Posted at 18:25h
in School News
By Mollie Williams, Middle School Head
Time. Time. Time. There is never enough of it! Schools need to constantly look at how they are using their time and how they prioritize all that they want to accomplish. Last year, our faculty and staff defined our school philosophy by first identifying what a graduate of St. Michael’s should look like as he/she moves on to the next part of their academic journey. We want our graduates to:
- Have a strong sense of self and the world in which they live
- Find joy in work, play, and discovery through curiosity and imagination
- Embrace diversity of background, culture, and thought
- Value learning and serving others in the broader community
- Embody values such as respect, compassion, responsibility, and honor
- Think independently and critically
- Be effective communicators and thoughtful collaborators
By knowing where we need to take them, it allows us to backtrack and plan our program around that long-term goal. “Curiosity” is a word that comes up frequently in discussions about education. Children have an innate sense of curiosity, and it is our responsibility to foster it. Curiosity lies at the heart of all accomplishments, both big and small. It is curiosity that drives us to try new things and always strive to be better. In an effort to foster creativity in our students, we have added more time for exploration, collaboration, communication, risk-taking, and play.
In the past few years, we have offered S.T.E.A.M-related “Electives.” In place of this, every middle school student will have two hours a week of “Technology & Innovation class.” We also took the best elective classes and are integrating them into the innovation/technology class. The classes will be required for all students, rather than offered as an elective option. Below you will find our reasoning behind this as well as a description of what this curriculum will look like.
Vision for Technology & Innovation in the Middle School
St. Michael’s has been using design thinking, project-based learning, and experiential education for quite some time now, and it has enhanced learning and fostered curiosity in our students. While our curriculum and teaching methods are strong, we recognize the importance of being growth-minded and always striving to be better in order to ensure that our students will be productive and well-prepared members of society.
When our classrooms are student-driven and passion-oriented, our students become intrinsically motivated and, as a result, more engaged. Innovative tools and methods can enhance the learning process when implemented in a thoughtful manner, but we must always be mindful of whether or not they are bringing true value to the curriculum. Our Technology & Innovation Program is designed to give our students the basic technology tools and skills, educate them about digital citizenship, as well as expose them to innovative tools and techniques that can enhance their learning and propel them to the next level of creativity and innovation.
Our students will learn to identify and solve real-world problems, work collaboratively with classmates, communicate effectively, and learn to embrace failure as an opportunity to get stronger and be better. In an effort to authentically integrate innovation into core subject areas, our new schedule will allow for additional time, resources and support from a technology teacher. Each grade level in the Middle School will have two hours of Technology and Innovation each week.
The Middle School Technology and Innovation Program will include the following components:
Basic Technology Skills
All middle school students will learn basic technology skills like how to effectively use email, Google Docs, PowerPoint, Excel.
In today’s complex world, schools must partner with parents to educate children about what it means to be a digital citizen. Social media, digital footprints, and cell phone use are topics that will be covered as well.
These are examples of what project-based instruction might look like at any given grade level.
In an effort to make learning as meaningful as possible, teachers will work together across subject areas and emphasize natural connections and relevant, real world topics.
Innovation can occur when a person identifies a problem and uses creative thinking to solve it. It can also stem from the identification of an opportunity to create a product that makes something easier or better. Students will be given opportunities to create solutions for existing problems or create something unique from their own imagination.
Students will use the design thinking process to identify a need in the local community and attempt to solve it. They will interview people who are most affected by the need or problem, interview experts who could help create a solution, and design prototypes that will be presented at the end of the project. Through this process of connecting with other human beings in the community, our students will experience empathy and therefore be intrinsically motivated to make a difference.
Our Innovation Lab is a creativity laboratory where students can explore, build and tinker with adults acting as guides and facilitators rather than instructors. Students learn to study how things work, they learn to take things apart and create new things, they learn to identify problems and find solutions. They are empowered to explore and test, and this empowerment leads them to confidence that they can indeed make a difference.
Students will be exposed to basic concepts related to engineering principles and they will work with a team to tackle engineering challenges.