Monday, May 13, 2013

The "Chelsea Center" and Sophomore Service Learning Day

In 2010, the Chelsea Detrick Learning Center was born at Webster Groves High School.  The “Chelsea Center” is named in the honor and memory of Chelsea Detrick, a beautiful and brilliant young lady and former district student who lost her life to cancer on April 9, 2009.  To learn more about the Chelsea Center including the opportunities offered to WGHS students, its mission and philosophy regarding learning through experience, and the young lady whose name it bears, please click here

What follows is just one of the many rich learning experiences supported through the Chelsea Center which has “spilled over” and influenced many:

A few years back, Katie Loher and Natalia Torres took the very first “service learning sampler” class through the Chelsea Center.  Being so moved by the experience and feeling called to bring this opportunity to others, they, along with the encouragement and support of Ms. Burchett (coordinator of the Chelsea Center) and Dr. Clark (WGHS principal), created “Sophomore Service Learning Day.”

On April 9, the entire sophomore class and over 50 WGHS staff members spread out across the greater St. Louis community as part of the 3rd Annual Sophomore Service Learning Day.  The students started the day discussing their thoughts on what they expected from the experience and then ended the day by sharing their reflections from the experiences.  In between, students could be found helping others at locations such as the Red Cross, various food pantries, neighborhood city gardens, and numerous parks inside our school district boundaries.  Learning and caring for others had “left the building.”

One of my favorite stories from the day involves a student who wasn’t overly happy to be building a garden.  However, once he arrived at the garden and learned about the preschool children whose garden this would become and the learning that he was going to influence through his service, no student worked harder.  One of the adults on hand shared, “He didn’t even stop to break as he was determined for the project to be completed by the time we stepped back on the bus!”      

Please read the following quote from co-creator Katie Loher, as she describes how the experience and day has evolved over the past 3 years:

“It has grown immensely.  Our first year we did everything by paper, and it was only the three of us making the phone calls, gathering organizations, stuffing goody bags, talking to classes, etc.  Since then, we have gotten lots of help from other teachers and we have worked with the tech people at school and developed a website so the students can fill where they want to work online.  This makes everything go SO much faster.  It took us so many less hours this year than the last two years just because of technology and all the extra help.  Natalia and I have worked to train some underclassmen so that when we graduate, they can take over for us.  It was so much fun teaching everything we had learned, and watching our idea grow into an annual school event.  Watching the younger students take over and really be passionate about something that Natalia and I created is so humbling to me, and I can’t wait to come back from college and see how the event has developed.”

Just another reason why it’s good to be a learner in the WGSD!

Each child, each day…John

Friday, April 19, 2013

The "Space" to Learn...

Good evening,

With few exceptions, each Wednesday I spend the better part of the morning in one of our schools.  It’s important for me to “stay close” to students and their learning as well as nurture meaningful and purposeful relationships with administrators and their staffs.    

High-quality learning is both rigorous and relational, and is observable each day to anyone who spends time with the children and staff at the Walter Ambrose Family Center.  While meeting with Marty Baker and Merlene Gilb this past Wednesday, they spent some time (as they always do) “lifting up” the amazing children and staff of the WAFC.  One of these “highlights” was the video below which shows two young boys sharing a story with one another.   

The children in the video were purposefully given the space to authentically engage in this learning together.  While not being traditionally taught or led by the adult(s) in the moment, these two children demonstrate both understanding of and competency with a variety of reading standards (outcomes) at both the early childhood and elementary levels including the new K-12 common core state standards.  The teacher, utilizing the “PATH” process developed by the staff at the WAFC Preschool, is nearby so that she may observe, listen, and document the learning being demonstrated.  The teacher will then use what she has witnessed and recorded to provide spaces and opportunities for these children to learn in a manner that is responsive, caring, and natural. 

Please enjoy this beautiful moment, so full of high-quality learning!
Each child, Each day....John

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Hixson Arcade

Good afternoon,

On April 9, 2012, a struggling filmmaker by the name of Nirvan Mullick posted to YouTube a video (view below) he created after being inspired by a 9 year-old boy who had made a cardboard arcade from used parts in his dad’s auto parts store in East Los Angeles.  As a “thank you” to Caine (9 year-old), Mullick provided a way for viewers to contribute to a college fund for this amazing young man.  Approximately 24 hours later, over one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars had already been raised.  Inspiration + Caring People + the Internet = Changed Lives!  Less than a year later, two viewers of that video would use it as a "spark" to inspire middle school students in the WGSD!   

Shortly after winter break, Mr. Patrick Dempsey and Mr. Rob Rambach, two science teachers at Hixson Middle School, dedicated time to thinking about how to have their students demonstrate their understanding of what they would soon learn in an upcoming unit on electricity (exs: circuit diagrams and effect of resistance on electric currents).  As they thought about how to engage students in the work in a rigorous yet fun way, one of the teachers remembered the video of Caine's Arcade.  With the "spark," the two processed themselves and brought others to the conversation including the social studies coordinator, Dr. Chris McGee.  The idea: cardboard arcade games!

Today, I had the privilege of viewing the result of the middle school students' learning and what it looks like when expressed in wonderfully creative and imaginative ways.  Please check out the video below of Mr. Rambach's students sharing their arcades (and learning) with the children at Avery School (Mr. Dempsey's class went to Hudson last week).  I hope you enjoy the sounds and images of the process and product of high-quality learning taking place (all students and adults) at Avery School today.

Inspiration + Caring People(Teachers) + The Internet = Changed Lives!

 Each child, Each day....John



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Learning in the WGSD - First Blog Post

At the Walter Ambrose Family Center, organizing
with materials becomes a whole-learning adventure.
Through exploration the child produces mathematical 
patterns and rhythms, building and combining shapes 
and creating new forms.

Dear WGSD Community,

In my role as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the WGSD, I have the distinct privilege of spending much time in our schools watching children learn with the support of many, many caring adults.  Whether in the orange room at the Walter Ambrose Family Center watching two year olds guide their own inquiry or listening to high school students relate a historical event to their own lives, rigorous and meaningful learning is taking place each and every day!

As a way of thanking the community for the tremendous support it’s given public education, I’ve created a blog to highlight learning across the district. The blog will feature stories from our schools that I hope you’ll find interesting and inspiring.

If you would like to be notified when a blog post has been added, please subscribe to the blog by entering your email in the designated space.  Otherwise, you can access the blog via the curriculum page on the district web site or bookmark the blog itself. 

Each child, Each day...John