4th March, 2010 - Posted by Sammie Gann - 4 Comments
I feel so inspired when I read stories such as this Akron, Ohio, newspaper article regarding a STEM school that opened in August of 2009. The Akron Beacon Journal interviewed several of the 14 teachers, including a 20-year veteran Felicia Campbell, that were picked for the school’s first year. The teachers at this 21st-century school focus on project-based, problem-centered, inquiry-based learning which engages students who previously struggled learning science and math concepts in a traditional textbook classroom. In this new school, video technology allows students who struggle with the mechanics of writing to complete personal narratives. Students build ecocolumns, terrariums, and aquariums and make observations to build understanding. This replaces teacher lectures and chapters from textbooks that are too difficult for students to read. These alternative approaches allow students access to different methods to gain knowledge and demonstrate understanding. Students do continue to improve their reading and writing skills as they read for information and write to record findings, but reading and writing are no longer the sole delivery and assessment system in the classroom.
Teachers confirm that giving up the control that traditional textbook direct instruction entails doesn’t come easily. Just as students learn through trial and error, so must the teachers that teach inquiry. In an inquiry classroom, the teacher coaches from the sidelines, facilitates instruction, guides students to formulate questions and predict outcomes, and encourages students to test to gather observations and ultimately formulate outcomes. Inquiry-based learning might take unexpected detours but if the teachable moments are embraced, unimaginable learning takes place in the classroom. From an educator’s perspective, I value teacher Sam Crews opinion regarding the cliché that teaching was all worth it if you could just reach one kid and change one child’s life. You have the opportunity to touch and change the lives of all the children that you teach! This school knows that the traditional read-a- chapter, take-a-quiz instruction is dull and irrelevant to their 21st century learners. They embraced the challenge of inquiry, focused on changing their instructional presentations using inquiry-based learning, and are now changing lives for these middle school students forever. Fifth grade students now learn how to build eco-columns using investigation and aquarium-terrariums sparked with wonder and excitement. There focus is now on students not just reading about science but kids doing science. Thank you, Akron, Ohio!
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