“A society that fails to value communality, our need to belong, is a society facing away from the essence of what it means to be human,” (Gabor Mate, Ph.D)
Crisis can bring about change and present opportunities in various ways. As our school districts navigated the pandemic, they were also faced with addressing other ongoing crises. Several deeply rooted systemic barriers to equity were magnified throughout the pandemic which led to urgency for action in schools across the nation.
As leaders and educators at Cuba Rushford Middle/High School focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the context of their school setting and community, one priority has been a mainstay; honoring student voice. Rather than making assumptions about equity and inclusion, leaders and educators utilized a survey to ask students their opinion, thoughts, and feelings on the matter. Survey data offered critical student insight on issues of DEI within the school community. Student input didn’t end there. Administrators, Dr. Katie Ralston and Chris Fee wanted to ensure that these critical conversations didn’t end by offering the survey, they created structures to allow these conversations to continue into the classroom. For three days in February, I was invited to join classroom teachers and facilitate restorative circles designed to discuss issues of DEI, while honoring student voice.
The concepts of DEI are embedded in restorative practices, which made the use of restorative circles a perfect tool to further address DEI at Cuba Rushford. The district has been working diligently over the past several years, and through a worldwide pandemic, to implement restorative practices district wide. One of the resources that the district has relied upon, was Kay Pranis’s book, “Circle Forward,” which provides several sample scripts for restorative circles. While spending the three consecutive days facilitating circles in various classrooms, I consulted the Circle Forward Module, “Difficult but Critical Conversations,” which provides several scripts related to DEI.
While working collaboratively with administrators in Cuba Rushford, it was promising to see that the focus on DEI and eradicating systemic barriers to equity included actions that support enhancing professional practice; building a school culture of care, and developing partnerships and relationships. As the district continues to empower students and explore DEI within their district and community, we plan to continue to work collaboratively in creating structures that support the underlying goal of achieving equity, honoring and celebrating diversity and maintain an inclusive environment.
By: Kathryn Mendell, CA BOCES Community Schools
Cuba, New York – Wednesday, February 16, 2022 – Twenty-two VEX Robotics teams from across Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties will be attending the annual CABOCES VEX Robotics Qualifying Tournament at Cuba-Rushford Middle/High School on Wednesday, February 16. Students will compete with and against teams from Belfast, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Cuba-Rushford, Ellicottville, Fillmore, Franklinville, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Pioneer, Portville, Wellsville, and Whitesville. The middle and high school students will execute the 2021-2022 VEX Robotics Competition game, Tipping Point. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing Alliance by scoring rings, moving mobile goals to Alliance zones, and by elevating on platforms at the end of a two- minute match.
All teams can take part in the full qualifying tournament and a Skills Challenge. Teams also have an opportunity to participate in a Team Interview as well as be judged on their Engineering Notebook. Teams who earn advancement will qualify to attend the Northern New York State Championship in Syracuse on March 12, 2022.
To prepare for the tournament, students worked together to design, build and program a semiautonomous robot that could quickly and efficiently solve the specific challenges of the Tipping Point game. Teams studied electronics, programming, mechanical systems, animation, 3D CAD, computer-aided machining, web design, and materials fabrication. An equally important set of skills is learned through competition: communication, negotiation, project management, time management, and teamwork.
The tournament is possible because of a collaborative effort between Cuba-Rushford school and CABOCES. CABOCES ISS (Professional Development, Learning Resources, and Student Programs), along with the CABOCES Tech Support team and iDesign Solutions worked together to plan a successful tournament. Additional support and guidance, which was invaluable, came from Ben Mitchell from the REC Foundation. All details about the upcoming tournament are available at https://www.robotevents.com/robot-competitions/vex-robotics-competition/RE-VRC-21-6698.html#general-info
The CABOCES Qualifying Tournament is one of a series of VEX Robotics Competitions taking place internationally throughout the year. VEX Competitions are the largest and fastest-growing competitive robotics program for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and college-aged students around the world. VEX Competitions represent over 24,000 teams from 61 countries that participate in more than 1,650 VEX Competition events worldwide. The competition season culminates each spring, with VEX Robotics World Championship, a highly anticipated event that unites top qualifying teams from local, state, regional, and international VEX Robotics Competitions to crown World Champions. More information about the VEX Robotics Competition is available at RoboticsEducation.org, RobotEvents.com, and VEXRobotics.com. To find out how to become involved in VEX Robotics in the CABOCES region, email email@example.com or call 716-376-8323.
About the REC Foundation
The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation manages the VEX Robotics Competition, which thousands of schools participate in around the world each year. REC states that one million students are reached worldwide through all the VEX robotics programs, classrooms, and competitions.
The REC Foundation seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, sustainable, and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs across the U.S. and internationally. Its goal is to provide these programs with services, solutions, and a community that allows them to flourish in a way that fosters the technical and interpersonal skills necessary for students to succeed in the 21st Century. The REC Foundation develops partnerships with K-12 education, higher education, government, industry, and the non-profit community to achieve this work so that one day these programs will become accessible to all students and all schools in all communities. For more information on REC Foundation, visit www.RoboticsEducation.org.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
Student Programs inspires creative problem-solving, teamwork, deep thinking, and resilience. This year, more than ever, students, coaches, and the Student Programs team were challenged to apply these traits to achieve the impossible, virtually.
While some regions chose to cancel student competitions this year, CABOCES reimagined them all as virtual events. Despite countless obstacles, innovative teams found ways to participate and excel, thanks to supportive administration and dedicated coaches who were willing to take a risk. Coaches, students, and judges faced a steep learning curve of mastering the complicated new format of virtual competitions. The Student Programs team would like to recognize some highlights of the 2020-2021 CABOCES Regional Student Competitions.
Scholastic Challenge (November 2020)
At the uncertain start of the school year, nine districts came together, virtually, and formed a total of 21 teams. Ellicottville Central School, coached by Ann Chamberlain and Chris Edwards, won 1st place honors in both the Junior and Senior divisions.
Odyssey of the Mind Multi-Regional Tournament (March 2021)
Allegany-Limestone Elementary School took a risk by joining Odyssey of the Mind for the first time. Starting a new membership is impressive in a year that caused many established memberships to drop due to the obvious obstacles. Kimberly Voegelin’s Problem 5 Division 1 team received Region 19’s OMER Award and ended up in 5th place in the New York State Tournament. Congratulations on establishing a new membership and Division 1 team.
Bolivar-Richburg Central School’s Problem 5 Division 1 team, coached by Carol McClellan, earned a 4th place finish in New York State. Also, Margaret Werner’s Problem 5 Division 2 team earned an impressive 1st place in the Spontaneous portion of the state competition.
Seneca Intermediate (Salamanca) School’s Problem 4 Division 2, coached by Janette McClure and Brenda Windus, earned a 3rd place finish in New York State. Despite the pandemic, they remarkably built a balsa wood structure that held a weight of 202 pounds. They are currently competing in the 2021 Odyssey of the Mind Virtual World Finals along with 873 teams from all over the world.
NASEF (eSports) NYS Tournament: Rocket League (6-week season and playoffs; March-April 2021)
A pandemic school year might be the best AND worst time to launch a new Student Programs event. Congratulations to two school districts that led the way and were successful in their first eSports season.
Cuba-Rushford Central School’s eSports team competed in the NASEF Rocket League tournament and finished as NYS Finalists and 12th place nationally. The team consisted of all Seniors who played on school computers located in the library. Thank you and congratulations to Cuba-Rushford’s Jay Morris who served as General Manager.
Salamanca City School fielded two Warrior eSports teams and they ended the regular season ranked in 4th and 15th place. Salamanca eSports is fully funded and recognized by the Salamanca Board of Education as a Varsity Sport, with all the benefits and academic responsibilities that come with that designation. Congratulations to the Warrior’s General Managers Justin Schapp, Aaron Straus, and Kim Dry.
VEX Robotics Skills Challenge (February 2021) and FIRST Lego League Championship Event (April 2021)
Building a robot in a normal year is difficult. Building a robot during a pandemic, with school closures and quarantines, sounds impossible. Yet, one school district found a way to field four VEX teams, coached by Dave Taylor, and four Lego League teams, coached by Dawn Wardner.
Franklinville Central School’s teams worked hard and engineered an impressive season. Collectively, the VEX teams earned the Design Award, the Robot Skills 2nd Place Award, and the Robot Skills Champion Award at the CABOCES Skills Challenge in February and, all four teams advanced to the Northern NYS Finals in April.
Additionally, one of Dawn Wardner’s Lego League teams scored in 5th place in the robot matches at the New York State Championship Event.
Now is the time to plan to join the fun in the 2021-2022 school year!
Follow this link https://caboces.org/services/student-programs/extra-curricular-activities/ as next year’s events will be published here as soon as they are confirmed. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By: Jean Oliverio, CA BOCES Student Programs
Environmental science is best experienced by picking up physical objects, observing, discussing, sharing...
Well, 4th grade students at Cuba-Rushford and 1st grade students at Hinsdale, along with hundreds of other students in the CABOCES region, get to experience these interactive experiences still…but at a distance.
All the programs that the Environmental Science CoSer has to offer, have been transformed to allow students to be immersed in the wonders of learning about the remarkable features of the environment around us, the mysteries of animal behavior, and the natural wonders of how living (and non-living) things interact with each other.
Here students in 4th grade at Cuba-Rushford are learning about animal senses by observing why the Burmese Python can use its tongue to smell or why a Termite will follow a pen line when drawn. Students discovered the many mysteries of how and why animals use their senses to survive.
Pictured below are students in 1st grade at Hinsdale discovering where the concept of Velcro came from or how mimicking shark skin on a swimsuit can help someone swim faster. Realizing that humans use nature to invent incredibly important items in our everyday life is the process called biomimicry. Using this information, students were able to make a connection with other biomimicry examples in their life
These are just a few of the many Environmental Science programs that CA BOCES has to offer! For more information on these programs, please feel free to visit CABOCES Environmental Science or contact Lance Feuchter at (716) 376-8379 or email@example.com.
By: Lance Feuchter, CA BOCES Learning Resources
In my last article, SharePoint: A Microsoft Teams Alternative, I highlighted a few benefits to creating a SharePoint site and using SharePoint in the classroom. Since then, I have spent a good amount of time exploring some of the features within Microsoft’s Power Platform: Power Automate, Power Apps, Power BI, and Power Virtual Agents, two of which I think are well worth your time.
There are three ways to create a new workflow:
2. from a template; or
3. from a connector.
Take a look at Power Automate and start exploring how you can automate processes to save you time, money, and energy!
Power Apps allows for three types of app creation: Canvas app, Model-driven app, and Portal app. While I don’t yet fully understand the Model-driven app, the Canvas app uses the device screen (whether a tablet, phone, or other screen ratio) as the canvas to construct the app, and the Portal app functions more like a website that is not limited to internal use. [Disclaimer: Portal apps may require additional licensing so communicate with your Microsoft 365 administrator before pursuing this route.] Furthermore, just like the other Microsoft services, Power Apps provides access to guided learning in the Microsoft Education Center, support documentation, and a community forum (hyperlinked in each image below).
To help me (and hopefully you) better understand Power Apps, I worked with Jay Morris, Director of Technology, at Cuba-Rushford Central School District to brainstorm ideas for meaningful apps. For me, the easiest place to start was a Help Desk app similar to services such as QWare or Spiceworks. To make this happen, we needed to create a SharePoint List that would allow us to collect and update each ticket, and then we used a Power Apps Canvas app to connect to that data.
The Help Desk app can be opened by the app’s administrators/owners and general users either online or through the Power Apps mobile app to view, update, or delete existing tickets or create new ones; regardless of the modification, the SharePoint List is updated automatically through the app. Additionally, we could have the Help Desk automatically email the ticket creator as well as the technician to whom the ticket is assigned any time changes occur.
Shown below are four of the seven screens used to make the Help Desk App (Home, Create Ticket, User Tickets, User View/Delete Ticket, Successful Submission, Admin Tickets, and Admin Update Ticket):
Then, on the same SharePoint site where we created the List, we can create a dashboard similar to what you would see using a service like QWare and Spiceworks.
I look forward to exploring Power Apps further to see what processes we can automate and apps we can create. In theory, I am thinking that we could make apps for lunch orders, teacher evaluations, daily check-ins, etc. If you have an idea, send it my way.
If you’re interested in getting a copy of the Help Desk app template and putting it into place, please do not hesitate to reach out (Mark_Beckwith@caboces.org).
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Model Schools
Q: What do you get when you connect over 80 students, 23 teachers and administrators, 24 CABOCES ISS staff members, who are miles apart, each safely in their own homes, across 2 counties?
A: The first ever regional Virtual Scholastic Challenge
On May 1st, twenty teams from twelve area school districts got together, virtually, using Zoom.
42 matches took place over the course of the day, with nearly 1000 questions read aloud. Teams, made up of 3-4 students each, mastered using an online buzzer system that created fast paced and exciting matches. The students combined an impressive display of intelligence and good sportsmanship as the match facilitators measured their ability to recall facts from a wide variety of topics. There was an exciting energy throughout the day, as summed up by ISS Digital Resources & Technology Coordinator, Alex Freer, one of the match readers, who said, “What a joy to be a part of today!”
Shannon Wood, Franklinville Central School’s coach added, “Please extend our thanks to all of the BOCES staff that participated in pulling off the VSC! It was really a great change of pace for the kids! They look forward to this and you accomplished the new format very smoothly! Thank you for all of your hard work!”
Scholastic Challenge is an annual event hosted by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES. The regional competition that tests students’ knowledge of academic trivia and current events is typically held as a face-to-face tournament.
Thank you to the 12 school districts that participated:
CABOCES applauds all the students and coaches who were willing and enthusiastic to try something unknown. Everyone learned together, overcame challenges, enjoyed the camaraderie, while having fun. Students, coaches, and match facilitators practiced and prepared for the new format and rules by participating in virtual scrimmages for 3 weeks prior to the May 1st competition.
As Tim Cox, Assistant Superintendent for ISS said, “It’s events like this that really bring our region together…especially now.”
Jean Oliverio, ISS Student Programs
What are the odds that two coordinators would schedule different lessons with the same grade level educators on the same day? While we don’t know the exact odds (perhaps a probability and statistics lesson for those of you interested), we do know that we were able to make this unlikely event happen.
With what was seemingly conflicting lessons, we then had to make a decision. Which lesson would stay and which would be rescheduled: coding or fossils? After a quick discussion and a lot of excitement, we decided something different altogether. Why not both?!
With Kevin Erickson, Cuba-Rushford Elementary School principal, and the 2nd grade team on board, we set out to make our lessons a pairing better than peanut butter and jelly (if that is even possible). Based on the response from students and teachers, we may have come close.
Students were placed in quasi-random groups and assigned with unique roles (i.e. excavation director, materials specialist, recording specialist, and site manager) to complete their task: locate anything at all from the dig site using only the appropriate tools, the excavation robot and the excavation trowel.
Once each excavation team made a discovery, each member fulfilled his or her role to ensure that the dig site was properly cared for, all team members were participating, and the appropriate materials made their way to each group’s respective work site.
Depending on what the excavation robot and trowel uncovered, each excavation team explored a variety of fossil concepts such as types, formation, and locations.
Whether the topics are technology and dinosaurs, Science and Social Studies, or Restorative Practice and mathematics, reach out to your friendly neighborhood Instructional Support Coordinators to help with your next interdisciplinary, co-teaching lesson.
By: Lance Feuchter & Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Learning Resources & Professional Development
P.s. We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to Karen Insley, Distance Learning coordinator, for her valuable assistance and Wendy Sprague, CRCS Elementary Librarian, for allowing us to utilize the necessary space to conduct such learning opportunities.
Cuba, New York – Wednesday, January 15, 2020 – Twenty-seven VEX Robotics teams from across Cattaraugus and Allegany Counties attended the 2nd annual VEX Robotics Qualifying Tournament at Cuba-Rushford Middle/High School on Wednesday, January 15, 2020. Students competed with and against teams from Belfast, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Cuba-Rushford, Fillmore, Franklinville, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Pioneer, Portville, Salamanca, Scio, Wellsville, and Whitesville. The middle and high school students executed the 2019-2020 VEX Robotics Competition game, Tower Takeover, which is played by placing different colored cubes in towers and goal zones during a 2-minute match.
Congratulations go out to 4 teams from Cuba-Rushford and Franklinville. Specifically, 2 Cuba-Rushford teams (Rebel Robotics and Yellow Team), who formed an alliance and went on to become Tournament Champions. The Franklinville (Wasted Potential) team earned the Excellence Award and the Franklinville (The Ratz) team earned the Design Award. These four teams qualify to attend the Northern New York State Championship to be held in Syracuse on February 29.
Additionally, the Judges Award was presented to the Wellsville team (Big Cat Robotics) to acknowledge their outstanding Engineering Notebook.
The Volunteer of the Year Award was given to Alex Palowitch from iDesign Solutions.
To prepare for the tournament, students worked together to design, build and program a semiautonomous robot that could quickly and efficiently solve the specific challenges of the 2019-2020 VEX Robotics Competition game, Tower Takeover. Teams studied electronics, programming, mechanical systems, animation, 3D CAD, computer aided machining, web design, and materials fabrication. An equally important set of skills is learned through competition: communication, negotiation, project management, time management and teamwork.
The tournament was possible because of a tremendous collaborative effort between Cuba-Rushford school and CABOCES. The CABOCES Tech Support team, along with ISS (Professional Development, Learning Resources, and Student Programs) worked together to make the tournament a success. Additional support and guidance, which was invaluable, came from Alex Palowitch from iDESIGN Solutions.
The Cuba-Rushford Qualifying Tournament is one of a series of VEX Robotics Competitions taking place internationally throughout the year. VEX Competitions are the largest and fastest growing competitive robotics programs for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and college aged students around the world. VEX Competitions represent over 24,000 teams from 61 countries that participate in more than 1,650 VEX Competition events worldwide. The competition season culminates each spring, with VEX Robotics World Championship, a highly anticipated event that unites top qualifying teams from local, state, regional and international VEX Robotics Competitions to crown World Champions. More information about the VEX Robotics Competition is available at RoboticsEducation.org, RobotEvents.com and VEXRobotics.com. To find out how to become involved in VEX Robotics in the CABOCES region, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 716-376-8323.
About the REC Foundation
The Robotics Education & Competition Foundation manages the VEX Robotics Competition, which thousands of schools participate in around the world each year. REC states that one million students are reached worldwide through all the VEX robotics programs, classrooms, and competitions.
The REC Foundation seeks to increase student interest and involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by engaging students in hands-on, sustainable and affordable curriculum-based robotics engineering programs across the U.S. and internationally. Its goal is to provide these programs with services, solutions, and a community that allows them to flourish in a way that fosters the technical and interpersonal skills necessary for students to succeed in the 21st Century. The REC Foundation develops partnerships with K-12 education, higher education, government, industry, and the non-profit community to achieve this work so that one day these programs will become accessible to all students and all schools in all communities. For more information on REC Foundation, visit www.RoboticsEducation.org.
Jean Oliverio, Student Programs, ISS, CABOCES
Teams have been hard at work since the school year began to prepare for the Southern Tier’s largest Lego League tournament ever. The program, sponsored by BOCES, continues to grow by leaps and bounds in the Cattaraugus-Allegany region. On Saturday, November 16th, 27 teams from 14 school districts are participating in this year’s FIRST Lego League robotics tournament series held at Houghton College. Congratulations to Archbishop Walsh, Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Catt-Little Valley, Cuba-Rushford, Ellicottville, Fillmore, Franklinville, Friendship, Genesee Valley, Salamanca, Scio, Wellsville, and Whitesville for accepting the challenge to explore the fields of architecture and urban engineering.
First Lego League, a world-wide robotics program, was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in Science and Technology. Each year a new challenge is designed to motivate kids to get excited about research, engineering, math and problem solving, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills. Learn about this year’s challenge, City Shaper, here: https://firstinspiresst01.blob.core.windows.net/fll/2020/city-shaper-challenge.pdf
The Campus Center at Houghton College is the place to be on Saturday, November 16th to see more than two hundred 9-14 year old students, plus their coaches and families, and over 3 dozen volunteers discover innovative ways to explore robotics while having fun! Spectators are invited to attend to cheer on all the teams who tackled the City Shaper challenge. At the Closing Ceremony, the seven teams who will advance to the Championship Tournament at the University of Rochester on December 8 will be announced.
Southern Tier Lego League Tournament details:
Call or email BOCES Student Programs at 716-376-8323 for more information. We're looking forward to seeing everyone on Saturday, November 16! Thanks for supporting the Southern Tier Lego League teams!
Student Programs CABOCES
Restorative Practices is becoming more common in the CA BOCES Region. Several districts have requested Restorative Practice Awareness training for staff as they begin to explore practices that teach positive behaviors and build relationships rather than punish. Climate changes daily but as we know changing school culture takes time, dedication, honest conversations, and an open-mindset. The CA BOCES Restorative Practice Awareness training provides an opportunity for teachers to reflect on the positive and negative impacts of current and past practices.
Restorative Practices range from informal to formal. Participants are introduced to the Restorative Practices Continuum which includes informal practices such as affective statements and questions that communicate people’s feelings, and allow for reflection on how their behavior has affected others to impromptu restorative conversations and more formal practices including circles and formal conferences. As you move from left to right on the continuum the processes become more formal, involve more people, and require planning and time.
During the awareness training, participants are exposed to affective statements and questions. Affective statements are personal expressions of feelings in response to others’ positive or negative behaviors. The idea is for teachers to make connections with students. Affective questions include questions that can be asked to the:
Person who committed the harm:
What were you thinking at the time? What have you thought about since?
Who has been affected by what you have done in what way?
What do you think you need to do to make things right?
Person who was harmed:
What did you think when you realized what had happened?
What impact has this incident had on you and others?
What has been the hardest thing for you?
What do you think needs to happen to make things right?
Participants gain an understanding of how to have small impromptu conferences with students to address specific situations and how to incorporate circles into the classroom. It’s always recommended that circles be 80% proactive and 20% responsive. Therefore, more emphasis should be put on building relationships and making connections with students.
Changing school culture is a significant challenge where students will become the beneficiaries of stronger schools and a safe and supportive environment for learning. Restorative Practices provide children and adults with a skill set for enhancing communication in all settings. We encourage schools to explore the restorative journey for their students!
By: Jillian Putnam, CA BOCES Professional Development
The 3rd Southern Tier Annual Film Festival was held at Allegany-Limestone Central School District on May 9th, 2019 under the direction of Suzan Snyder and was another amazing success. Teachers, parents, administrators, and students gathered together, watched student films, and awarded the trophy to the winning district, Cuba Rushford Central School. Participating districts included Alfred-Almond (@AlfredAlmondCS), Allegany-Limestone(@ALCSGator), Cuba-Rushford (@CR_REBELS), Fillmore (@FillmoreEagles), Olean (@OleanHighSchool), and Whitesville (@wcsbluejays).
As a teacher who loves to see the creativity of my students, to witness the brilliance of a new generation, to be part of collaborative communities, I look forward every year to the professional development that spearheaded the film festival. It is an ongoing experience that continues to bring teachers together–those that were there first and new faces that join each year.
Three years ago, a group of teachers gathered together for professional development offered by CA BOCES (@CABOCESit), bringing Dr. David Bruce from University at Buffalo and Dr. Sunshine Sullivan from Houghton College to guide us in our efforts to learn to use digital media in our classrooms. We left that experience armed with new ideas for our classroom, exciting project-based assessments, our own creative pieces, and with a vague idea that we wanted to come together at the end of the school year and showcase our students’ efforts. We met periodically and fleshed out an idea for a film festival—a good spirited, but competitive event that would allow students to try to win a trophy for their school, and provide recognition among their peers and throughout their communities. We also wanted our students to create the artwork to advertise the festival so they could own this event alongside their teachers.
That vague idea became a fully developed festival. Now, each year towards the culmination of the school year, students enter their best work from throughout the year to a film committee. The committee picks thirty of the best films to showcase, selects winners based on specific criteria, and creates a flight sheet for one final award to be chosen by the audience at the end of the event. This year we had a wonderful artist, Jazlynn Sullivan of Olean High School, create the image for the posters to advertise the event and the programs.
As an English teacher, I am constantly amazed at the writing that comes out of these projects. Teachers ask students to tell a story, to shed light on an issue or a poem, to be a magician with images, to create a parody or satire, and they deliver at the film festival with glowing outcomes and to genuine applause. When we ask our students to put themselves in the spotlight, we are asking them to be vulnerable, to be real, to be exceptional. And they do not fail. Students create comedies and tragedies, extrapolate meaning from a poem through image and sound or investigate the way color is used in writing. Sometimes they look at what it means to be a teenager, magnifying difficult issues like bullying, violence, and trying to find their identity. Students are investigating the deep issues of their lives and sharing it with their teachers and then a wider audience so that we can search for answers or laugh or be afraid along with them.
Sometimes our students bring tears to our eyes. Sometimes the adults in the room go back in time, spend three minutes as the adolescents that we once were. That is what happens every year at this film festival. Every year another group of students radiates their authentic selves and ask the adults and companions in their lives to go with them on that journey.
This small film festival is growing every year. This year there were over 110 attendees. The students propelled the hard work of a small group of teachers into something great. For all the future festivals, we hope more teachers throughout the region will attend the five-day summer professional development opportunity and begin making digital projects and films in their classrooms with their students. We can’t wait to see the work of the students next year. Maybe it will be your students that win your district the trophy.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Can you feel it? Winter break is fastly approaching. For many, this break is a time of a much needed and well-deserved rest. For others, winter break, like the several other breaks from school, is a time that causes stress because school is the safest home they know. The differences between these two feelings remind us of the importance of cultivating the social and emotional well-being in addition to fostering academic growth in public education.
In addition to the social and emotional well-being of students, the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) has also recognized the importance of mental health education. Proposed in January of 2018, the continuum of well-being for mental health literacy was formally adopted by the Board of Regents in May of 2018. The NYSED Mental Health webpage nicely reminds us “research has shown that the quality of the school climate may be the single most predictive factor in any school’s capacity to promote student achievement. When young people are educated about mental health, the likelihood increases they will be able to effectively recognize signs and symptoms in themselves and others and will know where to turn for help. Health education that respects the importance of mental health, as well as the challenges of mental illness, will help young people and their families and communities feel more comfortable seeking help, improve academic performance and, most importantly, even save lives.” Some school districts have gotten creative in their approach to positively improve their culture and climate.
I recently walked into Cuba-Rushford Central School’s Middle/High School building and was delighted to see Lupo, pictured above, a 15-week old, male Bouvier des Flandres; the Bouvier des Flandres breed is loyal, gentle, and hypoallergenic, typically living 10 to 12 years growing upwards of 100 pounds. As I watched Lupo, he brought smiles to nearly all who passed him by, and he received welcoming embraces from both students and adults. Naturally, like most, I needed to learn more about Lupo’s role at CRCS.
Whose dog is Lupo? Lupo belongs to Chris Cappelletti, and is, ultimately, his responsibility throughout the day. However, Chris let me know that both getting Lupo into CRCS and taking care of him throughout the day wouldn’t be possible without the encouragement and assistance of the CRCS faculty and administration, particularly Nicole Williams and Sally Kus.
Why is Lupo at CRCS? Several events took place that allowed for Lupo to be welcomed at CRCS. After many weeks of researching the benefits of a therapy dog, the idea was presented to CRCS superintendent, Carlos Gildemeister. Then, after discussing the idea and the research, Carlos gave his full support knowing that the benefits of a therapy dog far outweigh the costs.
Who takes care of Lupo at night? Lupo belongs to Chris. This means that Chris is responsible for taking care of Lupo before and after school. Furthermore, Chris is responsible for having Lupo trained as a therapy dog; this means Lupo needs to pass a temperament test, complete obedience school, and undergo therapy dog training, each with an associated fee. The big goal for Lupo, once he completes all of his training, is for him to pass the American Kennel Club (AKC) Therapy Dog Test.
Has Lupo made an impact in his first 15 weeks at CRCS? “I’ve seen a huge difference!” Chris told me. “I’ve seen more smiling faces, more communication with children and adults, and increased empathy. Students worry if Lupo has eaten enough, and regularly ask to take him on walks so Lupo can go to the bathroom outside.” Nicole added “that socially he has created a bridge for students that normally would not hang out or speak to each other. For instance, two girls in particular that do not hang out, quickly and without any awkwardness, started talking while they were petting Lupo.”
What else do I need to know if I wanted get a therapy dog in my school district? In short, you need research, support, and commitment; research to identify which type of dog will be the suitable, support from administration and the dog’s owner, and a commitment both financially and mentally to the lifestyle of raising a therapy dog.
Prior to researching which type of dog would be purchased, Chris, Nicole, and Sally explored what the research showed regarding the benefits of having a therapy dog. Then, with a plan and the research to support it, Chris, Nicole and Sally received approval from their administration after several discussions. Lastly, perhaps the most challenging aspect of owning a therapy dog, each member of this small team must be committed to not only caring for this support animal, but they must also be committed to doing so consistently.
Do the benefits outweigh the costs? For the sake of clarity, there are several costs associated with owning a therapy dog. Not only does someone need to pay for the dog itself, its food, shelter, training, etc., but there are also physical and emotional costs such as training the animal early in the morning and throughout the day until the evening hours, caring for the animal in addition to normal expectations at home and at work, and determining whether the animal truly is having a meaningful impact.
For some, these costs constitute burdens that are far too great, and for others the benefits far outweigh the costs. Based on the few days I have seen Lupo in action, I would argue he his performing his duties well. Based on the several weeks Lupo has been at CRCS, Lupo’s caretakers would also argue that Lupo is worth the cost. More time may be required for a concrete measure of Lupo’s impact, but perhaps time has already shown just how valuable this dog can be.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Last year, Mark Beckwith and Sarah Wittmeyer collaborated on a project to create an online database of every test question that has been assessed on the 3-8 ELA and Math state assessments in the last few years. This database, the NYS Assessment Item Notebook, allows teachers to easily click a standard that has been assessed, which in turn generates a list of every released question that is connected to that standard. The Notebook is tremendously helpful because it contains all of this public information in one place, rather than having to open a myriad of PDFs.
Districts in our region have been using this tool in numerous ways. At Cuba-Rushford, middle school ELA teachers have been analyzing the question stems to notice patterns in how standards are being assessed. For example, teachers noted that many questions reference specific paragraphs, such as “How do paragraphs 3 and 4 contribute to the story?” By mirroring their own questions to students in this format, students will be more familiar with the structure of the state exam. Additionally, analyzing question stems can uncover vocabulary that students may need to help them succeed. For example, if students don’t understand what is meant by “contribute”, they may struggle right at the beginning of attempting to answer the question.
In Fillmore, middle school ELA teachers have created a mid-year benchmark assessment using the Assessment Item Notebook. Teachers reviewed their data to determine standards that are commonly assessed. Then they selected two passages and ten multiple choice questions to assess students with in January. The benefit to using these questions is that it will give them an indication of how students will perform against the rigor of the state assessment. Also, because they know which questions are connected to which standards, data analysis is easier and can offer areas for them to focus on before the state assessments.
If your district would like support in using the NYS Assessment Items Notebook to guide data analysis and instruction, please reach out to our team!
By: Brendan Keiser, CA BOCES Professional Development
On October 19th, 2018, Cuba-Rushford staff welcomed Mollie Lapi, behavioral specialist from C-A BOCES. Mollie presented the staff with an overview of brain research on trauma, how the brain works after a student experiences a traumatic event, and trauma informed interventions A brief overview of the biology of the brain and how it reacts to trauma was addressed. “This “fight or flight” response is a natural response to stress”, she said. Mollie also addressed Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as A.C.E.S. (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can dramatically affect the quality of health and wellness. Trauma is toxic to the body, and we can do something about it.
Mollie, then talked about strategies to help support the students. She said, “Educators can make a difference; believe your students can grow, change, and succeed? The common denominator could be YOU! Help promote resiliency within your classroom.” Mollie also talked about the “sweet spot”, which means being able to provide emotional nurturance and still expect our students to perform and own, but not judge, their shortcomings. It is a PROCESS. There has to be a balance between availability and accountability with the students.
The staff was also challenged to make sure to take care of themselves. Mollie stated, “it is so important for the adults working with any students to make sure to manage their own stress. Health, and wellness are not to be forgotten, especially to help regulate the body and mind.” The morning was filled with fantastic learning, and the staff was thankful for Mollie’s presentation.
By: Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development
The second Southern Tier Annual Film Festival (S.T.A.F.F.) was held at the Cuba-Rushford Central School District auditorium on Friday, May 18. Participating schools included Allegany-Limestone, Belfast, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Cuba Rushford, Fillmore, Olean, and Whitesville.
Administrators, teachers, parents, and students gathered together to watch and vote on student productions to see which district would take home the trophy.
Leading up to the event, Courtney Brisky, a student at Olean High school, created the artwork for posters to be distributed throughout districts across Allegany and Cattaraugus counties to advertise and promote the festival. Student submissions for the festival were due in mid-April and the finalists for the event were decided by graduate students at the University at Buffalo.
Audience members watched forty-three films, voting in a mere six films as finalists.
Finally, the moment came for the audience to choose the winning film and they selected a parody of the popular television sitcom, “The Office.” Students DeAndre Ahrens, Gabby Dutton, Hannah Erwin, Cody Findlay, Dana Hatch, Colston Saulter, Jonah Williamson, and Trenon Zeager took home the trophy for Cuba-Rushford. The trophy was previously housed at Fillmore Central School District and will now spend the year at Cuba-Rushford until next year’s festival.
Teachers have been preparing for this festival throughout the year by attending ongoing professional development offered by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and presented by Dr. David Bruce at the University at Buffalo and Dr. Sunshine Sullivan at Houghton College. At the ongoing events, teachers hone their skills, brainstorm, and develop curriculum for teaching students to craft narratives, investigate the correlation between images and narrative, develop writing and media skills, and tap into creativity.
The first film festival developed out of a week-long summer professional development opportunity offered to English teachers through the region through a partnership by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES, Houghton College, and the University at Buffalo. This opportunity culminated with the creation of the Southern Tier Annual Film Festival by teachers because they wanted to offer their students the same kind of enriching experience in the classroom and give students the chance to present their work to a live audience.
“Writing with Video: Rural Voices” is going to be offered this coming year to teachers in every discipline to hone their skills, collaborate, and plan future film festivals. If you have interest in bringing this unique opportunity to your students, look out for the upcoming summer institute as well as for future film festivals.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Barb Busack is an Olean native whose parents nurtured an appreciation for nature. Whether it be traversing through the jungles in Costa Rica, hiking the west coast of Greenland, or walking in Spain, Barb enjoys nature and learning about different habitats. With digital camera in hand, she captures a variety of images from her adventures and readily shares with others. It is no surprise that Barb’s experiences and energy for life have allowed her to successfully grow CA BOCES’ Environmental Science program, CoSer 416.
Barb meets with approximately 5000 students each year, engaging them hands-on activities that complement classroom curriculum such as studying habitats (see photo), or creating a molecular model of a snowflake (see photo).
Barb is state certified in geology, biology, and elementary education. Every summer, she takes 7th graders from Cuba-Rushford to a three-day camp where they take guided nature walks, learn about snake hunts, identify edible plants, and observe insects and amphibians in the Allegany State Park. She especially likes providing instruction on animals and plants in the region, and the Three Great Cycles (water, soil and air) that sustain our life.
In this photo, Barb is speaking to students about ladybugs. Ladybugs are highly beneficial to gardens since they eat aphids and are an important part of our ecosystem.
Although most of Barb’s interactions are with elementary students, Science on the Seneca is a research program sponsored by Hobart-William Smith College that provides high school students an opportunity to be on a research boat and participate in a plankton drag. Students view plankton under a microscope, conduct a chemical analysis of water, and dredge up soil to analyze its contents (see photo). The results are then added to the college’s findings to assist in ongoing research.
Barb’s creativity and enthusiasm for nature is a true passion and contagious! If you would like to know more about the Environmental Science Program, please contact Amy_Windus@caboces.org at Learning Resources.
By: Cece Fuoco, School Library Coordinator for CA BOCES
Do you think communication is an important skill? I’m sure you immediately answered, YES, It sure is! Students in Mr. Donald Griffing’s Chemistry class found this out, first hand. Here is the backstory as to how this all happened. I experienced this activity at my professional development retreat at the beginning of January, and thought it would be a great way for the CRCS staff to experience the importance of communication. So, during the high school’s faculty meeting, Cuba-Rushford teachers and staff went through the same activity. Mr. Griffing found the communication exercise so valuable, he wanted to repeat the activity with his Chemistry classes. He hoped the students could see the importance of specific directions, and common vocabulary. He thought this would be a great way to remind them about being careful and clear in their lab reports, specifically with their data tables.
The entire class was given a chance to become familiar with two of the six objects the activity called for, before the activity started. The class had to come up with common terms to call each item. This would help with visualization and familiarity while building the items in the activity. Students were placed into groups of four. To set the stage for the activity, two students volunteered to be blindfolded and then were given a task to complete, while blindfolded. One of the students was given an object, already put together. This student was the “direction giver”. He or she was then asked to describe to the other blindfolded student how to put this object together…the problem was, this student’s object was in six pieces. The student responsible for building the object, was called the “direction receiver”. The other students were observers, and were instructed to only watch the activity. They were not allowed to help. They would be sharing their observations after the activity was completed.
This was not an easy task! It became very clear to all students how crucial specific vocabulary, as well as specific directions, were to complete this activity. There was a lot of explaining, questioning, and re-explaining during the exercise. Once the duo thought they were done, they raised their hands for their constructed objects to be checked for accuracy. The students worked diligently on getting their objects built. It was very difficult for some, and to others it felt impossible. The great thing is, NO ONE GAVE UP! They persevered through it all. The conversations afterward were interesting to hear, as the perspectives of the observers were heard, as well as the challenges the receiver and the giver faced.
By: Kathleen Agnello, CA BOCES Professional Development
BOCES and eleven regional school districts have been awarded the USDA RUS Distance Learning Grant, totaling $466,686.
Last week District Superintendent Lynda Quick, Esq. learned that Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES has been awarded a grant for $466,686 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grant, known as the Rural Utility Service (RUS) Distance Learning grant, will be implemented by Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES and eleven area school districts to upgrade video conferencing equipment and other technologies.
The equipment upgrades will provide all three Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES Career and Technical Education (CTE) Centers, as well as Belfast, Bolivar-Richburg, Cuba-Rushford, Franklinville, Friendship, Genesee Valley, Hinsdale, Olean, Salamanca, Scio, and Wellsville Central School Districts, with new portable, high definition video conference capabilities that schools will use to provide students and teachers with a variety of distance learning opportunities including videoconference courses, virtual field trip experiences, and expanded access to nanotechnology capabilities.
This is not the first USDA RUS Distance Learning grant received by Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and component school districts. The Distance Learning Team at CA BOCES has been applying for and receiving RUS grants since 1997, resulting in eight previous awards and millions of dollars in equipment for our schools.
“Over the years, USDA funding has built a virtual school in our region," stated Lynda Quick. Over forty virtual classes connect via video conference every single day, allowing schools to share the instructional expertise of their outstanding faculty members. Additionally, hundreds of students to take other online courses because of this funding. These virtual courses are critical in expanding offerings in small rural schools that, over time, have been stripped of the ability to offer many (or any) AP, college credit, or elective courses to their students.
Lynda Quick also shared, "This award helps put a dent in leveling the playing field. It helps our students build a transcript that can be competitive in the post-secondary arena." Grant implementation will begin immediately.
The ROBOTC for VEX training at Pioneer High School was led by Jesse Flot, a Research Programmer & Senior Software Engineer for the Robotics Academy at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), and Josh Jarvis, the lead developer for CMUs CS-STEM Network. In attendance were nearly thirty participants from various districts across the region (Allegany-Limestone CSC, Andover CSD, Belfast CSD, Bolivar-Richburg CSD, CA-BOCES Belmont CTE, CA-BOCES ISS, CA-BOCES ISS, Cattaraugus-Little Valley CSD, Cuba-Rushford CSD, Ellicottville CSD, Franklinville CSD, Fillmore CSD, Genesee Valley CSD, Hinsdale CSD, Pioneer CSD, Salamanca City SD, Scio CSD, and Whitesville CSD).
What is a robot, and what can we can we teach with it? These were the first two questions that Jesse Flot used to open the ROBOTC for VEX training. The first question is fairly direct: what is a robot? Perhaps you define a robot as something like Wall-E, or maybe to you a robot is Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Terminator. The definition is as simple as SPA: a robot is a device that has the ability to sense, plan, and act. What can we teach with a robot? This second question is more difficult to answer unless we first reflect on how we teach rather than the content of our teaching.
When teaching Algebra 1, my students would struggle with the concept of completing the square to rewrite quadratic expressions. Rather than using the skill of completing the square as a tool to accomplish a goal, I made the skill the learning goal; ultimately, it was not until I provided students with the necessary tools and shift my focus (using GeoGebra) that they were able to better understand the process of completing the square, how to use it, and when to use it. Similarly, “project-based learning (PBL) involves learning through projects rather than just doing projects,” says John Spencer. In other words, the goal of PBL is to focus on the learning process rather than a culminating project. Jesse explained what can be taught with robotics in the same way; he said, “the Robotics Academy at CMU uses robotics as a tool to teach programming; however, you can use robots to teach many other subjects and skills such as mathematics, physics, communication, teamwork, and time management.”
With these questions answered and an understanding that the VEX robots were a tool used to help teach programming, Jesse and Josh led participants through two days of hands-on training with the programming of ROBOTC as well as the hardware of VEX robots. Participants explored intuitive and basic commands using the block coding features of ROBOTC in conjunction with the physical features of the VEX robot the first day, and on day two, participants made the progression to virtual reality with Robot Virtual World software (RVW) and explored how the text commands of ROBOTC differ from its block coding commands.
In addition to Jesse’s 16 years of experience at CMU (12 of which being in professional development), the Robotics Academy’s research-based practices helped guide the hybrid training model. From anticipating participant questions to providing examples of student questions that participants should anticipate, Jesse and Josh led participants through a highly productive two days of learning. Jesse and Josh will continue this hybrid training online from mid-February through March in which participants will gain additional knowledge of the ROBOTC language, continue to track their progress with CMUs learning management system, and explore additional features of VEX robotics.
By: Mark Beckwith, CA BOCES Professional Development
Teachers Across Cattaraugus-Allegany Counties Prepare for Student Video Submissions
Many teachers committed to the Writing with Video: Rural Voices Summer Institute over the past two summers and now attend quarterly reunions throughout the year in order to plan, collaborate, and write about the upcoming Southern Tier Annual Film Festival (S.T.A.F.F. Awards).
Teachers from the institute are invested in including digital audio and video assignments in their classrooms throughout the year in order to help students solidify their writing process through planning, pre-writing, and reflection. Students complete a variety of video projects including research, narrative, poetry, remix, vocabulary, and themes that they will then present to their classmates, publish, and screen to a larger audience.
Students who have created video projects across the region are invited to submit original films. The submission deadline is April 13, 2018. All student films will be judged by University at Buffalo graduate students in the education program.
Students whose films are chosen will have their films shown at the S.T.A.F.F. Awards which will be held at Cuba-Rushford Central School District this year on Friday, May 18th. Students will have a chance to see student-produced films from across the region, eat snacks, vote alongside the entire audience, and help choose a winning entry. The winning student or team will take home the traveling trophy to their school.
If you would like more information or would like your student to submit a video entry, please contact Christina McGee at email@example.com.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
Creative Professional Development turns into Collaborative Life-long Learning, Innovative Curriculum, and a Regional Annual Film Festival
This summer I played, and I learned simultaneously. I had the opportunity to attend the Writing with Video: Rural Voices Summer Institute with Dr. Sunshine Sullivan, associate professor of education at Houghton College, and Dr. David Bruce, associate professor of learning and instruction at the State University of New York at Buffalo (University at Buffalo) Graduate School of Education. Under the guidance of Tim Clarke, Senior Program Manager for Professional Development at Cattaraugus Allegany BOCES, this summer institute was presented to area teachers throughout Cattaraugus and Allegany counties for two consecutive summer sessions.
During the week-long institute, I worked alongside many other English teachers including Lacey Gardner (Whitesville), Michelle Grillo (Cuba-Rushford), Brendan Heaney (Fillmore), Michelle McGraw (Cuba-Rushford), Micah Rust (Fillmore), Suzan Snyder (Allegany-Limestone), Stephen Sorensen (Olean), Louis Ventura (Olean), and Sally Ventura (Olean). We collaborated, learned to use digital media on the fly with guidance from Dr. David Bruce and Dr. Sunshine Sullivan, and then created our own projects including narrative sequences, “Me in Six Words/Images,” video vocab, multi-genre e-publications, and “This I Believe” digital essays. These projects became model projects for our students when we incorporated similar projects into our curriculum. These models would help students use media alongside written reflections and heuristics to present their understanding of content and concepts.
The whole week was one of the most rewarding, challenging, and engaging professional development opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend – and it was difficult work. As Sally Ventura, a teacher at Olean High School said, "Rural Voices has been such an energizing experience! It has been as fun as it has been challenging. It has been a pleasure working with smart, creative colleagues in the area.”
The days at the institutes were packed and I was always surprised that it was time to go home. The amazing thing was that I didn’t stop learning and thinking when I walked out the door. Instead, I continued ruminating on the drive home. I tinkered with ideas at home. I filmed at home. I reworked difficult pieces. I researched. The entire week, from the moment that I woke up until I went to sleep, was spent planning, collaborating, developing, creating, and reflecting – exactly the kind of experience I want for my students. As Brendan Heaney said, “The work being done at the Institute is revolutionary. Teachers will learn how to truly incorporate technology in a way that enhances student literacy and composition skills. If you buy into this and utilize it in the classroom you will see student engagement go through the roof. You will also see some of the best quality work you’ve ever seen from students.”
Out of this experience, a project was born. Brendan Heaney worked tirelessly to help organize the First Annual Southern Tier Film Festival, an event where students from five districts competed for a prize for the best film. All the teachers involved in Rural Visions collaborated to help plan, develop, and contribute to this amazing event. The film festival was advertised regionally through social media, local newspapers, and radio stations.
On the night of the event, parents came to see their children’s work and creativity. Teachers attended to see their student’s efforts. Administrators attended to see the work of their teachers and their students and to have an opportunity to relax and enjoy some great film. It was truly a community event where students showcased their videography skills, thoughtfulness, and ingenuity to a real audience and competed for a chance to bring their school home a traveling trophy.
The film festival showcased thirty student films over the course of three hours with breaks and refreshments offered between each of the hour sessions. The audience voted for their favorite films with one final vote at the end to determine the school winner.
Out of this amazing grass-roots effort, came a multitude of class projects which culminated in an annual film festival. This year’s Southern Tier Annual Film Festival will be held tentatively at Cuba-Rushford toward the end of the school year.
Many of the teachers involved in the summer institute went on to present their learning experience using digital video in their own classrooms at the New York State English Council ( NYSEC) Annual Conference in Albany, NY held in October this year. Projects ranged from research thesis statements to video poems, documentaries, film class projects, and six-word memoirs. Dr. Sullivan remarked, “It was a privilege seeing our teachers present what they are doing in their classrooms as a result of our summer institutes and how well received it was by their audience at NYSEC. Our teachers are becoming teacher leaders in the field in writing with video. We are also looking forward to seeing our teachers attending and presenting at NCTE in St. Louis later this month.”
If you have an interest in entering student work in this year’s Southern Tier Annual Film Festival or attending the festival in preparation for next year, please look out for upcoming announcements at your school district or contact Christina McGee at firstname.lastname@example.org or (716) 376-8281.
If you would like to learn more about the Writing with Video: Rural Voices Summer Institute, please contact Tim Clarke at 716-376-8321 or email@example.com.
By: Christina McGee, CA BOCES Learning Resources
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:
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