Every December as the year winds down, I reflect on all that I have to be thankful for – both personally and professionally as the superintendent of the School District 54.
This year, all District 54 employees read the book Big Potential by Shawn Achor. After more than a decade of research, Shawn writes that happiness and success are fueled by those around us: “We need to stop trying to be faster alone and start working to be stronger together.”
The book goes on to say, “What you need is a star system: a constellation of positive, authentic influencers who support each other, reinforce each other and make each other better.”
Each day when I come to work, I encounter so many positive influencers, who contribute to the success of District 54.
I became an educator to influence the lives of children. What I quickly learned on my first teaching job is how much they influence my life. As I visit schools and classrooms, I encounter so many amazing students. Sometimes they influence me in simple ways – with a smile or a high five as I pass them in the hall. At other times, their acts are much grander. We have students who have won national competitions; students who are leading social-emotional activities at their junior high schools; and students running clubs that focus on acts of kindness toward others.
I am also grateful to the parents in our community who have raised these outstanding individuals and thankful that they trust us with their care during the school day. Many of these parents are also active volunteers for our schools. I am so appreciative of the time they make for not only their children, but for all of the children in our schools.
When I left teaching to become an administrator, it was because I felt I could impact more children’s lives by supporting other educators. As an assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent, again I learned what a strong impact our employees have on me.
When I asked all staff to read Shawn Achor’s first book, I was excited to promote happiness in our schools. However, the positive culture has exceeded my expectations. Our employees come to work motivated to make a difference in the lives of our students by helping them achieve academic success and supporting their social-emotional needs as well. You will not find a more positive, supportive, dedicated group of individuals than the District 54 employees.
Thank you to all of the students, staff and families who have made a positive impact on the District 54 community and me personally. I encourage all of you to follow @D54schools on Facebook or Twitter, or @SchaumburgD54Schools on Instagram, to see for yourself the positive influencers in action.
During winter break, I hope our staff and families – and everyone in our community – takes time to express their gratitude to the positive influencers in their lives.
- The School Board presented Ambassador for Excellence Awards to Mead student Isabella Libke and Link student Oliver Libke who performed in the Joffrey Ballet Nutcracker this year.
- The Board presented an Above and Beyond Award to Sharon Stenger, a second-grade teacher at Dirksen School, for the extraordinary efforts she has taken to support one of her students with leukemia.
- The Board also recognized eight District 54 students whose artwork was selected for the STR Holiday Card in December.
Discussion – Health Curriculum Implementation Update:
A revised health curriculum was implemented across all grade levels in the fall of 2018. The new health curriculum is aligned to the Illinois Learning Standards for Physical Development and Health, as well as to District 54’s focus on “supporting whole child academic and social-emotional success.”
During the 2017-18 school year, a 50-member task force identified Health World Education as the set of resources District 54 would use to support planning and delivery of instruction. The task force reviewed lessons to ensure they supported the physical and emotional well-being of students by focusing on lifelong wellness, problem solving, communication, responsible decision-making, cooperation, teamwork, and the connection between the brain and body.
Public Comment: No one asked to speak.
Freedom of Information Act Requests (FOIA):
District 54 responded to four FOIA requests since the last report to the Board related to documents and training on the use of student restraint and time-outs, the salary and terms of elected officials, paper and janitorial bids and RPZ devices.
Consent Agenda: The School Board approved the following items on the Consent Agenda.
- The minutes of the regular School Board meeting on Dec. 13, 2018
- The minutes of the special open and closed-session School Board meetings on Jan. 10, 2019
- The resignations, leaves, retirement and employment of personnel
- Checks dated Dec. 21, 2018 and Jan. 4, 2019
- The treasurer’s report on cash and investments for November 2018
- The monthly update of revenues and expenditures for December 2018
- A recommendation to accept the audit/comprehensive annual financial report for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018
- The purchase of English Learner Resource Newcomer curricular materials from Heinemann Publishing.
- The destruction of the verbatim records from the closed-session board meeting on July 13, 2017, for which approved minutes exist
Superintendent Andy DuRoss shared three #WeAre54 videos. Click on each name to watch the videos about Instructional Coach Rosie Hernandez, Blackwell Student Bobby Larson and the District 54 Help Desk.
District Citizens’ Advisory Committee:
Board Member Barb Hengels reported that DCAC heard a presentation about the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program in District 54.
District 54 Education Foundation:
Board Secretary Bob Kaplan thanked everyone who attended the Windy City Bulls event, which raised more than $6,000 for the Foundation. He also thanked Comcast for a $5,000 donation, which will cover the cost of registration for 12 schools in the upcoming Rube Goldberg competition.
- The Board approved the expenses for of board members who attended the Those Who Excel Awards and Illinois Association of School Boards Conference.
- The Board approved the Addams Junior High Work Plan for School Improvement.
- The Board approved revisions to the following policies:
- Policy 2:150 – Board Committees,
- Policy 2:240(a) – Policy and Administrative Procedure Development and
- Policy 2:240(b) – Policy and Administrative Procedure Review.
- The Board Policy Committee brought revisions to the following policies for a first reading:
- Policy 2:250(a) – Email Retention Policy,
- Policy 2:340 – Care and Return of District Property by Board Members and
- Policy 2:350(a) – Expression of Sympathy.
- The Board authorized Kriha Law LLC to litigate special education-related matters on behalf of District 54.
- The Board appointed William Musselman as the assistant principal for Addams Junior High School for the 2019-2020 school year.
- The Board appointed Lisa Grant as the assistant principal for Eisenhower Junior High School for the 2019-2020 school year.
- Board members were excited to attend the District 54 Special Olympics Pack the Stands Night at Frost last week and the Einstein holiday party in December.
- The board thanked Muir staff and students for honoring them during the school’s gratitude assembly in December.
- Board members attended the SEA/SEEO event at Feed My Starving Children last night and thanked the unions for inviting them.
Adjournment: The Board adjourned at 8:25 p.m. to closed session for school matters.
The District 54 School Board appointed two new assistant principals at its meeting on January 17 for the 2019-2020 school year.
William Musselman will become the new assistant principal at Addams Junior High School in Schaumburg, replacing Kim Phelan who is moving out of state this summer.
Musselman began his career in District 54 in 2013 as a math teacher at Mead Junior High School. He served as interim assistant principal at Keller Junior High School from March through May 2018 and is currently the dean of students at Addams. He has been a member of the District 54 Strategic Planning Committee and Social-Emotional Learning Task Force, as well as a member of his School Leadership Teams.
“Special relationships have driven me to work harder than the previous day and to always find that additional opportunity for our students to be successful,” Musselman said. “I am thrilled to be a part of the Addams community and to continue to work with and learn from its staff and community.”
Musselman has a bachelor’s degree in communication from Saint Louis University and a master’s degree in teaching from Olivet Nazarene University.
Lisa Grant will become the new assistant principal at Eisenhower Junior High School in Hoffman Estates replacing Amy Houlihan who is moving out of state this summer.
Grant has been a language arts teacher at Keller Junior High School since 2015. She began her career in education in 1997 as a fifth-grade teacher in Indiana. In District 54, she has served on the Literacy Task Force, Digital Learning Task Force, School Leadership Team and Leadership Academy.
“Since my first day in District 54, I have felt such pride and gratitude to be part of a passionate and talented group of educators dedicated to ensuring student success,” Grant said. “I am invested and committed to continuing this tradition as I serve in a new capacity as assistant principal at Eisenhower. I am truly humbled and honored for this opportunity, and I am looking forward to working together with the amazing staff, students and families at Eisenhower.”
Grant has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Purdue University and a master’s degree in education from Northern Illinois University.
These appointments take effect July 1, 2019.
The library at Hanover Highlands Elementary School was bustling with conversation and activity last month as fifth-grade students worked together to build castles,rocket ships and other items of their own imagining using cardboard and other materials.
As two students discussed next steps for their project, one had an idea and excitedly jumped out of his seat.
“We could use straws for the landing gear,” he said. “Let me go get something for the wheels!”
As he returned with cardboard tubes, Learning Resource Teacher Laura Masters came over to the students’ table and asked them what they were making.
“Airplane…in progress!” they answered.
All District 54 elementary school libraries are now home to Makerspaces, where students at all grade levels are collaborating, creating, communicating and problem-solving during their library time each week. Their Learning Resource Teacher acts as a facilitator and guide.
“It’s been interesting to switch roles from a giver of information to facilitator, and asking questions to get them where they need to be,” Masters said.
A Makerspace, according to Makerspaces.com, is “a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.” Joshua Bolkan notes in his article, Integrating Makerspaces Throughout the Curriculum, that the Makerspace “isn’t just a fixed space where kids come and go to complete busywork. It’s an extension of a well-established approach to educating students that has applications and deep implications across disciplines.”
“The content knowledge is important – they need to be able to read and write and do math and compute – but they need to be able to look at the world and diagnose where those problems are going to come from and have unique and innovative ways to solve those problems,” said Jim Vreeland, District 54’s Director of Math and Science. “The Makerspace gives them that creative outlet.”
The Cardboard Challenge, which wrapped up in December, was the first in a series of student-driven projects kindergarten through sixth grade students will complete in District 54 Makerspaces this year as the district seeks to cultivate innovation. Through these projects students are learning about the steps in the design process – ask, imagine, plan, create and improve – and developing skills that will be crucial for success in jobs that may not even exist yet.
“Students often get into the mentality that they want to know the solution to the problem, or what the answer is,” Vreeland said. “We have to, in a sense, ingrain a problem-solving process in our kids in which they can create a solution to something they see. That takes time to develop. We wanted to start with something with literally no criteria or constraints attached to it. Whatever you could think of to create with cardboard, you could create with cardboard.”
Several smaller challenges laid the groundwork for the Cardboard Challenge. In the Tower Challenge, students were given 100 notecards, 2 feet of tape and 20 minutes to build a structure that would hold a stuffed orange frog.
“We learned that teamwork is crucial,” said Tristen, a Lakeview fifth grade student.
Enders-Salk Learning Resource Teacher Katie Montalbano said she saw collaboration skyrocket during the Cardboard Challenge. Students who started the school year wanting to work by themselves are now collaborating with their classmates, and everyone is actively participating, she said. She also noticed that students who are quieter in other settings or struggle in other subject areas are getting the chance to shine in the Makerspace.
“They look forward to coming every week,” she said.
‘Not just a box’
The Lakeview Makerspace was abuzz with conversation and strewn with materials including duct tape, tubes, paper, scissors, safe screws, rulers, and of course pieces of cardboard in varying sizes, as a class of fifth-grade students worked on their projects this fall.
“The Makerspace is a place where people can get ideas and create them without anyone stopping them,” Hamdaan said. “I wasn’t sure what a Makerspace was when I heard about it at the end of fourth grade, but now I’m loving it. I love having enough time to build and make it look its best.”
They began with Maker Inspiration — watching videos of someone who used cardboard in an innovative way — before brainstorming real-world problems and imagining possible solutions.
“It really got them thinking about how we’re looking at things not just as a box, but what it could potentially be,” Lakeview Learning Resource Teacher Lauren Franciose said. “We talked about how you could build a desk at your house if you don’t have one. It doesn’t have to be something no one has ever thought of — it can be something that meets a need.”
Fifth-grade students Leilani, Gigi and Rebecca were building a garbage-collecting robot.
“Not everyone keeps the world clean — this robot doesn’t waste gas or affect the world in any way, but it helps the world,” Leilani explained.
Their classmates Hamdaan and Anthony were figuring out how to cut out the tailfins for their rocket, while Tristen and Caleb talked about how to stabilize their sushi food truck, and Caitlin and Kylie fixed the roof on their house for stray dogs and cats.
For their Cardboard Challenge, Lakeview kindergarten through second grade students read “The Three Little Pigs” and built a house to keep the pigs safe, Franciose said.
“I built a drawbridge with pipe cleaners,” said Michel, a Lakeview second-grade student. “That way they could just live there and stay there, and the wolf can’t get in.”
District 54 Director of Digital Learning Hobbs Behrouzi said students are thinking deeply about how their work in the Makerspaces can impact the community and the world, as well as their own schools. For instance, one group of students invented a portable wheelchair ramp, which would fold up into a suitcase. Another group developed a machine that would feed a dog a specific amount of food.
Franciose said a sixth-grade enrichment group at Lakeview brainstormed a solution for students who want to check out and return books between their weekly library times. After researching how to keep books safe — which included hearing from a Lakeview lunchroom supervisor who also works at the Schaumburg Township District Library — they crafted a cart and dropbox, Franciose said.
Students are also building for the sheer joy of creation, such as the student who designed her own Halloween costume: a wearable claw machine.
“It’s all about watching that creative sparkle in a student’s eyes as they say, I created that. I did that,” Vreeland said.
“It’s fun to do it. You get to experiment with a lot of things you haven’t done before,” said Ab, a Hanover Highlands fifth grade student.
“It’s challenging, and if it doesn’t work you can think about new ideas for what you can do,” said Ab’s classmate Eric.
Reflection and improvement
A key component of the design process is reflection. Learning resource teachers guide students to reflect about their thought processes, successes and next steps for improving their Makerspace projects, as well as challenges and how they overcame those challenges.
“I really like that this work is helping them be reflective of themselves as a learner — not just of the subject matter, but as a critical thinker and as a problem-solver who perseveres,” Masters said. “It’s great to see that every group can be successful, even those who have struggled or started over.”
Students learn and gain inspiration from others as they move through the design process. Franciose begins each Makerspace session with an Inspiration of the Day, which has featured student work such as Michel’s drawbridge and the sushi food truck designed by Tristen and Caleb. Enders-Salk’s Montalbano and Hale Learning Resource Teacher John Siemieniec connected their classes via a video chat to present their Cardboard Challenge projects and ask questions. Students also conduct their own online research and incorporate aspects into their projects.
Franciose said that there is a real sense of community as students share and repurpose materials, ask questions and discuss ideas. Staff are embracing the Makerspaces as a hub of the school, as well. For instance, at Hanover Highlands staff have brought in requested materials such as colored paper and stickers while at Lakeview, some classes are collecting plastic bottle tops to be used as car wheels.
Building on success
Last month Montalbano began preparing her students for the next Makerspace project: building a Rube Goldberg device, which is a complex machine built to accomplish a simple task through a chain reaction.
In one session, fifth-grade students rotated among stations with different materials such as tennis balls, dominoes, action figures and cardboard and worked in groups to create a chain reaction with two to three steps. One group cheered as the ping pong ball they rolled between two rulers knocked down a series of dominoes, the last of which toppled an action figure.
For the third, and final, Makerspace unit for the year, students will create a project that exhibits a solution to a problem. These projects will be showcased at a Maker Faire hosted by each elementary school this spring.
The Makerspace approach is new for teachers, as well. All District 54 elementary school learning resource teachers are participating in professional development opportunities to help them ensure student success. This has included completing the same challenges that their students would face.
“They experienced the same difficulties as the kids, which allows them to understand where their students might struggle,” Behrouzi said.
One of the most difficult concepts is understanding that it is not just OK to allow students to fail and try again — it is crucial to the learning process.
“We’re creating a culture where it’s collaborative and where ideas can percolate,” Behrouzi said. “They’re not asking anymore ‘what if my kids don’t get it?’ They’re asking what other processes they can embed to make it work.”
District 54 will hold kindergarten registration for the 2019-20 school year on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019. Registration will take place from 9 to 11 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. at all elementary schools.
Parents should go to their neighborhood school to register their child, even if they are applying to attend a school other than their neighborhood school. (Lincoln Prairie is not a neighborhood school). Residents who are unsure of their neighborhood school can can click on the Find My School tool under Popular Links on the District 54 website – sd54.org.
If your child is currently enrolled at the District 54 Early Learning Center and will be going to kindergarten next year, you do not need to register your child at this time. District 54 offers a free full-day kindergarten program at all of our elementary schools, although options are available for students to attend a half-day program.
A child whose fifth birthday falls on or before Sept. 1, 2019 is eligible to enroll in kindergarten in 2019.
To expedite the registration process, families are encouraged to register online prior to Feb. 6. If you have a student currently enrolled in District 54, you can register through your Infinite Campus Parent Portal account. If you do not have your login, please contact your child’s school.
Families new to District 54 can register through our Online Registration link. In either case, parents or guardians will still need to visit their school to present the documentation listed below and sign documents to complete the registration.
Parents or legal guardians must provide the following information to complete the enrollment process at their neighborhood school.
- Printed confirmation of online registration
- Proof of immunizations
- Birth Certificate (original with seal). Official birth certificates are issued by the county clerk in the county in which the child was born. Hospital certificates are not acceptable.
- Proof of residence (details listed below)
Proof of Residence
Families new to District 54 must provide documented proof of their residence within the boundaries of School District 54 at the time of kindergarten registration. Current District 54 families will provide this documentation when registering their current students for the 2019-2020 school year. All documents must be current, valid for 2019-20, and reflect names and addresses within the boundaries of District 54.
Parents or guardians must provide a copy of at least one of the following documents:
- the most recent real estate tax bill for the residence showing the owner as the taxpayer,
- a signed lease for the residence including a beginning and end date, or
- a closing statement for the purchase of the residence.
They must also provide a copy of at least two of the following documents reflecting a home address within District 54 boundaries:
- Illinois driver’s license,
- gas, water, electric, internet, television, telephone bill or letter confirming service connection,
- public assistance documentation,
- voter registration card,
- home or vehicle insurance certificate,
- Illinois automobile registration, or
- receipt for local city vehicle sticker where applicable.
Any person asserting legal custody over a student, who is not the student’s parent or legal guardian, must provide current documentation from a court supporting the student custody arrangement.
Consumable Materials Fees
Parents or guardians are required to pay a $50 consumable materials fee per student prior to the start of the school year. Payments can be made by credit card or electronic check through the Parent Portal account or by check or money order at the child’s school. This fee covers the cost of workbooks, paper, art supplies and other items used by students.
If students may qualify for special education services in the district, the parents may be referred to our Special Education Department.
District 54 officials can better plan for kindergarten placements if they get most of the registrations on Feb. 6, so parents are urged to register their children for kindergarten on that date. For transportation/boundary questions, call (847) 357-5104. For general questions, call your neighborhood school.
Campanelli Elementary School was bursting with gratitude, kindness and energy January 14 as students and staff throughout the building took part in Camp Happy.
Students rotated through stations to practice the five happiness tactics they have been learning about in class meetings and Social-Emotional Learning lessons this school year.
For instance, in Courtney Sherman’s second-grade class, students practiced “The Doubler,” writing about a happy memory to increase its impact; learned about the importance of showing gratitude and wrote down what they are thankful for; practiced meditating; and completed three acts of kindness.
“The students chose acts of kindness such as reading a book with a friend, high-fiving 5 friends, drawing a picture for a friend or writing a thank you note to someone,” Sherman said.
Other Camp Happy activities included writing a kind note to put on a classmate’s locker and playing Acts of Kindness Bingo, in which squares included “offer to help someone who is struggling with something,” “make a thank-you card for a custodian,” and “hold the door open for someone.”
During their physical education classes on January 14 students had fun embracing the Fun 15, which is 15 minutes of physical activity, by playing human Hungry, Hungry Hippos with scooters, baskets and balls.
“We thought Camp Happy was timely due to the long winter break – focusing on self-care and giving to others,” said Campanelli Principal Amy Christie. “The idea is to continue any of the tactics beginning tomorrow, January 15, with our student 21-Day Challenge school-wide goal. Every student will be recognized for their effort with the 21-Day Challenge at the end of the three weeks.”
For the 22nd year in a row, School District 54 has received a Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officials (ASBO) International for its 2018-19 annual budget.
School districts submit their applications and budget documents to a panel of school financial professionals who review the materials for compliance with the Meritorious Budget Award Criteria. Developed by ASBO for school districts, the criteria guide school business officials toward a quality school budget presentation by enhancing the school business officials’ skills in developing, analyzing and presenting a school system budget.
Since its inception, the program has gained the distinction of being a prestigious award recognized by accounting professionals; bond counsel; underwriters; securities analysts; bond rating agencies; educational, teacher and citizen groups; and federal and state agencies.
A goal of the School District 54 Board of Education is to provide options for parents in the selection of their child’s school. In addition to the neighborhood school, School District 54 has developed programs at several district schools, which it can now offer as choices.
District 54 invites parents to its annual Open Enrollment Fair on Wednesday, January 30, 2019. The fair will provide parents with information on eight elementary schools in the district: Blackwell, Campanelli, Dooley, Enders-Salk, Hanover Highlands, Lincoln Prairie, Link and MacArthur. Each school houses a unique program and School District 54 anticipates openings at each site next year.
The fair will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the District 54 Professional Learning Center, 522 E. Schaumburg Road in Schaumburg. Each school will have a table at this event, as well as employees available to talk to families about the schools and the programs they host. You will also be able to sign up at the fair to visit these schools and see the programs in action.
If you would like your child to attend one of these schools, applications are due March 8, 2019. You do not need to arrive early at the fair, as all student applications received by March 8 will be placed in a lottery. Schools will send letters to all applicants on March 22. Students must be registered before they will be accepted. Kindergarten registration begins Feb. 6, 2019.
A short description of each school is listed below.
Blackwell Elementary School: Blackwell, in Schaumburg, offers sign language as a mode of communication. Students learn signing from their teachers and communicate with both traditional oral and sign language. Blackwell also houses the District 54 program for students who are hearing impaired. Supporting this communication theme, Blackwell has a full production lab so students can participate in video production projects and classes. For more information, call Principal Jillian Sagan at (847) 357-5555.
Campanelli Elementary School: A Mandarin Chinese immersion program began in August 2011. The goal of this program is for students to communicate effectively in Chinese as well as develop a deep understanding of the Chinese culture. Campanelli, in Schaumburg, now offers the Mandarin Chinese program in kindergarten through sixth grade. For more information, call Principal Amy Christie at (847) 357-5333.
Dooley Elementary School: Dooley, in Schaumburg, started its Dual-Language Japanese Program and Early Instrumental Music Program at the beginning of the 2001-02 school year. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade currently have the option of learning Japanese and English together in this dual-language setting. In addition, early instrumental music (violin) is available to primary students at Dooley. Individuals can sign up for the Dual-Language Program only or the Dual-Language and Early Instrumental Music programs together. For more information, call Principal Holly Schlicher at (847) 357-6250.
Enders-Salk Elementary School: Dual-Language Spanish kindergarten classes started in 2000 at Enders-Salk in Schaumburg. Currently, the school offers dual-language in kindergarten through sixth grade. The goal of this program is for students to communicate effectively in both languages by the time they exit the school at the end of sixth grade. For more information, call Principal Michael Henry at (847) 357-6400.
Hanover Highlands Elementary School: Dual-Language Spanish kindergarten classes started in 2004 at Hanover Highlands in Hanover Park. Currently, the school offers dual-language in kindergarten through sixth grade. The goal of this program is for students to communicate effectively in both languages by the time they exit the school at the end of sixth grade. For more information, call Principal Faith Rivera at (630) 736-4230.
Lincoln Prairie School: Lincoln Prairie, in Hoffman Estates, is a community school founded on the premise that students learn in a variety of ways. Lincoln Prairie is the only District 54 building housing children from kindergarten through eighth grade. Students are grouped in multiage classrooms, working with teams of teachers on integrated curriculum. Project Development Time, in which students choose learning projects offered by staff, is a popular activity. Parent participation is an expectation at Lincoln Prairie. For more information, call Principal Amanda Stochl at (847) 357-5955.
Link School: Dual-Language Spanish kindergarten classes started in 2009 at Link, based in Elk Grove Village. Currently, the school offers dual-language in kindergarten through sixth grade. The goal of this program is for students to communicate effectively in both languages by the time they exit the school at the end of sixth grade. For more information, call Principal Quinn Wulbecker at (847) 357-5300.
MacArthur International Spanish Academy: The original Dual-Language School in District 54, MacArthur, in Hoffman Estates, has been offering a full dual-language Spanish program with students progressing through sixth grade in their dual-language class for 23 years. Kindergarten students will learn Spanish and English from classroom teachers who are fluent in each language. For more information, call Principal Sonia Esquivel at (847) 357-6650.
People interested in viewing the programs in action can visit the schools. If you cannot attend the fair, please call the school you are interested in to schedule a visit or receive an application. For more information about open enrollment in general, you can contact Terri McHugh, community relations executive director, at (847) 357-5028 or TerriMcHugh@nullsd54.org.
Recently Eisenhower Junior High introduced Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, which provide a virtual reality experience for the user. For example, you can play a video about Africa in the headset and it feels like you are in Africa with giraffes, hippos, lions and gorillas. You can also walk through a breathtaking gallery of photos taken around the world, have a walk through a museum, and explore a magical land called Dreamworld. It’s like putting on a pair of goggles and traveling anywhere in the world you want. The school plans to use the headsets for educational purposes, such as models of molecules for science or trips into space. I interviewed a student on how she likes this new addition to our technology.
Q) What is your favorite thing about the VR headsets?
A) I loved walking through the photos of Paris and standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Q) What do you think of using the headsets in school?
A) I’m really excited because usually VR headsets are used in arcades and bowling alleys. I think it’s really cool we get to use them in school.
Q) Would you like to use them as much as we use Chromebooks?
A) Yes! It would be great to learn new things on VR headsets! If we use them as much as our Chromebooks, half our lessons would be on them!
One reason the headsets are so exciting is because they make learning (and teaching) easier and a lot more fun. Instead of opening up a book and staring at a page, you get to see what you’re learning about firsthand. You get to be in the moment and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Isn’t that something?
I asked Mrs. Conway, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at my school, why she likes VR headsets and how they can help school.
“The three reasons I love VR headsets so much is because they increase student engagement and experiences out of school walls and community,” she said. “The second reason is that they can build new backgrounds. It doesn’t matter where you come from. The last reason is that it levels the playing field and what I mean by that is that the headsets give new experiences. For example, if a family or student is unable to go somewhere, like London, they can travel virtually. It doesn’t matter what your background is. Every kid can have the same experience.”
Many students agree with the school’s decision to teach with VR headsets. Along with being virtual and fun, these headsets allow users to have experiences they’ve never had before. They open new opportunities for both students and teachers. The headsets are a huge step into the future for our school and our education.
Have you ever heard of something new and interesting, and wanted to try it? No, not the new iPhone, but a language, a skill, or maybe even a magic trick. What if you could experience this during the school day, in a classroom, with a teacher present, but the students teaching themselves?
At Lincoln Prairie, we have something called PDT, which stands for Project Development Time. During this period, students from all grades usually work together to complete a project based on what topic their PDT focuses on. This trimester’s session, however, was separated by grade clusters. That was not the only thing that was different this time around.
For this term of PDTs, the middle-level students (sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders) targeted a concept called Makerspace. This is an approach that allows pupils to come up with their own game plan in order to master a certain topic. This means that based on the PDTs, which vary from learning a new language to perfecting a hat trick, kids were to master a skill during the 40-minute sessions in the class. The point of this is to learn something new by making a goal, creating action steps, and spending every PDT working toward that objective. Students had access to the equipment and technology they needed to reach their ambitions. Teachers are in the room, but they are simply there to provide supervision and occasional guidance. At the end of the trimester, all students share their newfound knowledge with their class.
“I enjoyed that I got to take what I learned home and apply it to my life,” says Isabella, a member of the Training Animals PDT. She spent her time doing research on how to train her dog, and concluded the trimester with teaching her dog a routine using the tricks she picked up.
“I enjoyed that I got to take pictures of friends and got to experiment with the camera,” stated Lauren, a participant in the Photography PDT. She used her time by researching different styles of photography and playing with different cameras, settings and editing software. Her final product consisted of candid photos of friends, one of which is pictured in this story.
The idea of taking something that you aren’t really familiar with and independently using resources so that you can understand it better is a skill that we could all use – as students, in the workforce, or even just for pleasure. As a technique that is used a lot in the future, isn’t it important that the skill is developed at a young age?
Another season of basketball recently finished for our Keller boys. It was a massive team with all the new seventh-graders. Basketball is a popular sport here in the United States. Basketball has been around since June 6, 1946, which is 72 years.
Josh V., a member of the Keller boys basketball team, has been playing for seven years.
“An advantage is the pace of it and there really aren’t any disadvantages,” he said. Some goals he would like to work on are “scoring points, being a good teammate, and winning games.” Josh V. is an experienced player and engages in activity for enjoyment.