The Eisenhower Elementary School Redesign team met on Jan. 24. The team is nearing the end of our JAG time pilot, and will be conducting a post-pilot survey at the end of the month. This will provide us with useful information on whether we should continue JAG time as part of our school-wide routine.
We reviewed the ten structures to ensure we were covering all areas through our pilots; those that are currently in place, as well as those in progress. The team is very blessed to announce that the USD 418 Board of Education approved Lisa Simmelink to be at Eisenhower full-time for the remainder of this school year, as one of our latest pilots. This will allow her to not only teach music classes, but also to be available for co-curricular collaboration with other teachers in the building.
A few of the teachers are in the planning phase of piloting the PM Academy. During this pilot, students in those specific classrooms will be able to choose an area of interest and work with a multi-age group of kids once a week on a long-term project. The goal is to involve community members during this time in order to strengthen our relationships with our community members, and hopefully create a two-fold benefit for both the school and community. The plan is for this pilot to last about six weeks and will begin in early March.
In the afternoon, the team broke out into groups to tackle more in-depth, the following issues. 1) How can we incorporate more art, music and physical activities for kids in their everyday learning? 2) What are our technology needs for the building? 3) What programs do we have available to us for Personalized Learning?
This week, fourth and fifth grade teachers will be attending a workshop on Summit Learning, one of the platforms available for teachers to help individualize their instruction for their students. Other teachers in our building will begin piloting iReady, Dreambox, Zearn, and Redbird. These are all platforms that make every child’s learning their own. Through these pilots, we will be able to figure out which ones we believe work best for students.
The EES redesign team made recent trips to Epic Elementary School in Liberty, Missouri and Apache Elementary School in Shawnee Mission.
Epic Elementary School was built on the principle of Every Person Inspired to Create. This is evident in every classroom, that they refer to as studios. Students at this school are engaged in project-based learning from kindergarten to fifth grade. Embedded within the projects are authentic learning experiences that gives real-world relevance to the content they have learned. During projects, students are immersed in their community to reap the benefits of the resources that their stakeholders have to offer.
In addition to project-based learning, technology is utilized to personalize learning for students so they can learn at their own pace. Using technology in this way allows teachers to track data in real-time in order to incorporate interventions that will enhance students learning.
Apache Innovative School also participates in project-based learning. The team had the opportunity to observe two classes that were working on a collaborative project based on the Olympics. The librarian and art teacher joined forces to allow students to design their own flags, medals, and logos while learning about the history of the Olympics. Students were engaged and were enjoying their learning.
At Apache, they also shared how they met the social and emotional needs of their students. Each class starts their day with a mindful morning meeting that focuses on creating relationships between students and a connection between adults and students. Apache uses a social emotional system of supports school-wide to track students behavior data. This allows their behavior team to identify the needs of students and then implement interventions.
Another takeaway from the Apache visit is their concept of vertical looping. They have two groups of three teachers that have somewhat departmentalize their teaching. For example, one teacher might teach science/social science in fourth fifth and sixth grades and then two other teachers will teach math and English language arts in that same vertical loop. Students are rotated within that same loop during a four-hour block of time. This concept allows teachers to teach to their strengths.
Overall, Eisenhower staff members that visited these two schools had many takeaways. It is important to note that the redesign team at Eisenhower is still in our research phase of our redesign process. They are collecting ideas that we could possibly incorporate into the school, but we are in no way going to copy another school’s blueprint. They have collected our own data to create our needs assessment and are excited about the opportunities to address those needs.