As the new school year approaches, teachers in several districts (Cuba Rushford, Andover, Franklinville, Whitesville, Olean, Fillmore and Cattaraugus – Little Valley) learn the importance of helping students improve a set of thinking skills known as executive function skills. “Human beings have a built in capacity to meet challenges and accomplish goals through the use of high-level cognitive functions called executive skills. These are the skills that help us to decide what activities or tasks we will pay attention to and which ones we’ll choose to do.” (Hart & Jacobs, 1993) These functions are a set of cognitive processes, such as focus, memory and self-control, which enable us to manage information and complete tasks.
CA BOCES provided professional development opportunities for teachers to improve how students learn and develop executive function skills during their K-12 education and beyond. Teachers were informed how to recognize students who struggle with executive weakness, and what strategies can assist students in developing these skills.
Knowing Cognitive Capacities
In order for teachers to target specific executive function skills, they must first be able to identify them. Our teachers researched and developed strategies for the following list of executive function skills:
Teachers reflected on how these skills might exist in the classroom. For example, Students with weak working memory are unable to remember and apply crucial information in order to move to the next step of a task. They often struggle when a task requires them to remember a series of directions, generate ideas in response to the directions and then express their ideas. Information just doesn’t “stick” for them. Once the teacher recognizes a student needs to work on working memory, they can develop a list of strategies to address this learning problem.
Teachers realize it’s important to recognize that the same strategy won’t work for each student. Some students work better with visual cues than verbal cues, for instance. Teachers must differentiate thinking strategies for each student to help them meet full learning potential.
Exercises for Executive Function Skills
There are a number of exercises to help students develop thinking skills. Practices can range from computer games to improve memory skills to physical tasks such as balancing. Here are just a few examples of how teachers in our district have worked with students to improve their executive function skills.
Organization and Planning
Teachers can help students to master these tasks by encouraging students to write down important assignments in a calendar and to allocate time accordingly. Students can be taught how to make lists of homework assignments. Students can be encouraged to use brightly colored folders to take home important papers (like homework and permission slips) to and from school, so those items don’t get lost.
For short-term assignments, encourage students to picture the end result of completing the task and the positive emotion that may be attached to it. Students and teachers can brainstorm ways to make assignments more interesting.
Feeling vocabulary can be taught through books by discussing the feelings the characters had and asking the student to make connections to his own experiences. When the student begins to experience strong emotions, allow them to identify it, validate it and provide a clear direction about what could be done instead of the negative behavior.
When it comes to improving executive function skills during the school day, a step in the right direction is to set up time and programs that are devoted to these strategies. It can take as little as two minutes before class or a full 30-minute session.
The group concluded that students with well-developed executive function skills really hold the foundation to success in school, with their peers, in college and for a career. These skills are what provide individuals with the capacity to meet challenges and accomplish goals! Collaboratively we recognized the responsibility educators have to build these skills in ALL students.
If you are interested in learning more about how to enhance these skills and promoting school and social success for ALL students, please contact CA BOCES (Laurie Sledge at 716-376-8357).
By: Marguerite Andrews and Deanna Wilkinson, CA BOCES Professional Development
Have you ever made a mistake? Have you ever faltered with a task that you simply gave up on? Let’s face it: life throws us challenges, and some are more likely to give up on those challenges than to embrace them, struggle through them, and ultimately learn and grow from the experience as a whole. Today, many students are in the same shoes as a large percentage of adults - unwilling to take on new learning, new adventures, new challenges. To help cultivate a willingness to grapple with difficult problems and to persevere both inside and outside of the classroom, many are turning toward the ideals of a Growth Mindset. Through cultivating a culture of growth, students’ minds evolve to having a willingness to try, to stick with a tough challenge, and make the most of each and every bump in the road they face.
Cuba-Rushford Elementary is home to some 60 or so fifth grade students. To help teach these students about having a growth mindset, Beatrice Bottomwell of The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes painted a picture of overcoming challenges and growing from the things that often get the best of us. In hearing main character Beatrice’s tale, students came to find that no one is perfect and that mistakes are okay; so long as we embrace them, and grow from them.
These same fifth graders were given a challenge: cut a piece of paper so that an adult could walk through it. Words such as “impossible,” “hard,” and “can’t” rang through the halls of CRCS. Cuts were made, paper was ripped, and students sat staring wondering how this challenge could ever be fulfilled. In talking about how the initial mistakes were made, and the emotions that the students felt, they learned; they grew. Before you knew it, these same fifth graders that had points of frustration and attitudes of “I give up” were walking through paper left and right!
As some students shared, making mistakes on math problems is common, and while thinking “we can’t” when faced with a tough problem, they come to realize that with effort and commitment, they can get through it. Others felt they simply couldn’t tumble, a recent unit of study in PE. Despite that belief, after practicing and asking for help, that attitude of “I can’t” turned to one of “I can.” Without realizing it, fifth graders were sharing stories of how they took a fixed mindset and transferred it to a mindset of growth.
As teachers, it is important to acknowledge when students are making the most of the mistakes they’ve made, learning how to overcome challenges and those bumps in the road. Whether it be a challenge in the classroom or a challenge in everyday life, having a growth mindset can help adults and students alike to have an attitude of CAN as opposed to an attitude of CAN’T. Students thrive in environments that support their growth as learners. By learning from Beatrice Bottomwell, and by embracing challenges such as the paper activity, students can begin to see that life is more about the journey than the destination; it’s more about the path we take to find success than the immediacy of doing well.
By: Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES Professional Development
“What did you learn today?
What mistake did you make today that taught you something? What did you try hard at today?
– Carol Dweck
What is blended learning? Are we truly blending learning in our region? Yes we are! Below are examples of Michael B. Horn - The Christensen Institute’s blended learning models that are taking place across our region, and quite successfully!
While blended learning began in simple applications to serve students in situations where there was no other alternative, it has grown exponentially over the past ten years in the Cattaraugus Allegany region, where our region is recognized as the leader in online learning in New York State BOCES regions!
Michael B Horn’s and Heather Staker’s book, Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, lays out the process in a useful level of detail making it a must read for educators that want to take full advantage of tech-enabled learning. Staker shared, "I feel deeply sad when I see how many children do not have equal opportunities to high-quality schools. It's wrong that in a rich country with universal public education, zip code determines quality." But she feels fortunate to be living through the learning revolution where internet connectivity and personalized learning is “decimating old constructs about who gets what and introducing a new paradigm of shared access to the best learning experiences, regardless of geography.” (Education Week article - http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/on_innovation/2014/09/blended_a_conversation_with_michael _horn_heather_staker.html)
What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning? Michael B. Horn adds, “Online learning, particularly in blended learning schools, gives students more and more ownership of their learning, this is a big deal as it can allow schools to individualize for each student’s unique learning needs.” (http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2012/11/08/michael-horn/)
How do these online learning opportunities benefit students? Danielle, from Allegany- Limestone, replied, “I wish that I could have studied this way from the beginning of the year. When I’m in a classroom with people, I get distracted, but using APEX is great. The program is really straightforward. It tells me exactly what I need to know. Some days I let it read to me and sometimes I read myself. I came from Pennsylvania and the work was harder and my Biology class was in a different place and the online class is helping me.”
To learn more about successful blended learning models in schools, join CA BOCES in an Online/Digital Learning Showcase, where you can ask questions and view demos of 7 different online solutions for:
For more information about Digital Learning Day on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, from 8:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at CABOCES Olean Center Conference Rooms, go to: http://dev.caboces.org/iss/calendar/2017-04.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Distance Learning
The Scholastic Challenge Competition will be held on Saturday, February 4 at Portville Central School. This annual event, sponsored by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES (Student Programs CoSer #506) will host 36 teams who will compete in a Junior Division and Senior Division, for grades 6-12.
Scholastic Challenge is a fast paced contest that tests knowledge of academic trivia and current events. Teams of four students measure their ability to recall details from a wide variety of topics.
Fourteen school districts will be participating in the double-elimination contest this year. This translates to about 200 students and coaches. Throughout the day, several thousand questions will be read aloud to these ambitious teams. Spectators are encouraged to watch the competitions. It’s exciting to see the students combine an impressive display of intelligence with camaraderie, graciousness and good sportsmanship.
The final matches will be held on stage in the Portville auditorium around 1:15-2:15. The first and second place teams in each division will be presented with plaques to recognize their achievements, as well as an invitation to attend the 2017 National Academic Championship.
This event requires about 40 volunteers to make the day run smoothly. CABOCES Student Programs is grateful to everyone who donates their time and experience to provide a fun and educational day for the students in our area. Scholastic Challenge could not happen without their help!
Congratulations to all the teams participating this year. Thank you to all coaches for mentoring and encouraging your students. The following school districts will be attending on Saturday, February 4:
This past November was an exciting month where teachers from Cuba-Rushford and CABOCES, Linda Botens and Justine Lombardi respectively, alongside Betsy Hardy, Staff Specialist for Distance Learning at CABOCES and this year’s presenter at iNACOL, delivered a gripping presentation about developing digital portfolios in the classroom. The room was filled to capacity and the audience was spilling out into the hallway to hear about the possibilities for using digital portfolios in the classroom.
In their presentation, “The Paper Extinction and the Rise of the ePortfolio,” Linda, Justine, and Betsy showed multiple examples of students’ work throughout the years that allowed students to show off their talents to prospective colleges and employers and explore new talents that some students might have otherwise been too shy to share.
Linda Botens shared one of her public speaking student’s forays into product endorsement and advertising. Normally, this student is shy, but when given the option to express herself on video, her dramatic personality had the opportunity to be shared with her teacher and peers.
Justine shared her uses of e-portfolios in her online Mythology and Folklore class and World Religions class that she teaches every year as elective options. In her classes, students share papers and projects, alongside art and presentations and have a way to group them all together and share with both teachers and peers. Justine also shared the uses of e-portfolios in the CTE classroom where students working on welding projects can photograph their talents and share them along with pictures of their earned certifications and share with their future employers.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Cattaraugus and Allegany County classrooms have reached an all-time high traveling virtually across the globe. Since the start of school 2,592 students have experienced opportunities to gain real world knowledge of various cultures from around the world. Historically, December Virtual Field Trips average 20 connections, but this year, Santa came to our region and brought our total to 103 trips in 3 weeks!
CA BOCES sends monthly trip highlights out to your Curriculum Coordinators, Tech Integrators, and Principals, so keep an eye out for these exciting opportunities. Some of these opportunities included National Distance Learning Week that was held November 7-11 in conjunction with the NYS Distance Learning Consortium. National DL Week allowed districts across the region to experience fee-based trips for free so that districts who had never seen a virtual field trip before could take part in this event. We expanded on these meaningful experiences at the NYS Middle School Association by showing districts how easy it was to connect to Ghana, Africa.
What better way to develop communication skills with students helping them to express their ideas culturally and academically through media sources. Students have opportunities to engage in collaborative discussions on curriculum topics, contrast cultural differences, and build language and logic to address details in directions. Below are some examples of content based trips:
Let CABOCES help you and your students take your next field trip virtually. All you need to do is click on the link below to see what’s on the calendar for upcoming trips:
Or to search for your own classroom topic, you can do a keyword search and see the hundreds of trips available by clicking on this link:
Or, to let us search for a trip for you! All you have to do is click on this link, and we will take of the rest. You will just need to fill out the request form and we will arrange to take your students around the world, into space, or even back in time!
If you would like to learn more about virtual learning experiences, please contact Carrie Oliver at 716-376-8270 or Betsy Hardy at 716-376-8281 for more information. The opportunities are endless.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Through participation in Environmental Science programs with traveling teacher Barb Busack, Cuba-Rushford fourth grade students learned spiders are fascinating animals. On this day, they studied the parts of a spider, as well as how it hunts and digests its prey; soup anyone? They also studied the spiders’ amazing ability to make silk stronger than steel and style it into a variety of webs. Most importantly, they learned spiders are beneficial to our ecosystem, as they help control the insect population.
A competition was held to see which students could use their newly gained knowledge of spiders and their amazing lives to answer assessment questions and unscramble facts about spiders’ benefits to man. The first student who figured out the scrambled sentence won a spider web keychain.
The lesson concluded with the students making a pipe cleaner spider that can be hung outside. Hopefully a real spider will come along and use the framework to make a web, thus reducing the amount of unwanted insects in our yards and proving that spiders are beneficial!
By Barb Busack, CA BOCES
Tenth graders from Andover, Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Cuba-Rushford, Fillmore, Portville, Scio, and Wellsville explored careers at Alfred State College. Over 40 businesses shared about careers in Allegany County. Student spent the day answering the question, "What's my next step?"
The Scholastic Challenge Competition will be held this Saturday, February 6 at Portville Central School. This annual event, sponsored by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES, will host a total of 41 teams who will compete in a Junior Division and Senior Division, for grades 6-12.
Scholastic Challenge is a fast paced contest that tests knowledge of academic trivia. Teams of four students will measure their ability to recall details from a wide variety of topics.
Fourteen school districts will be participating in the double-elimination contest this year. This translates to about 250 students and coaches. Throughout the day, several thousand questions will be read aloud to these ambitious teams. Spectators are encouraged to watch the competitions. It’s exciting to see the students combine an impressive display of intelligence with camaraderie, graciousness and good sportsmanship.
The final matches will be held on stage in the Portville auditorium around 2:15-3:15 (these are approximate times). The first and second place teams in each division will be presented with plaques to recognize their achievements.
This event requires about 40 volunteers to make the day run smoothly. CABOCES Student Programs is grateful to everyone who donates their time and experience to provide a fun and educational day for the students in our area. Scholastic Challenge could not happen without their help!
The following school districts will be attending:
Hinsdale Central-2 teams coached by Kate Jedrosko
Cuba-Rushford - 4 teams coached by John Butler
Ellicottville Central - 3 teams coached by Ann Chamberlain
Fillmore Central – 2 teams coached by Deb Woltag & Bill Kelley
Franklinville Central - 3 teams coached by Shannon Wood
Friendship Central - 1 team coached by Wade Pearsall
Genesee Valley - 4 teams coached by Rollie Duttweiler & Sara Donlon
Olean High- 1 teams coached by Carolyn Shields
Pioneer Central -4 teams coached by Sarah Wood
Portville Central - 8 teams coached by Margaret Seib & Gene Rogers
Randolph Central-1 team coached by Jennifer Bieniek
Scio Central - 3 teams coached by Mary Zdrojewski
Wellsville Central - 2 teams coached by Diane Willard
West Valley Central - 3 teams coached by Ryan Keem
“Why does he keep saying that?,” was what one of the boys whispered to his friend in the elementary library. He had, what I would call, beige hair, and an inquisitive look on his face. His partner had an amazing ability to use the computer mouse. To him, the computer mouse was a part of his hand. I think first boy was talking about the fact that Wendy Sprague and I kept saying over and over “if you work hard you can actually get smarter.” After a brief introduction and an explanation of their first learning adventure, all four students used computer programing to get the solution. Some students were able to complete the learning adventure faster than others, even though learning is not a race and we all learn at different rates of speed. Whatever you do, please don’t tell them they were learning.
Wendy is a librarian at the Cuba Rushford school district. She has embraced computer programming and robotics in her schools. The learning of new things does not come easy to everyone and I think it is safe to say that that might be true of Wendy as well. Wendy is a great example of a life-long learner and a follower of the research headed up by Dr. Carol Dwick from Stanford University. Dr. Dwick has done scientific research to prove that if people work hard and believe that hard work can make them smarter and can increase your intelligence that the actual weight of one’s brain gets heavier. This weight change occurs due to the increased number of neurons, or thinking connections, created in your brain by learning. It is important for students to get a good night sleep because the neurons are solidified during sleep. The book called “Mindset” by Carol Dwick is a great resource for anyone and it discusses her brain research.
It is only natural for, what some might believe as, unconventional learning to occur in the library. With the easy access to information online, no longer can the library just be a place where information is archived and stored. Libraries are becoming more and more places where information is created to find new facts, invent products to help people and publish things of all kind, not just books.
Fifth grade students at Cuba Rushford used the computer programing language called Scratch, which can be found at Scratch.MIT.edu. This coding language consists of “drag and drop” blocks so no “hard coding” or syntax is used. So, instead of students making sure they capitalized using “camelCode” or that they used a semicolon instead of a colon, could put there mind work totally on the logic. Lots of logic goes into computer programming.
Students seemed to enjoy computer programming and I can’t wait till I can go back to Cuba Rushford to do some more teaching and learning with Wendy and her students. Programing is extremely fun, engaging and it teaches a lot of important skills that can help in any classroom. I can’t wait to see what the students come up with.
By: Rick Weinberg, CA BOCES Professional Development
We all have two fundamental social needs in our lives. One, is to have a purpose, and the other, to be accepted. Cuba-Rushford Middle and High School was fortunate enough to host the anti-bullying presentation called, “Sweethearts and Heroes”, on October 20th. CRCS Middle School principal, Katie Ralston was able to coordinate the presentation for the district. The presenters of the program, Tom Murphy and Rick Yarosh, truly believe in the fact that with everyone on board, we can stop bullying from happening, and allow our social needs to be met, especially in our schools.
A staggering 17,000 students skip school every day because they are bullied. An even bigger problem is that 100,000 students drop out of school, altogether, because they are bullied. This is a huge problem in our schools, and with the help “Sweethearts and Heroes” provided to the district, CRCS is addressing this issue head-on.
Rick and Tom spoke about a number of scenarios students could find themselves in, and how knowledge is power, in the face of a bully or bullying situation. The definition of bullying is as follows: A habitual action, where the bully is an intimidator of smaller or weaker people, and is intentional in his/her behavior. The students and staff were taught that bullying takes on many forms. The forms discussed were: 6% Social Alienation, 18% Indirect Bullying (bullying behind someone’s back), 30% physical bullying, and 46% Verbal Bullying. Tom also talked about Cyber Bullying being extremely problematic as most students have access to the Internet at home. Students think they can hide behind a computer screen, but they can’t. Capabilities to track online behavior are present, and kids are getting into trouble because of inappropriate online decisions.
Rick and Tom presented a plan for bully prevention. The plan outlined five bully buttons, when set into action, could prevent bullying. The five bully buttons are outlined below:
1. Perspective (Change Your Perspective)
2. H.O.P.E. (Hold On Possibilities Exist)
3. SWEETHEARTS (Bringing Hope to the Hopeless)
4. Jump Into Action (Force Yourself to Act Differently Than You Feel)
5. HEROES (Be Someone’s HERO)
Rick Yarosh spoke about H.O.P.E. Rick was involved in a military attack in Iraq, and sustained major injuries because of it. Rick was burned over 60% of his body with 2nd and 3rd degree burns. He had his right leg amputated below his knee; he lost both ears, his nose, multiple fingers and lost most of the function in both hands. He spoke about what it was like to be in an extremely hopeless situation, and how, through a stranger, he was able to regain his hope in life again. He stated that we never know how important our hope in others is. It can mean the difference between life and death. We need to be sweethearts and heroes to others.
Tom Murphy said that even though 95% of the audience reported knowing either a bully or someone who is bullied, only 10% of peers intervene if witnessing a bullying situation. He reminded the audience that it is everyone’s responsibility, including the adults, to make sure they can identify and respond if anyone sees a bullying situation. He also gave three easy letters that correspond to action steps. He called it the ABCs of Bullying.
A- Away (Get the bullied student AWAY from the bully)
B- Buddy (Become his or her BUDDY)
C- Confront the situation (get a teacher, older brother/sister involved)
Tom chose three student volunteers to come up in the front and model the ABC method for the audience, and it had quite and impact on the students, and teachers, alike. It put the words Tom spoke into action.
The Cuba-Rushford School District also hosted “Sweethearts and Heroes” for an evening presentation to the community. Hats off to “Sweethearts and Heroes” for a thought-provoking and powerful message about anti-bullying!
By: Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development and Cuba-Rushford Central School
With more and more schools going paperless, student work has become more accessible for teachers, parents, and administrators. As a one-to-one iPad district, Cuba Rushford Central School has turned to digital portfolios, or e-portfolios, for their students to share and present their accomplishments. Carrie Bold, Principal at CRCS, tapped Linda Botens to guide all the 9th grade Transition classes through the personal portfolio creation process.
An e-portfolio is an ideal tool to create collections of documents, images, blogs, resumes, videos, and hyperlinks to share with classmates, teachers, family, and friends, and to present to potential employers. Making e-portfolios a requirement for all high school students enables every student a chance to take their work with them and create a visual artifact to show progress and development in all facets of their high school experience. These portfolios have become an online space for students or teachers to reflect on their life, learning and goals, and have become "the new generation of the three ring binder" JISC My World Project Final Report, Roberts, 2006.
Upon completion of the first year developing e-portfolios using Mahara, an e-portfolio platform supported by CA BOCES Distance Learning, Linda Botens shared, “It was great seeing all students, regardless of their academic grades in some courses, to be successful in creating e-portfolios in Mahara. This was one place that all students could achieve success, as they got to see their works in a type of on-line program. They were excited about posting photos onto the gallery, especially the students who used their own photo works from an art class.”
Mrs. Botens added, “Many students were excited about the fact that parents, including grandparents, could see their works, if they chose to do the sharing. Many of the students liked sharing their works with other students and teachers. The ultimate success was placing the Romeo and Juliet videos on Mahara. These could be shared with family members, friends etc., and it is something, that upon graduation, they can view again and bring back the memories. Overall, this past year proved to be exciting, as we were the first class at CRCS to create digital portfolios, and the students took pride in this.”
Mrs. Botens is eager to meet her new class of 9th graders and to begin the Mahara experience with them. The past CRCS 9th grade students will continue to add to their e-portfolios in their 10th grade year, and will develop a valuable collection of school memories throughout their years at CRCS.
By: Betsy Hardy, CA BOCES Learning Resources
The use of Apple Technologies in the classroom has become prevalent in schools throughout Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, and one such district that continues to extend its usage of such devices in the school setting is Cuba-Rushford Central School. The Rebels have been iUsers for several years, providing the technology to all classrooms PK-12. Most recently, students in kindergarten and first grade had the opportunity to work with the devices to extend their learning and explore practical uses of iPads in the elementary setting.
In Kindergarten, students worked to create their own All About Me books using the Story Creator application. Aside from working on their illustrative abilities, students also worked on their personal handwriting and typing skills, formulating their books overtime. Part of having such resources available is giving students the opportunity to create a product of some kind. Applications such as Story Creator give students the unique experience of building their own book, channeling opportunities to be creative, write, and share with others.
While some use iPads for the opportunity to create, others use it to practice essential skills in the various content areas. In first grade, the elementary Rebels have been working on fluency with their addition and subtraction facts. The ToDo Math application, which reinforces continual practice with mathematical concepts taught in grades PK-2, not only gives traditional fact fluency practice, but also allows students to build number sentences and use other critical components of the mathematical models embedded within the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics. The first grade students worked on their understanding of addition and subtraction facts by rotating through a series of stations and activities from the ToDo Math application. With varied levels, the activities were differentiated based on student ability and allotted for continued practice with similar content in multiple modalities. Without iPads, the experience may have looked much different, but in thanks to the resource, students were able to reinforce understanding of a critical concept with repeated practice.
As technology makes its way into classrooms, teachers have come to learn and explore all the practical ways in which it can be used to promote student learning, opportunities for creation, and ultimately, student engagement and a positive learning environment of the 21st century. Just as the CRCS Rebels have modeled, iPads are a gateway to giving students another modality to learn with, and learn from.
By: Lauren Stuff, CA BOCES
“Tinkering is the way that real science happens in all its messy glory.” (Sylvia Martinez)
Are you looking for a way to help foster cooperative learning, problem solving, creative thinking, and student engagement in your classroom? Several PreK-1st grade teachers from Randolph and Cuba-Rushford school districts have been busy doing just that by incorporating engineering into their curriculum. Kudos to Tonya Thomas, Lisa Burris, DeAnne Gozdalski, and Melissa Grover for creating an authentic context for learning math and science and having students apply that knowledge to what they are learning in social studies and ELA as well!
Students need to learn how to fail in order to succeed and that it’s OK to not come up with a solution the first time you test out an idea. This can be difficult for both children and adults to learn, and the Engineering Design Process allows for students to be creative in their thinking and problem solving and to make multiple revisions to their work in order to be successful.
Lastly, I leave you with some thoughts to ponder over from Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager, Ph.D, who wrote the book Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom:
1. “Creating a learning environment that deliberately breaks this teacher-as-manager focus is difficult, yet necessary. It requires a new teacher mindset and also requires giving students explicit permission to do things differently.”
2. “When we allow children to experiment, take risks, and play with their own ideas, we give them permission to trust themselves.”
3. “Adopting a tinkering mindset in your classroom allows students to learn in their own style.”
4. “We teach children science and math so they can make the world a better place, not so they can pass tests.”
5. “It seems that to many people, tinkering connotes a messiness and unprofessionalism that doesn’t apply to “real” jobs in scientific fields. I believe just the opposite is true – tinkering is exactly how real science and engineering are done.”
By: Kristen Keenan, CA BOCES
Saturday, February 7, 2015 @ Portville Central School
The largest Scholastic Challenge Competition was held on Saturday, February 7 at Portville Central School. This annual event, sponsored by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES, hosted a record total of 49 teams who competed in a Junior Division and Senior Division, for grades 6-12.
Scholastic Challenge is a fast-paced contest that tests knowledge of academic trivia. Teams of three students measure their ability to recall details from a wide variety of topics.
Thirteen school districts participated in the double-elimination contest this year. This translates to more than 200 students and coaches. Throughout the day, several thousand questions were read aloud to these ambitious teams. All the teams represented their schools well, combining an impressive display of intelligence with camaraderie, graciousness and good sportsmanship that was admirable.
Competitors and coaches represented the following school districts:
Allegany-Limestone-1 team coached by Kathy Schaeper
Hinsdale Central-4 teams coached by Kate Jedrosko
Cuba-Rushford - 6 teams coached by John Butler
Ellicottville Central - 4 teams coached by Ann Chamberlain
Fillmore Central – 2 teams coached by Deb Woltag & Bill Kelley
Friendship Central - 1 team coached by Wade Pearsall
Genesee Valley - 6 teams coached by Rollie Duttweiler & Sara Donlon
Olean High- 2 teams coached by Carolyn Shields
Pioneer Central -5 teams coached by Sarah Wood & Jimmy Wood
Portville Central - 9 teams coached by Margaret Seib & Gene Rogers
Randolph Central- 1 team coached by Jennifer Bieniek
Wellsville Central - 3 teams coached by Diane Willard & Hope Gilfert
West Valley Central - 5 teams coached by Ryan Keem
There were two impressive teams who were undefeated going into the Finals in the auditorium. Congratulations to the Fillmore Green Junior team and the Pioneer Starfleet Academy Senior team!
The final matches were held on stage in the Portville auditorium. As usual, the finalists were challenged to answer questions on current events and local facts. The first and second place teams in each division were presented with plaques to recognize their achievements. All four of the Finalist teams have earned the honor of being invited to the 2015 National Academic Championship.
This event requires about 50 volunteers to make the day run smoothly. CABOCES Student Programs is grateful to everyone who donated their time and experience to provide a fun and educational day for the students in our area. Scholastic Challenge could not happen without their help!
Congratulations to all the teams and their proud coaches on a job well done. We look forward to seeing everyone back next year!
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES
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
Students were familiar with analyzing a story using a story mountain, including: setting and characters, conflict or problem, the rising action, the climax or turning point, the falling action and the resolution or solution. After working with this article at a faculty meeting, Mrs. Hillman decided to have the students develop the rubric for the keynote project. She worked with her students on identifying key characteristics and understandings of each story element and what would be needed for each rubric score. The students were aware of what they needed to do for a quality score in each rubric category.
Each child took a different element. After reviewing other rubric samples, they created a four-point rubric for their element. Mrs. Hillman modeled how to do this with the exposition (characters and setting). Students got to work on their element, thinking about key understandings of their element. After completing their own element, students met as a group to share and discuss. This would be a group effort so they all had a say in the qualities of each element. Even though each student only had one element of the story mountain to develop in their portion of the report, they were very involved since it was a group activity. There was a lot of discussion since they were developing parts of something bigger that they were going to be putting together. With teacher guidance, they edited and revised the rubric.
Each child created their portion of the keynote presentation for their element. Their project was edited, revised, and reworked until students were satisfied with it. They referred to the rubric they created as they revised. This made it easier for the students since they had control of what they needed to include for each element. Once they felt it was complete, they emailed it to Mrs. Hillman. She combined all the elements into one presentation. Once all the elements were compiled into the group project, students were able to watch and share the presentation with the principal. Each student presented the element they had worked on in the rubric.
When the keynote presentation was complete, Mrs. Hillman projected the student created rubric using Apple TV; students also had a rubric in front of them to look at. The students graded the keynote project based on their rubric criteria. They analyzed each element and compared it to the rubric language. They provided feedback to each other, continuing to using the language of the rubric. The students loved this approach as they were personally invested in the rubric creation. All the students agreed that this project was easier to do well on than others were since they wrote the rubric and knew what they needed to do to get a certain score. They felt like they were set up for success. They liked to have the control over how they were graded and even wanted to eliminate the “one” score since they were not going to get that! When asked if they wanted to try this again for another project, they said definitely.
By: Gina Palermo, CA BOCES Professional Development and Cuba-Rushford Curriculum Coordinator
When a professional development day focusing on writing evolved into a discussion about reading comprehension, the day took a very eventful turn. Lesa Dionne, staff specialist for Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES, was providing professional development on the writing process for fourth and fifth grade teachers at Cuba Rushford Elementary School. The fifth grade teachers arrived in the afternoon, frustrated after looking at student work and realizing the class was having a difficult time citing evidence and answering comprehension questions. Student seemed to be struggling with the challenging texts from the Common Core and teachers wanted them to become more active learners. Lesa looked at the student work and pointed out that the students cannot write about a passage that they can’t comprehend. The discussion quickly changed from the writing process to reading comprehension and the use of questioning as a strategy to actively engage students.
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