Where Did Those Ideas Come From?

Bebop_Drone_2015-05-17T131639+0000_(This post originally appeared on this blog over three years ago.  Now that we are preparing to open the new PHS, it is interesting to see that we managed to capture some of the best features of the schools we visited when we were researching school design.)

I am a very lucky educator.  I have the opportunity be a part of building a new school for our learning community.  What an awesome task, responsibility, and opportunity.  As part of this undertaking, I have been able to visit modern schools and not only see the physical spaces, but also observe the learning activities that occur in them.  It was so interesting hear to a lead science teacher tell us about students studying cancer cells and looking for ways to disrupt their growth. She told us how one particular student had the opportunity to work with bacteria and try to disrupt their communication patterns.  His research had progressed so far that he was able to meet with several Nobel Prize winning scientists at science exposition that he was invited to attend.  At first I was amazed that high school students were involved is this kind of research, but as it these stories sunk in, I could not help but feel that the students in my school were being robbed of these types of learning opportunities.  Should we simply say we cannot afford to put in a laboratory where this type of research can be done and leave it at that?  I am determined to find a way that our students who wish to study and research such topics can do so in a local lab.  At the very least, we must build spaces that promote active learning where Science is a verb and students can explore and discover.  Active learning must take place in all subject areas and we must seek to integrate them where we can.

The above photos were taken in Niles North High School’s state of the art STEM lab.  It is a large learning space with a corner “think tank”. This is where short, whole group learning activities take place such as a like a mini lecture or a student presentation.  The makeup of the room shows what is important–active learning.  The rest of the space is dominated by large tables, deep sinks, and a multitude of tools to experiment with.  A scientist’s dream.  We will not be able to replicate this room.  I am not so sure we would want to, but we need to see that learning spaces need to be flexible to accommodate different kinds of learning and learners.

Some of the schools we have visited have been very traditional.  The learning environments were not much different than what we have used in our school for the last 100+ years.  Rooms as boxes, filled with student desks, and a central learning focus that cast the teacher as information giver/subject expert.  Other schools have moved away from the traditional design and have spaces that suggest other models of learning.

The four photos above were take at the the Columbus Signature Academy High Tech High.  The school uses a project based approach to engage its students.  What stood out to me at this school was how the student work and the vision of students collaborating were the architectural features.  Learning studios were transparent with movable glass hallway walls, that when moved created very large learning spaces for large group instruction or presentations.  The hallways were filled with different seating configurations.  Some of them resembled restaurant booths, others were library like configurations with comfortable furniture.  Design shaping function or function shaping design….either way the way students learn in these environments reflects a social, transparent, and integrated approach that allows students to do real, meaningful work in ways they will outside of the “school” when they matriculate to other endeavors.  Exciting times indeed!

The End 1908 – 2015

orange PHSI have found myself immersed the past three years in a new school building project.  Being a part of the team that oversaw the creation of the new building has been an exhilarating experience.  I am excited about the new learning environment and the possibilities for our community.  Today was the last day of student attendance in the old building located at 309 South Main Street in Paris, IL.  I will have to say that I found myself to be very emotional as the day ended.  I guess you don’t just shut the book on 26 years in one place without feeling some kind of attachment to it.  Those feelings inspired this attempt to catch the moment.  I hope you enjoy!

Announcing a Manufacturing Dual Credit Program With Lakeland Community College

cobra_rWe are very excited to announce that Paris High School will be offering a college co-credit series of manufacturing courses through Lakeland Community College in the Fall of 2015. The new Paris High School campus will house a new CAM Master Cobra CNC router as well as a nine station Aidex Armitrol lab that includes centers for learning about mechanical drives, electrical AC/DC systems, electric relay control, electrical fabrication, controls technology, fluid power, pneumatics, metrology, and robotics.  We have had two staff members from our vocational department receive extensive training to use the equipment and guide our students through the learning standards set for the courses. As a result of finishing these courses, our students will earn industry certification and  will be able to:

  • Illustrate outlines as discernible shapes of solids.
  • Draw sharp, clear, dark uniform lines; letter 1/8” tall vertical upper case.
  •  Read and document accurate measurements.
  • Use proper techniques to make sketches and technical drawings.
  • Demonstrate the use of a Computer‑Aided Drafting system to create simple to moderately complex technical drawings.
  • Understand how to use absolute, relative and polar coordinate entry methods in a CAD drawing.
  • Describe the purpose of Draw commands and how to use them.
  • Describe the purpose of Modify commands and how to use them.
  • Demonstrate how  to dimension a drawing and the purpose of the most common dimensioning commands.
  • Demonstrate how  to reuse drawing objects and to transfer them from one drawing to another using the Block, Wblock and Insert commands.  Identify career opportunities and work applications in the manufacturing field.
  • Perform programming and application techniques required to complete complex machining assignments.
  • Work will be performed on a computer numerically controlled milling machine and lathe.
  • Calculate spindle speeds and cutting speeds for a CNC machine.
  • Write and execute a program for a CNC mill.
  • Calculate programming coordinates using mathematical methods.
  • Setup tool and fixture offsets on a CNC machining center.
  • Write and execute a program for a CNC lathe.
  • Write on-line and off-line robot programs and operate robot using the programs.
  • Develop applications of Robots to include interfacing of additional actuators to the system.
  • Demonstrate CAD for practical applications to include Schematic Drawings, Sectional and Isometric Drawings, and facilities layout.
  • Discuss basic purpose and function of Computer-Aided Manufacturing.
  • Predict and calculate effects of induction and capacitance.
  • Read, interpret, design and operate basic control and sequencing control logic circuits.
  • Plan and install basic wiring systems.
  • Describe, construct, and operate different hydraulic and pneumatic circuits.
  • Describe principals of hydraulic/pneumatic flow and pressure controls and components used to provide control.
  • Program, set up, and operate online and offline CNC mill programs.
  • Setup and operate manual machine tools.
  • List and demonstrate how to use basic machining hand tools.
  • Describe, select, and apply proper drive systems for an application.
  • Discuss and calculate speed and torque changes throughout a power drive system.
  • Solve problems discovered using SPC.
  • Determine part quality using geometric dimensioning and tollerancing.
  • Use measuring equipment to determine the dimensions of parts.

#makeschooldifferent

phsstageMaking today’s school relevant to the needs and wants (yes, I said wants) of today’s students needs to start with the adults who work for the kids.  The narrative of the school has to change.  It cannot be told by the adults in a first person vernacular.  We, the educators have to learn that our part in the learning process is to help set the stage for student learning, not dictate it. The “I” part of the story needs to disappear from all parts of the process except for in the students role.  “I do not have to make all of the decisions.”  “I do not have to be the only source of information.”  “I am not the expert and my role is to facilitate.”  “WE are only as good as we let the students be!”  The change starts at the top of the school organization.  The leaders in the process must model for the staff and the learning community.  Like the teacher in the classroom, the leader needs to do all that can be done to set the stage, provide for the conditions needed, and work on getting out of the way.

Let’s Quit Mocking the Test!

11682228586_08ddb5c972_mTo my dismay, I had a fellow administrator tell me that their school was going to do mock PARCC exam drills this coming month.  Every part of the day is going to be “test-like”!  “We really need to get the kids ready for the test conditions they are going to face”….???? Maybe I am wrong, but I think the thing we need to QUIT getting kids ready for tests.  We need to quit letting testing drive our proverbial “school bus”!  We need to get to quit doing anything that does not have our students engaged in asking questions, testing ideas, and attempting to make physical solutions to everyday needs.

Photo courtesy of TJ Gehling’s Flickr photostream