Monday, January 31, 2011

Curriculum Corner: 6th Grade and Elephants

Our 6th graders are beginning a project which will cross over their science, composition, and social studies classes. They are partnering with the American School in Douala, Cameroon and Phoenix School in Salem, Massachusetts to study the plight of elephants in Cameroon.

Cynthia Nielsen, Karen Niegelsky, and Carolyn Lamkins have brought Dr. Mark Macalister and Dr. Mike Loomis, North Carolina Zoological veterinarians and field biologists from our own backyard at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, on as experts to work with our students.

Students from all three schools will study the environmental, sustainability, and specie issues surrounding the elephants’ habitat and compare notes on how they might try and solve the problems these elephants encounter as a result of human encroachment.

Canterbury’s 6th grade will be following Dr. Loomis via Google Earth and GPS as he follows the elephants on their migration and tags them for data collection. Students will then be able to work with the data Dr. Loomis collects, collaborate with students in Cameroon and Massachusetts via Skype, and visit with Dr. Loomis and Dr. Macalister in Asheboro to review their solutions.

This is an excellent example of the innovative approach to 21st Century learning, which incorporates creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis.

Technology Update: Wikis

Middle school teachers are now incorporating wikis into their lessons. A wiki is a website that allows students to create and edit any number of interlinked web pages based on a web browser (definition found on Wikipedia, where else?). This means students can collaborate from wherever they can get the Internet to develop a web page, comment on edits, or post changes in real time.

Tony Carrick, 7th and 8th grade literature teacher, has incorporated this technology into an almost daily exercise in his classes. After the 8th grade visited the Carolina Renaissance Festival, they created a video and shared them with each via their class wiki.

Cynthia Nielsen, Karen Niegelsky, and Carolyn Lamkins will be using a wiki throughout their Cameroon elephant project (see Curriculum Corner) so students can reflect on the things they’ve learned from their peers in Cameroon and Massachusetts.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Middle School Vision: Student Leadership Redux

Canterbury’s newest Desired Result of Student Learning (DRSL) focuses on developing student leadership. While it’s addition to the DRSLs may be new, the programs and activities we have in place in the middle school are anything but.

Our 8th grade students are poised, confident public speakers who seek out leadership roles. In the middle school we want to develop student-leaders who have a strong sense of responsibility to others, a sense of autonomy in that they can make a difference through their actions, and an understanding of their own competencies so that they can, as our Social Contract states, learn to lead and lead to learn. We believe our students have healthier and longer lasting relationships with each other, faculty, and administration as a result of this leadership development. We accomplish this through a variety of programs.

First and foremost our emphasis on the Developmental Design philosophy provides a 360⁰ approach to character development. Out of this philosophy our students created their own social contract which guides our actions towards each other on a daily basis. This Social Contract has been discused in advisories numerous times in order to understand what each aspect means to the students.

From this baseline of character development our students have opportunities in Venture Out for explicit leadership development thorugh group and personal challenges in a setting outside of the classroom. Athletics also offers lessons in sportsmanship, perseverance, and acountability in a setting other than the classroom. Other extracurricular activities which develop leadership qualities in our students include student council, chapel acolytes, Chapel Buddies, Families, and after school clubs.

The curricular programs for leadership abound in the middle school as well. Service Learning is a program we are working to integrate into classes in order to provide a more meaningful experience. Our band, chorus, handbell, and art clases all have some performance they work toward throughout the class. A variety of field trips means our students are representing Canterbury off campus and are responsible to uphold our values. Finally, one of our most visible examples of student leadership is our 8th grade sermon program through our Theology class.

Our alumni have borne out the value of this emphasis on student leadership. In the last five years, Canterbury has had 5 valecdictorians, 2 salutorians, 3 student body presidents, 18 citzenship award recipients, 4 Morehead Cain nominees, and on and on….

Middle school Vision: Mission Driven Structures

Mission-Driven structures are the second avenue for implementation of our middle school vision. Our mission is to develop the whole child by challenging the mind and nourishing the spirit in a diverse community guided by Judeo-Christian values.

The structures we have put in place are directly guided by that mission. The curriculum we teach, the schedule in which we teach it, the Developmental Designs system we use, and our emphasis on spiritual development are four core representations of mission-driven structures in the middle school.

The middle school curriculum is a manifestation of thoughtful deliberation by faculty and administration which originates with our Desired Results of Student Learning. Through this review not only have we added courses in the arts in the last few years, but we have implemented technology such as the TI-84 calculator (and soon the iPad) to deliver content in a new and stimulating way.

The schedule is paramount to when and how we can teach. It is the way we manage our most important resource: time. This year, we have allotted more time to math and writing instruction in the morning, while providing a semi-rotational afternoon schedule. These changes are part of best practices for middle school aged children.

Development Designs is based on a whole child approach from advisory to instruction to whole school routines. Nourishing a sense of respect and empathy through our social contract, students understand the value of each and every member of our middle school community.

Finally, our special emphasis on spiritual development is framed in both our Theology classes and chapel services. The Episcopal rites and traditions provide guidelines for a student’s self exploration into their own beliefs.

Whether it is through finding a song that represents a student’s feelings toward God, internalizing the social contract, moving from class to class, or achieving academic results, the middle school structures help our students become a part of the middle school vision.

Middle School Vision: Student Leadership

Over the next few posts I plan to outline the avenues of implementation for the Middle School Vision. The first of those avenues is student leadership.

The goal of student leadership is to develop students who feel a genuine sense of competency, are vested with significant responsibility, work hard to cultivate relationships, and gain more autonomy throughout their middle school experience.

The middle school provides both programmatic and activity –based opportunities for student leadership. On a program level, we have added a leadership component to the Desired Results of Student Learning or DRSLs. Developmental Designs is based on a philosophy that seeks to nurture competency, autonomy, relationships, and fun in a middle school community. Our Athletics program works to create a sense of responsibility to team and school, while our Venture Out program makes explicit the positive characteristics of a team and a leader.

We also offer numerous extracurricular activities which work to develop leadership through a focus on service to others and scholarship. For example, our Chapel Buddy and Family projects both have students serving students. Our service learning program is based on themes which focus on our community in Greensboro. Student council, Acolytes, and 8th grade sermons are other examples of activities which serve to cultivate leaders at Canterbury.

Canterbury students go on to become leaders in their respective high schools. Over the last five years, Canterbury alumni have been valedictorians/salutatorians (there have been 5), student body presidents (3), citizenship award winners (18), and the list goes on. Leadership is embedded in Canterbury students and it shows when they leave.

Middle School Vision & Implementation

Over the last year, the Middle School faculty and staff worked on a vision for the middle school. This vision guides our work to create academic excellence inside and outside of Armfield’s walls. Our vision follows,

Canterbury Middle School develops:

The Whole Child: Recognizes that a complete education requires us to develop the “whole child” in mind, body, and spirit, and places academics as the cornerstone of our whole child approach.

Relationships: Fosters strong, trusting and respectful relationships among faculty, administration, students, and parents.

Best Practices: Ensures that decisions are guided by best practices for middle schools and our students’ best interests.

Well-Being: Ensures students’ social and emotional well-being.

High Expectations: Sets high expectations for every member of our community.

21st Century Skills: Fosters 21st century skills through an emphasis on scholarship, leadership, and service.

We are able to implement this vision through four primary avenues: student leadership, mission-driven structures, student-focused support, and communication.

Over the next few posts, I will outline these implementation avenues in more detail, which will provide a road map for you as your family navigates through the middle school years at Canterbury.

To Serve: Service Learning in the Middle School

In an e-letter from September, I discussed three opportunities for leadership and service stressed in the middle school. I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce a fourth: our service learning program.

First, Karen Niegelsky agreed to take on the role of Service Learning Coordinator for the middle school. She will work with the advisory teams to support and shape creative service activities, integrate service learning into the curriculum, develop and/or maintain relationships with outside non-profit entities, publicize the various activities within school as well as any family opportunities that may arise, and manage the many possible opportunities to create meaningful relationships.

Second, we have implemented the objectives of the service learning committee to expand students’ world views, foster a “culture of service”, establish long-term partnerships in the community, and create and implement an intentional process for preparation before and reflection after service projects of all types .

Third, in pursuit of our objectives, we have established a theme for each grade level. The 6th Grade, Think Globally, Act Locally, stresses local projects with a global emphasis. The 7th Grade, Think Globally, Act Globally, focuses on a MDG-based slate of projects. The 8th Grade, Think Globally, Act Personally, features an emphasis on leadership.

Fourth, in our 7th and 8th grades we have carved out a block of time within the week to focus on leadership and service with our closely linked Venture Out programs. During this time students will be focused on the preparation, work, and reflection cycle that is crucial to meaningful service and leadership training.

In the middle school we continue to live out our motto: To Learn, To Love, To Serve: To Live.