The information below comes from District 112.
A hands-on experiential classroom, a setting where students can choose their own paths of learning based on their interests, opportunities to collaborate with classmates in engaging and meaningful projects -- this is the picture painted by a group of enthusiastic middle school teachers and administrators who have been hard at work planning new creative arts offerings that will begin in August at all three district middle schools.
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The group presented their work to North Shore School District 112 board of education members at the June 5 Committee of the Whole meeting.
“This is unlike anything our students have seen before,” said Northwood teacher Bill Steinbach, who will be the facilitator next year for Northwood’s new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program. Steinbach will be transferring from Wayne Thomas to Northwood to take the new position.
“We want to foster a passion for hands-on learning and problem-solving. Students will be excited and engaged by the learning process as they attack a problem to discover a solution,” added current Braeside Teacher , who next year will move to Edgewood to serve as facilitator for the STEM classes.
The word facilitator is indicative of the change in philosophy that the program represents. Instead of teachers who deliver knowledge to their students through books and tests, classroom leaders will act more as facilitators who help learners in the classroom design their own lessons and develop their own knowledge, said North Shore School District 112 Instructional Technology Learning Coordinator Maureen Miller.
Construction is set to begin this month at all three middle schools to renovate existing classrooms, and create space for a STEM lab and a working video studio where Communications and Media Arts classes will be taught.
The way the STEM labs will be designed represents a revolutionary way of thinking about education, said Steinbach. In the class, students will be able to select from over 100 “learning launchers” representing activities ranging from robotics to designing solar-powered cars to building bridges, and choose the skill level where they will be challenged. All activities will be hands-on, engaging, and challenge students to come up with creative solutions to problems.
The Communications and Media Arts classes will incorporate a working video studio where students will be able to produce news segments, public service announcements, documentaries and more.
Beginning with the 2012-2013 school year, students at all three district middle schools will participate in four core creative arts courses for 9 weeks each. Two of those--music and visual arts—are already in place. The two new offerings, STEM and Communications/Media Arts, were approved by the board last spring and have been in the planning stages for the last year.
“When I joined the board, one of my goals was to see innovative, 21st century classes in our schools,” said board member Jane Solmor-Mordini. “I’m thrilled it’s happening when I’m sitting here.”
In addition to Templer at Edgewood and Steinbach at Northwood, Elm Place teacher Chip Shilkus will step into a new role as that school’s STEM facilitator after many years of teaching industrial arts classes. He will continue to run industrial arts as an extracurricular club for Elm Place students. The communications/media arts teachers at the three schools include Elaine Juarez at Edgewood, Marcie Kulbak at Elm Place and Laura Baartmans at Northwood.
“We’re looking forward to becoming exemplars in Illinois for both STEM and CMA,” said Baartmans.
View the powerpoint about the program presented at the June 5 board meeting, and for videos previewing what’s to come.