Learning to Make – Making to Learn – From STEM to STEAM


As you know, I question the direction that our state has taken with APPR, testing, and a poor implementation of Common Core State Standards.  I wrote about it here when I shared Pasi Sahlberg’s book, Finnish Lessons.  This has lead me to read and follow Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves’ philosophy of building professional capital in staff. And then comes Maker Leadership.

Always looking for innovative conferences and to learn, I happened upon a wonderful day conference called STEM to STEAM and Beyond at the Poughkeepsie Day School in Poughkeepsie on Monday, April 21st. (Check out the link I put, awesome workshops!) I think it was through a tweet from Pam Moran, the superintendent of Albemarle County Schools in VA  or Josie Holdford the head of PDS (when you are in a tweet chatting stream, it goes so fast so I can’t remember) that they said to get down here for this workshop.  So I did.  (I am lucky to have these two ladies in my PLN.  I consider them as mentors and friends and they are available 24/7.  That is the beauty of twitter and a PLN!)

Pam keynoted the workshop.  All I can say is WOW! Pam has a vision for her district.  She is an advocate for Learning Spaces, an educational model that emphasizes project-based-learning in non-traditional settings and promotes collaboration, analytical and critical thinking, and communications proficiency among teams of students.  I am not going to go into the day as I have Storified the tweets and am working on a blog post soon to be published.  Let’s just say, after attending this conference, it has reconfirmed my belief that New York and the State Education Department is on the wrong path with education. (I know, a strong statement!  A PDS staff member said that she was sorry for me because we are stuck in a model dictated by SED that is not innovative!  That didn’t sit well with me and it can’t be!)

One thing that Pam asked us to do at the end of the day was to bring one item back to your district and work with it.  As you know, Project Based Learning is in the forefront for me as a building leader.  Maker Spaces and Learning Spaces thrive on the PBL philosophy.  I wrote about PBL here. I believe it is the way to move forward.  Don’t get me wrong, we still need to teach how to read (learning to read and reading to learn, phonics, phonemic awareness, writing, etc)  and how to do math (facts, numeracy, etc, etc), science and social studies, but how can we infuse it into project based learning?  How can we “beef” up the modules that we are working on to be more engaging for our students?  Look at your class.  Are your students bored?  Pam said to look under the desks and look at kids feet and legs.  Are they antsy?  If so, there’s something going on and they may not be as engaged as you think.

Let me be honest, this will not be easy because we have to infuse CCSS into how we do this, but it will be engaging for our students!  We can continue to do the drudgery and worrying about how students do on ONE test and worry about our score, or we can, as Pam said, bring the passion back into schools by bringing in PBL.  The passion for teaching and learning!

I sent out to you via email that Patrick Shaw will be up to do a PBL 101 workshop on August 11, 12, 13.  This is on MLP. I am going – there are some of you who have signed up already.  People, it’s good stuff. This is NOT  like the old projects you did with your class, i.e. Pumpkin projects, dioramas, or Johnny Appleseed projects.  It’s a  different way of thinking and engaging students and there is training that is involved.  It will start you thinking about bringing the fun and passion of teaching and learning back into the classroom.   Patrick says it goes well with Responsive Classroom and if you know anything about Academic Choice, PBL blends nicely with this part of RC.  Don’t use the excuse, “I don’t have the time to infuse this into my classroom.”  Or, “I don’t have the time during the summer.”  Really? I don’t have the time either, but I know it will be good for kids.

Folks, you are so much more than a score.  Let’s start thinking out of the box and push away the standardization of the curriculum.  It’s not in the best interest for kids nor for innovation.  True, we have to assess, but it’s not the end all be all.  Just ask yourself, “Is what I am doing, planning, teaching, etc,  helping students really be college and career ready?”   Will learning how to take a test prepare students to be 21st century citizens, readers, and productive workers in today’s workforce, or do we stay in the 19th and 20th century model and produce widgets in our kids?  As Pam Moran’s educators in her schools asked:  “Isn’t it past time for education and educators to respond to 21st century changes as well?  Isn’t it time to move from teaching places limited by walls of classrooms and schools to learning spaces, limitless in possiblities that extend educational opportunities beyond school walls and district boundaries?  Isn’t it time to stop paying attention to political and private sector agendas that promote 20th century standardization methodologies and, instead, attend to the need of ‘destandardize‘ curricula, assessment, and pedagogy so we can get to unlimited, deep learning?”  (Digital Leadership: pg. 25.)

My friend Eric Sheninger, HS principal at New Milford, New Jersey wrote in his book, Digital Leadership, ” A focus on standardization narrows the curriculum and creates a teaching culture where creativity, exploration, and critical thinking are scarce and nonexistent.  It creates a culture that students disdain; one that only can be sustained with the use of “if-then” rewards or “carrots and sticks.”  That’s not what I want East Side to be and I hope you are with me on that!   How can we have a smarter balance?  Let’s work together on this – I’m in.  I am hoping you are too.   Enjoy the week!


Other News
  • Bus Duty for April 28 – May 9  Team 6: Connie Tubbs, Kelly Ayen, Bev Phelps  Upcoming bus duty:  May 12 – May 23  Team 7: Paula Bates, Marcie Tyler, Sarah Pawananon
  •  Speaking of tests:  The NYS Math Tests are on April 30, May 1st and May 2nd.  We will need to change special area time slots for 1st and 5th grade again for these three days.  Please plan accordingly.
  • Thank you Brenda for arranging and organizing our guest author Mike Thaler, to visit our schools last week.  It was AWESOME and lots of fun!
  • Please check the schedule and emails that Bridget has put out for the presentations for Monday’s Kids on the Block and Making Friends presentations.
  • Field trip time is around the bend.  I am hosting four training sessions for parents and we have sent out notification this past Friday.  Please make sure you are following the correct procedures for field trips and completing the field trip packet.  When in doubt, ask the office.
Things in the Blogosphere
  • What are the five things you are grateful for?  Make a list daily.  It does wonders!
  • Be the change agent for kids!  Be a champion for kids.  Every kid deserves a champion!
Great Quotes:
“Standardization continues to follow in the footsteps of the century-old model of education that is focused on industrialization.  Such a model stifles the growth of teachers, students, and administrators.  This entrenched system produces students who lack creativity, are fearful of failure, work extremely hard to follow directions, (do homework, study for tests, not question authority), and are leaving schools with obsolete skills in a postindustrial society.  Schools focus more on filling the minds of students with useless facts and knowledge than giving them essential skills that can’t be measured with a #2 pencil.”  – Eric Sheninger – Digital Leadership, page 21.
VictoriaL_Day's avatar
Vicki Day @VictoriaL_Day

@pammoran @iSchoolFive me too Still reflecting about it and making changes & plans!

 Pam’s response to Vicki:
Other Items of Interest

The APPR microsite has a new look and new functionality. No resources have been removed – they’re just easier to find. Oh YAY!! (Yes, that is sarcasm!)

VideoThis video from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading does a good job to explain the gaps we see in students from poverty and summer loss. Morgan Freeman narrates.

Read about the changes to the SAT.

Here are some food allergy resources for school administrators from the CDC.

Read about alignment between PBL and the Common Core.

The Buck Institute has a searchable collection of PBL projects.

Dayna Laur, one of our PBLNY presenters, cautions against over-use of PSA as projects.

This “Tip Sheet” from Robyn Jackson explains the difference between being engaged or being entertained.

Here are tips for teacher librarians.

Opportunities to network with fellow math teachers continue. For geometry teachers, the next meeting is May 8th. Digging Deeper into CCLS Algebra is on tap for May 16th. For teachers of math grades K-2, the next networking meeting is May 19th. Finally, another session for teachers of grades 6-8 Accelerated Mathis May 21st. As always, teachers (and leaders) can join these groups at any time. There’s so much to do that we need collaboration to get it all done!

ASCD Collection book of the weekThe Formative Assessment Action Plan. The book explains an approach to formative assessment, explaining it promotes learning in the classroom. Teaching American History: Field Experience- Women’s Rights National Historical ParkJoin a group Saturday May 17 to explore the following questions: What are rights? How do we get them? Who defends them? Who decides who gets rights?

A Touch of Humor



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