Reflecting on my time at the Redesigning for Student Success Conference, a conference focused solely on sharing the practices of over 20 of the most transformational schools in the country, I think of the major things that resonated with me.
Thank you @tonydonen for sharing this great panoramic photo
The students were really proud of their school as well and shared everything with us. As we say often in Mineola, the students are always the best ambassadors, and give you the most "real" information. Some interesting takeaways were the 5 week internship that all juniors do, their advisory program, and the biannual project exhibitions.
!. Waypoints - What do we need to see?
2. Resources - What resources do we need?
3. Activities - What will we do?
4. Implementation - What did we do?
5. Adaptation - What did we learn?
The next session I attended led me to Dr. Tony Donon, Principal of the STEM School Chattanooga (@STEMcha) and Michael Stone, Director of the Public Education Foundation of Chattanooga. These two gentlemen were a dynamic duo; great presenters with vision on how to design PBL as well as experience in digital fabrication, opening FabLabs and scaling their impact across multiple schools. In the spirit of professional collaboration, our conversations extended into the evening. Our mutual interests in innovation led us to a rich exchange of ideas.
The STEM School website (http://www.stemschoolchattanooga.net/) is rich with resources and curriculum units for everyone to see and use. "By consistently exploring and implementing innovative practices, the STEM School builds a strong foundation for thinking critically, innovating, and leading. This foundation equips students to address current issues and problems and provides them with the tools they need to continue to learn and grow. The STEM School requires a unique approach to both teaching and learning – which impacts three main areas: its curriculum, its classroom structure, and its grading practices.
Michael's work with the Public Education Foundation (PEF) helps, among other things, scale the work of the STEM school, which he calls a "beacon" in the area. He is responsible, along with his colleagues for opening VWeLabs around the Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee.
Several other useful resources for those interested in digital fabrication that were shared include:
The Volkswagen eLabs website - https://www.vwelab.org/
The Fab Foundation Website - http://fabfoundation.org/
Meeting Roger Andre and Stephanie Lolich from VANTAGE , taught us about a unique half day program that is part of the Minnetonka Public Schools where students work with a project team to solve real-world problems and learn about the challenges of project-driven work. Under the direction of a teacher and in partnership with industry professionals, these project teams strive to make a contribution to a partner-defined project while gaining invaluable experience in today's marketplace. Some ideas that resonated for me during this session from these amazing educators were:
Our Planning Template
Some takeaways from our talk was that it was unique. The programs we heard about included students completing projects with businesses, visiting them, and having guest lecturers, but there were no internships. There were also no college partnerships; credits offered were through tests, such as AP and IB. We also learned that each school has a unique set of challenges and solutions to address their needs and that no two programs are alike. Some districts have STEM schools, and some schools create half day programs with multiple "strands" or offerings.
The conference was eye opening for me on many levels, but mostly because it caused me to reflect on its title, "Redesigning for School Success." It always seems like we are "redesigning" and in the past I thought that was because we were doing it wrong; because we have not been successful. That is entirely untrue. Public schools were founded in this country to make sure its future generations of citizens have the skills to be productive members of society. They started with reading, writing, and mathematics and the list of subjects began to grow from there.
So... it is not because we are doing it wrong that we need redesign, it is because our world is changing, the skills needed are changing, and we must be nimble in our thinking in order to keep preparing our students to be productive members of society. I have never been more #MineolaProud of our district and it's ability to stay at the forefront... always seeking to provide our students with the skills to "...inspire each student to be a life-long learner, pursue excellence, exhibit strength of character and contribute positively to a global society."
Whittney Smith, Ed.D.
Dr. Smith is the Principal of Mineola High School in Garden City Park, NY. He is also an Adjunct Professor in the Ruth Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University.