Posted by James O'Shea at 4/12/2017
One of the amazing aspects of our district is the tremendous number of opportunities our students have to engage in authentic experiences. While you will also see traditional classroom activities such as ‘tests’ and 'quizzes' designed to assess understanding, more often you will see students preparing for and engaging in authentic experiences and assessments. This past week, two such experiences were on display for the public.
The Science Fair, on April 4, allowed our eighth graders to explore their interests and demonstrate their understandings of the scientific method, by researching, conducting experiments, gathering data, analyzing data, and presenting to an audience of judges, parents, community members, and peers. Students could also choose to design and create a real world product, instead of conducting an experiment, if that was their interest. The level of work on display was impressive and it was wonderful to see how proud our students were of their accomplishments. Listening to them present their work to parents and community members the pride they took in what they had accomplished was obvious, and you could also see how their confidence grow with each presentation, as they also practiced and further developed their public speaking and presentation skills. It was also interesting to see how our younger students responded to the obvious hardwork of their older peers. Creating such opportunities for our students is not easy, and I want to thank Kathy Marsh and all of our faculty, staff and community volunteers who helped to make this wonderful experience possible for our eighth graders.
On Thursday our Concert Band and Chorus traveled to Shelburne, Vermont to collaborate and perform with students from the Shelburne Community School. From all reports it was an amazing experience where students had the opportunity to meet new people, collaborate on a performance, and bond with their fellow band members. This ‘real world’ experience exposed our students to another side of the music world as authentic as an adjudicated performance like MICCA, but very different. I am pleased to report our students distinguished themselves on this trip as both talented musicians and polite and respectful young adults. Thank you to Kevin Maier, Tara Callahan, and all of our chaperones for making this memorable opportunity available to our students.
It is important to note that authentic work does not only take place in our Middle School, and that our Elementary students also participate in many real world projects and applications. One such example, also from last week, was our third graders engineering towers that were to be tested against the forces of the wind. Students were charged with designing and building multi story structures from a prescribed list of resources. Ours had the opportunity to exercise their creativity, practice collaboration, construct a tower, and test it against the elements.
As educators and parents, we understand that these types of ‘hands on’, ‘authentic’, ‘real world’ experiences are most powerful, and it is reassuring to know that they are a fundamental part of our students education.