Six local schools were recognized for their role as Emerging STEM School Systems on Thursday, September 11th at a ceremony at the NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics & Life Sciences on the University at Buffalo Campus.
Twenty-nine districts from WNY were included in the inaugural class, and representing Cattaraugus and Allegany counties were Cuba-Rushford Central School, Fillmore Central School, Hinsdale Central School, Pioneer Central School, Portville Central School, and Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES.
Dr. Michelle Kavanaugh, facilitator of the WNY STEM Hub, recognized these districts for their sparks of STEM growth, and urged them to find ways to make that growth systemic. She encouraged enlightened teacher leaders to collaborate with enlightened leaders to allocate resources to teach our students today for their world tomorrow.
Dr. Kavanaugh acknowledged that each district represented had its own story about integrating and growing STEM, and explained that those stories would be featured on the WNY STEM Hub website, wnystem.org, so other districts looking for inspiration around STEM implementation could read about their peers’ successes. Dr. Kavanaugh was joined by Bob Grant, Account Executive for Siemens, in congratulating the districts and their representatives for their current work, and hoped that today would mark an “important turning point for our region” in the area of STEM education.
Have you ever had one of those moments where a student is so excited that they are beaming from ear to ear with pride over an accomplishment achieved as a result of a learning experience in your classroom? What if you could experience that once-in-a-lifetime moment with the job of a lifetime every day? What if you had the opportunity to change the course of a child’s life in one week? Sounds like a dream or a fairy tale doesn’t it?
Can you imagine having a classroom the size of approximately 30 acres? What would you do with all of that space? You could be like Scott and build a “Deerasic Park” Deer Research Center, a research pond with nearby wetlands and observation deck, a bone yard, a fish hatchery, and a log cabin style Wildlife Research Center. To top it off, you can capture the many smiles and accomplishments of your students every day and memorialize them with a student produced and created national television show! No, this is not a dream. This is the real life of Scott Jordan, Fisheries and Wildlife Technology teacher at Cuba-Rushford Central School.
Scott has a unique approach to teaching his students in that he turns control of the classroom over to his students every day. With his guidance, his students create their own projects to work on, some of which may take several years to complete. The class focuses on giving students the opportunity to study biological organisms in their natural habitats while at the same time, honing in on and utilizing the skills and future aspirations of each individual student in the class. Student managers are chosen to run and manage the various buildings and projects along with managing a team of student workers/researchers as well. Various projects include taxidermy; reassembling skeletons of large animals that have decomposed in the boneyard; capturing, collaring, tagging, and tracking whitetail deer; caring for and tracking the age, weight, and length of the fish in the hatchery and pond, and much more.
It doesn’t matter what field a student wants to pursue in the future as Scott will work with each individual student to develop a learning plan with projects that meets the needs and interests of his students. For example, students who wish to enter the computer science field work on producing and creating the television show and creating and maintaining the class’s website and social media accounts. Can you imagine writing on a high school resume that you have created and produced over 50 nationally televised episodes of a television show? You want to be a lawyer? No problem! Why not research the laws and regulations involved in creating a research pond near a wetland? Interested in becoming a doctor or a veterinarian? Excellent! You are in charge of working side by side with a professional to give inoculations to the deer!
In addition to all of the onsite experiences the students have, Scott also starts most mornings off during the various hunting seasons by taking groups of students out hunting before the school day even starts. The students also have the opportunity to participate in various annual hunting and fishing expeditions to Alaska, New Zealand, South Africa, Ontario, and Texas. Scott is always amazed at the transformations the students go through over the course of just one week on one of these trips. Their confidence levels are built up so much, not to mention the life skills that are obtained by traveling around the world and working and interacting with people from various cultures outside of Western NY.
Prior to becoming a classroom teacher, Scott was a fisheries research biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. He actually was paid to catch fish and camp out under the stars, listening to the arctic loons, wolves, and brown bears. For Scott, that was another job of a lifetime. One day he asked his boss why he was chosen for the job over the other 300 applicants. He was told that it was not only because of his grades, but more importantly; because he was the only applicant with ocean beach seine experience. Scott’s philosophy as an educator is the result of that one conversation. “You see, I received that ocean beach seine experience during one Ecology class field trip to Cape Cod while attending SUNY Cobleskill. I landed that job of a lifetime because of one experience, during one class, while I was attending one single field trip!” According to Scott, he tries to create as many similar opportunities for his students, hoping that their experiences will eventually land them that job of a lifetime.
Scott currently has more than 7 recent graduates who are working in the field of fisheries & wildlife all over the world as a result of experiences they had in his classroom. A current student of his who happens to be the Hatchery Manager for the class and aspires to pursue a career in fisheries technologies and engineering told me that the main benefit of taking the Fisheries and Wildlife Technology class is that you get to experience everything for yourself instead of just reading about it. He said that because of his experiences in the class and Mr. Jordan’s connections, he will now be able to go out in the field and write field expeditions a year earlier in college.
If you want that job of a lifetime where you have the opportunity to provide your students with real life experience in the field, and think that all of that is just a dream, well think again. Scott’s advice is to start small and do what works out for you locally. He built his “classroom” with a lot of hard work, time, fundraisers, and grants. This has been a project in the making for almost 20 years, and there is always room for expansion, whether that means more building projects or more wildlife to research. You, too, can make a difference one student at a time!
(CRCS Outdoors airs on the Pursuit Channel on Friday nights at 6:00 pm.)
By Kristen Keenan, CA BOCES
Nancy Aborjaily teaches art at Wellsville Middle School; this year she included a writing component with three grade level art assignments. The goal was to better engage families in the process and product of their child’s artwork.
When their artwork was complete, students were asked to compose a personal letter to their families that highlighted the following: what’s the project; what did you struggle with; what did completing the project teach you about perseverance and grit; and lastly, how did you feel when you completed the project?
Nancy states, “One of the things I have strived to teach students in class is that when they are confronted with an obstacle, they need to stick with it; dig in and work hard to overcome it and solve their ‘artistic’ problem especially when they might want to give up and abandon the work.” Nancy explained that when someone observes a completed work, there’s no way to know or to “see” the perseverance and grit. The students’ letters enabled families to experience more than the completed artwork.
The reflection process was rewarding for the students and their families.
Nancy added, “This idea grew out of my need to let families know how hard their children work to meet and overcome challenges that art projects often times present.” Students gave voice to challenge, hard work, and success; hopefully, they’ll apply the process to other challenges they face in their lives.
With the letters, Nancy included a color photo of the artwork. These items helped with important dialogue at home about the artwork. Nancy said, “Student and family responses were amazing and heartfelt; the process gave families a front row seat in their child’s classroom; it was a smashing success!”
Grade 6: Giant Self Portrait
Grade 7: Indonesian Shadow Puppets *displayed at the David A. Howe Public Library in Wellsville
Grade 8: Grid Art
By Anne Mitchell, CA BOCES and Portville Central School
The Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/teachers/ ) has and continues to expand resources that present United States' history to students and teachers. It provides comprehensive yet easily used tools and lesson plans for analyzing primary sources whether print, map, cartoon, photo, manuscript, music or political cartoon. The wealth and volume of material found in person and online grows exponentially every year and has since Thomas Jefferson donated his library. Our history is accessible freely to all whether citizen or not.
Newer sources of local primary source material are now available to teacher and student. This allows them to focus on their history at a more personal level in conjunction with the materials provided by the Library of Congress. New York Heritage (http://newyorkheritage.org/) is a digital collection which provides a consolidated access to historical, scholarly, and cultural materials that reflect New York State history at a local level. Digitization of historical media has been a priority in our state as time, cost of preservation and ignorance are rapidly destroying our print history. Local towns, libraries and historical museums are now finding a way to share their story throughout New York State and thanks to recent partnerships a much larger audience.
The Digital Public Library( http://dp.la/) was launched last year in response to a recognized need for a national digital library focused on local history. This idea for a digital library has been circulating among librarians, scholars, educators, and private industry representatives since the early 1990s. America has come late to this digital format. The World Digital Library (http://www.wdl.org/en/ ) was first proposed in June 2005 by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. He proposed establishing a World Digital Library to UNESCO and by 2009 was launched to the international public, with content from every UNESCO member state. This site provides primary source material in the languages of its members.
What does this mean for our students? It means that if they start with a historical hypothesis, they will have the ability to trace its roots first globally, than nationally, than statewide and finally to the local historical society that has digitized pictures of the student's ancestor.
By MaryAnn Hebert, CA BOCES and the School Library System
With teachers in grades 3-8 transitioning to the ELA Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) over the course of the past two years, much conversation has centered on the best methods for helping students meet those standards. Will my textbook be best? Should I look into the modules? Is there another option? As teachers at Pioneer can attest, reading and writing workshop is definitely a viable option for marrying the expectations of CCLS rigor and student-centered teaching.
Author and writing workshop expert Amy VanDerwater has worked with teachers at Delevan Elementary, Arcade Elementary, and Pioneer Middle School for the past two years to bring workshop to district classrooms. Professional development sessions have focused on various aspects of the writing workshop, including designing effective mini-lessons that deliberately target specific skills, fostering student choice to build investment, and incorporating various writing celebrations when finished with units. Additionally the emphasis for units of study has shifted from narrative and memoir based modes of writing to those that require students to write from sources, such as informational and argumentative. Both the quantity and the quality of student writing being produced have grown exponentially thanks largely to the work done in writing workshop.
Students are meeting the demands of CCLS with the work being done in reading workshop as well. Like the writing workshop, during reading teachers are developing targeted and rigorous mini-lessons, selecting texts that challenge all learners, and including student choice in leveled reading materials designed to build a lifelong love of reading. Units often are built around a central text supplemented by relevant, nonfiction materials that build students’ background knowledge base on the topics or themes of the central text. Opportunities for students to engage in text-based conversations both in whole groups and small groups reinforce the skills being taught at the time, and those skills are then applied to the students’ independent reading selections. Ultimately students’ time with eyes on print is greater than ever, and that time will pay off as they progress through school.
Teachers who are looking for the right fit for their classrooms may very well find that reading and writing workshop is an instructional approach worth pursuing. A workshop model provides a balance of structure and flexibility that responds to student needs while targeting the various standards.
By Amy Windus, CA BOCES and Pioneer Central School
On Thursday May 15, I entered Kirsten Grubes’s room at Cattaraugus Little Valley school. Ms. Grube had a substitute and since I was entering a kindergarten classroom we had to forgo any introductions and attempt to match the activity level of about 14 six year olds. I never did get the name of the substitute.
As a helper at one of the centers, I teach students the fundamentals of programming using the app called Kodable. At the kindergarten level, Kodable requires students to follow directions, which is good but even this can be a bit of a struggle with this age group. I know this because I am pretty sure Kyle was not supposed to march around the room, growling like a monster while gently banging his crayon box on top of his head. Oh well, we won’t tell Ms. Grube.
These students get so excited when they see me enter the room with iPads. I often hear “He’s here. He’s here,” upon entering. With Kodable students have to make their “Smeeborg,” which I call a fuzzball, move across the screen and eat coins. Grechen Huebner, co-founder of Kodable, describes the game like this, "Kids have to drag and drop symbols to get their fuzzy character to go through a maze so they learn about conditions, loops and functions and even debugging," The code is read in order and it does not execute until the student pushes the play button. If the student has the code correct, he or she gets all the coins, completes the maze and goes on to the next level. If the student is “off the mark” then the student is prompted with an “oops” and asked to try again. Students are learning a great deal of valuable skills
We have just been using the free Kodable app but there is a pay version, which is $6.99. It seems like, as of now, the free version is working just fine. It may be necessary for the pay app someday, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For schools who want to buy the app and are part of Apple’s volume purchasing program (v.p.p.), if the school district buys 20 or more apps then they get them for half price. And now, with how the v.p.p. is set up, the school district owns the app and can deploy it to different iPads anywhere in the school, as long as they don’t use more than what was purchased.
Many of these students can’t tie their shoes yet so why are we teaching them to be computer programmers? "Ninety percent of schools just don't even teach it [coding or computer programming]. So if you're a parent and your school doesn't even offer this class, your kids aren't going to have the preparation they need for the 21st century," says Hadi Partovi, co-founder of the nonprofit Code.org. "Just like we teach how electricity works and biology basics, they should also know how the Internet works and how apps work. Schools need to add this to the curriculum." At Cattaraugus Little Valley we are taking some initial steps in adding these important computing skills into the curriculum.
By Rick Weinberg, CA BOCES
Over the summer, many of the teachers at Pioneer Central came together to work on designing their curriculum, improving instruction and creating common assessments. All of them deserve recognition for the work they accomplished, but the teachers in 5th grade really caught my attention. Not only did they re-design their common core math units, but they consistently displayed the qualities of a great team. As a group, they set clear and demanding performance goals. Each of their math units include “big ideas”, essential questions, Common Core Standards, goal sheets, problem sets, exit tickets, student note sheets, power vocabulary and “I can” statements. They incorporate Thoughtful Education tools and strategies and use a combination of direct instruction and gradual release to help their students learn together and succeed independently.
Their work environment was comfortable and relaxed. I witnessed several discussions in which everyone participated and it was obvious that the teachers felt comfortable expressing their feelings as well as their ideas. There was laughter as well as serious moments when disagreements occurred, but in the end everyone worked together and the group produced student workbooks that will be shared and used in all of the Grade 5 classrooms. “Our job is to teach students how to think, and not just put a workbook in front of them” states Julie Gates . . . “Everyone is humble and everyone gives ideas. It makes you want to work for your team, when you are supported”. Colby Rehrauer added “There is so much to do, and it’s always changing . . . you have to be unselfish – you have to be willing to share. We are professionals. We are in it together.”
The 5th grade team is made up of Julie Gates, Michelle Kline, Jessica Kamats, Colby Rehrauer, (all pictured above) as well as Eric Kramer and Jessica Kleinschmidt. In addition, Yvonne Gillette and Ellen Farrell will assist in the classroom as Special Education consultant teachers, and RTI specialists Stephanie Jordan (math), Mark Mitrowski and Cheri Ludwick (ELA) will be working with struggling students.
By Mary Morris, CA BOCES and Pioneer Central School
Kelli Grabowski, 10th Grade Earth Science teacher, and Beth McIntyre, 10th Grade ELA, collaborate all year-round as part of a 10th grade team at Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School. Kelli states that their team is very cross-curricular, especially where it concerns literacy, research, and academic vocabulary skills. Engaging in concept-teaching is a specialty of Kelli’s and Beth’s while facilitating both Earth Science and ELA. This summer they collaborated further to work on their online, blended learning Moodle coursesfor one full day and to learn about using Mahara – an electronic portfolio system that integrates with Moodle.
Kelli and Beth work hard at understanding students and their needs to use modern learning management systems that deliver instruction. They feel the students will be more engaged if learning in the style they are most accustomed to – online. Moodle and Mahara fulfill this need for students. Kelli and Beth embed rich resources into the online portion of the class with video clips and discussion forums as well as creating a bank of questions for online quizzes.
Not only will students be able to work at their own pace and access information 24-hours-a-day, they will also experience the reality of an online class that they will almost assuredly face again in college. Links within Moodle to classroom blogs, wikis, and other online tools are also easily placed into the Moodle classroom by the teacher. Linking to other technology-based resources in this way, students will polish other college and career-readiness skills.
By Maggie Jensen, CA BOCES Learning Resources
The motto at Delevan Elementary is “We are in this together and better collectively than we are separately.” The Common Core Learning standards have been a guiding force in instruction as well as a learning process for ALL K-4 teachers including special area teachers, who have made a significant contribution to the movement. “Common Core and the six instructional shifts methodology does not silence the creative voice; it enhances the aesthetic process and provides opportunity for higher level thinking skills” (engageny.org).
The special area teachers at Delevan have seamlessly and consistently integrated both the Common Core ELA and Mathematics standards into their curriculum. In both art and music classes, students create, explore, build vocabulary, and complete written reflections/self-assessments aligned to the CCLS Writing standards. To hook the students into a new unit, visuals and technology resources are used along with historical background that aligns to the CCLS Informational Reading standards. Students are provided with weekly experiences that provide Career and College Readiness skills along with the 4 C’s in 21st Century Learning; critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. “The Common Core Learning standards act as a thread that helps knit together a well-rounded learning experience for every student while supporting colleagues cross- curricular” (www.engageny.org).
In the library media center, lessons are aligned to appropriate grade level Common Core Reading and Writing Learning standards. Students in Grades K-4 are exposed to reading and writing across a variety of genres including narrative, expository, and persuasive text. Students learn about author’s purpose, characteristics of nonfiction and fiction, text features and text structures. Students in the class learn how to collect information from multiple sources and compile it into a short research paper.
Physical Education is a place where students bodies are participating in physical activities, while their minds are critically thinking at the same time. Students participating in physical education classes are engaged in literacy infused lessons on a daily basis. Students are responsible for problem solving and peer collaboration. Thematic units that align with school wide literacy efforts are implemented. For example, K-4 students participated in an Olympic games unit that correlated with the school’s reading celebration, titled “Go For the Gold”. Also, students in K-4 had a reading competition. For each book read and Accelerated Reading quiz completed, students earned a gold, silver or bronze medal. Each grade level chose a country and created a flag to display in the gymnasium. All medals earned were displayed near the flag. The physical education teachers were instrumental in making this school wide literacy effort fall into place.
When students attend special area classes, they are” rocking the Common Core” by participating in the arts as readers, writers and thinkers!
By Colleen Root, CA BOCES and Pioneer Central School
Growing the Southern Tier Learning Community: Continuing Professional Development for Middle Level Teachers
In conjunction with the Cattaraugus-Allegany Teacher Center and the Middle School Association, Cuba Rushford Middle/High School welcomed teachers from far and wide in their continued quest for learning at the Growing the Southern Tier Learning Community Conference this July.
Monica Kwiatkowski, a CRCS teacher and Middle School Association member, has spent the last year preparing for this countywide event, which is geared toward middle-level teachers looking for more opportunities for professional development. The 2014 conference offered teachers and administrators the opportunity to explore resources for teaching with the Common Core State Standards, how to conduct a close read, project-based learning in the language classroom, EdModo, Flipped Learning, and more.
Perhaps one of the major highlights of the day was an uplifting presentation from Stephen “Dr. Bird” Birchak, who spoke about the key components of establishing a positive well being day-in and day-out. Aside from encouraging people to have more self-love, he noted the importance of resiliency, particularly in education, where the bumps in the road often deter us from being our very best. “Resilience isn’t just accommodating change – it’s finding joy, hope, and compassion – in spite of life’s changes.” Birchak holds that resilient people see life for its possibilities, with an optimistic outlook, and they don’t let the growing pains of change interfere with their potential. In education, resiliency is something educators should not only encourage, but also teach to students. The ability to bounce back and learn from one’s trials and tribulations can set them on the path to success. As John Wooden states, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
With a variety of offerings and the opportunity to learn and grow as professionals in the field of education, 70 teachers and administrators hit the ground running, eager to learn tools to take back to schools and implement come Fall. With the words of Dr. Birchak resonating in their minds, encouraging them to be resilient and positive, many walked away having learned a valuable lesson.
After learning about how to flip a lesson, participants experienced a flipped lesson or two: how to make a S’MORE and parallel vs. perpendicular lines. In “class” the next day, they practiced the skills taught in the flipped video.
To check out the videos, scan the QR codes below!
By Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES