires to conductive points on their object (using foil). When someone pushes on each of the conductive “buttons” they created on their object, a different part of their PSA played in Scratch. Check out this video to see more about this project.
“Special thanks go out to Zach Zayner from Workbench for supporting us through the implementation of this awesome project!”
Church Lane Elementary (CLETS) students in grades four and five participated in the Maryland M.E.S.A. (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) program for the first time during the 2016-2017 school year. M.E.S.A. is a structured, after school, pre-college program designed to prepare students for academic and professional careers in a STEM field. The twenty-five students that participated, worked collaboratively on various engineering project and science research projects. The students faithfully met every Wednesday after school and worked on a number of hands on learning tasks in addition to meaningfully using technology in order to complete the tasks at hand.
M.E.S.A provides an opportunity for students to interact with various professionals in STEM related fields to discuss their profession, educational pursuits, and other opportunities that are available to students. CLETS students had an opportunity to meet with midshipmen from the Unites States Naval Academy and personnel from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab (JHU Applied Physics Lab) on a field trip in October 2016. The JHU Applied Physics Lab is also, the main sponsor of Maryland MESA.
In March 2017, CLETS students then participated in Regional MESA Day at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) to compete with other MESA teams throughout Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS). The students worked on projects prior to MESA Day for the various challenges. The students were divided into four teams: Cyber Security, Storybook Theme Park Ride, Effective Communication, and Wood Bridge Challenge. All of the aforementioned challenges are designed using Next Generation Science Standards.
The Cyber Security Awareness Challenge, the students use Scratch program (developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) which is an introductory teaching tool for computer programming. Scratch makes it easy for students to create and share interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art, via the Scratch website. Students use scratch in order to create a game with the theme of their choosing to create awareness to Cyber Safety. By creating Scratch projects, students will learn important problem-solving skills as well.
The Story book Theme Park Ride Challenge is to expose students to the engineering process through the design and construction of a functional model theme park ride based on a storybook of the team’s choosing. The ride had to be designed to safely carry one golf ball, two Ping-Pong balls, and a standard-sized marshmallow through two consecutive test runs.
The Effective Communication: Advocacy for Social Concern is a presentation competition for elementary school student teams of four to eight students each. Each team created a compelling public service announcement (PSA) to raise awareness and present a recommended action in response to a global, national, or local issue of concern.
The Wood Bridge Challenge is to engage students in the engineering and design process through the construction of a wood bridge, were assessed for its strength-to weight ratio (efficiency). Constructed bridges were to be simplified versions of real world bridges, which are designed to accept a load in virtually any position and support that load without failure/collapse. In this challenge, only one loading position (the center position) was tested.
Although the students didn’t place in the categories, they were encouraged about the possibilities of next year’s challenge. The students enjoyed interacting with other teams and learning from their peers.
Participating in Maryland MESA has sparked student interest in STEM related fields. As a result, it has transferred into their classroom learning behaviors through problems solving and inquiry. I am excited to see the changes in these students and anticipate great things for them in the Maryland MESA program. If you are interested in this program for your school please go to the following website for more information: https://secwww.jhuapl.edu/mesa
The Lighthouse initiatives at Pikesville High School have played an integral part in successfully implementing the Project Lead the Way Engineering Design and Development Capstone Course. The students work in groups of four to research a real-world, current problem and develop a testable solution to the problem over the course of the year; the engineering design process is closely followed every step of the way. In prior lessons, each student generated three-to-four concept sketches that presented a proposed solution to their group’s problem. At beginning of this lesson, each group had already narrowed their proposed solutions down to three-to-four. Throughout the course of this lesson, students rotated to each group to provide feedback in order to aid in determining a final solution to the proposed project. The students left physical post-it notes on the designs while they rotated, as well as comments on each group’s online virtual engineering notebook. With the use of the physical post-it notes and the devices to access virtual notebooks, students were able to provide each other with comments, questions, and other various forms of feedback. The students were heavily engaged in this lesson and were forced to think outside-of-the-box in order provide meaningful feedback to their classmates. Although this lesson could be implemented without the use of the device, the opportunity for students to provide feedback to online engineering journals was more engaging for students and provided the opportunity for digital documentation.
Reflections from teachers, administrators, and students at the Lighthouse Schools.