The Salisbury Township School District curriculum and technology committee met April 29 at Salisbury Middle School to discuss the progress of the district students as a whole, as well as the numerous ongoing innovative projects.
SMS teachers David Beyer and Josh Ecker presented the progress of their students under the new initiative, Project Wonder. The project, initiated by the two teachers, has been ongoing for the past year and includes 17 students from the middle school.
“Project Wonder: Believe in Change,” as the slogan goes, is a new approach to teaching students. It takes a different look at learning and helps to analyze what students are really interested in. Beyer specifically noted the way in which students who have had trouble paying attention or staying interested in academics have become much more engaged and are even becoming advocates for the program to outside students.
Under the program, learning profiles are created, built on what students are interested in, not on just a specific curriculum. This approach focuses on more of a project management based style of learning, where students can choose projects and ideas they can run with and learn extensively about.
For example, one student was noted for creating an entire sweatshirt line. He designed the sweatshirts and was in charge of logistics for ordering and distribution. Another student created a catapult.
The two teachers have created what’s known as a “brainboard” – a table of learning goals with several categories and levels. The projects the students embark on are put under the scope of the brainboard and allows for the teachers to track their students’ progress expansively.
Questions were raised on whether the students in the program will still be ready for high school. Beyer explained the students are still subjected to the traditional classes and some high school teachers have even expressed possibly continuing the program at a high school level. The next steps are determining additional classroom space and making sure to break the grade level divide.
Next on the agenda, Director of Teaching and Learning Kelly Pauling presented a new kindergarten through fifth grade program called FastBridge. FAST (Formative Assessment Solutions for Teachers) is an online resource and teaching aid to help track students’ development through assessments. The main goal is to help keep track of the students who need extra work in certain subjects.
Previously, the district used a program called STAR; however, FastBridge provides progress monitoring, online historical data of students and more subjects to be assessed. It is a much more cost-effective solution for the district.
In other news, the district has agreed to partner with United Way of the Lehigh Valley, who will sponsor the district’s Leader in Me program. Specifically, United Way will provide a $70,000 grant committed for coaching workshops and resources. The agreed partnership will be for the next five years. It was noted The Baker Foundation will also be a background support sponsor for the program.
The Leader in Me program was noted for its ability to bridge the gap between community and education.
A PA smart grant for $35,000 has been given to the district to enhance abilities in coding and STEM. This grant gives teachers more opportunity to pursue higher certifications and skill-building classes that will better enhance classes in computer skills.