With the help of Rubicon Atlas, our teachers build and utilize the unit maps, to ensure purposeful incorporation of math, science, ELA, and social studies into their curriculum. A key component of our curriculum plan is our Project Based Learning Units. The PBL units have been intentionally embedded in our lesson plans, and allow our teachers to provide learning opportunities for our students across all subject areas. One example of this type of integration is our Meteorologist in the Making. This opportunity allows our students to display their knowledge of science, math, and social studies using ELA strategies.
Curriculum Mapping in Beaufort County Schools
Beaufort County School District utilizes Rubicon Atlas as the main curriculum management tool. Atlas electronically incorporates curriculum mapping, tracks gaps and repetition in instruction, addresses the “Why” in performance testing, aligns curriculum to benchmarks and standards, produces updated reports to encourage partnerships, facilitates sharing of ideas and communicating them rapidly across buildings, schools and grades and shares requirements with students. Below is a sample of a Comparative Unit Calendar for Grade 3.
Project Based Learning Units
Red Cedar Project Based Learning units are written using the templates teachers were trained to use by the Buck Institute for Education (BIE). All of the templates have been organized on Google Drive, as well as the work we have completed on the long range plan that was done prior to the start of the 17-18 school year.
Meteorologists in the Making
Each morning, students would use www.weatherchannel.com and local WSAV weather tracker site to gather daily weather information for our area and surrounding counties. Students tracked patterns and made predictions. Each homeroom presented the weather data information collected on the morning announcements as they became RCE meteorologists.
Our teachers work together to design STEM lessons and activities for our students. Each grade level shares a common planning time to allow for collaboration amongst teachers regularly throughout the school year. Teachers receive training from from a variety of resources from an full-time instructional coach, district technology coaches and coordinators, and more.
South Carolina Department of Education PBL and STEM Cohort
Offered by the South Carolina Department of Education, two teams of teachers at Red Cedar Elementary School took part in the PBL and STEM Cohort. Over the course of the school year and culminating in the summer, teachers attended face-to-face training as well as virtual meetings where they worked to support the Profile of a South Carolina Graduate through successfully developing STEM units of study that span across the curriculum, implement STEM and Project-Based Learning (PBL), and demonstrate a strong foundation of South Carolina academic standards.
The following learning targets were the focus of the series:
I can apply knowledge of South Carolina academic standards through current best practices of STEM, transdisciplinary learning, and Project-Based Learning.
I can establish a classroom culture that is conducive to STEM learning and inquiry.
I can collaborate and interact with other educators via Blackboard Learn and document my learning progressions in applying STEM and PBL unit development strategies.
I can recognize ways to formally and informally assess 21st century learners.
Beaufort County School District STEM Cohort
For the past three years teachers from Red Cedar Elementary School have participated in a STEM Cohort hosted by the district office. The teachers who participate in the STEM Cohort are chosen by their principal, and they represent different grade levels. One of the main goals of the STEM Cohort is to take STEM from a word to an action. To begin the process, the teachers participated in a day long workshop that focused on; increasing understanding of what a STEM classroom looks like, increasing teacher’s confidence when using STEM activities, sharing STEM lessons, and modeling cross curricular lessons. The second phase of the STEM Cohort is to have the STEM District Coordinator conduct an observation of each of the teachers teaching a STEM lesson and providing feedback.
Red Cedar understands the value of collaboration amongst teachers and staff to ensure a common voice and to utilize the time to refine curriculum, discuss data, and make informed decisions as a team. Teachers meet weekly as a team in what we call Rainbow Meetings. These are essential to the success of our school as we are able to utilize the expertise internally from our instructional coach, colleagues, administration and have a designated time for reflection and improvement.
PBL Unit Revision Meetings
As we begin the 17-18 school year, we knew we had to increase the ability of our teachers to collaborate in teams to plan PBL units well. We built in quarterly ½ day planning sessions to do this work. During these sessions, we follow the below agenda:
Revisit the long range plan. Make revisions and set goals for the meeting.
Revise the unit that has most recently been completed.
Begin planning a new unit or revising an existing unit that is approaching.
Because great planning takes time, teachers use other periods of their common planning time throughout the week to get together and operationalize the learning and planning that takes plane in both the Rainbow meetings and PBL planning half-dayMeeting Schedules
Sample Unit Revision - Markup
NASA Touchdown Challenge
Towards the beginning of our STEM journey teachers participated in the NASA Touchdown Challenge during a professional development day. Teachers were purposefully grouped, worked collaboratively to complete the journey and then tested and improved their model. We debriefed by discussing how we can use the Engineering and Design Process in our instruction with students.
(Pictured: Teachers planning and testing their models.)
One of our overriding goals is to make sure that we prepare our students for their next step. We are a data driven school, and we take the time to analyze our data for each student and teacher. We strategically use the information from our standardized tests to support our teachers, and to improve our student’s academic success. In addition to standardized data, we assess in many formative and summative ways as well. As STEM learners, we are seeking outcomes in growth of the 21st Century Skills on a regular basis.
We Are Palmetto's Finest
Red Cedar Elementary teachers do whatever it takes to ensure student success. In 2015, we earned the honorable achievement of Palmetto’s Finest by showcasing our ability to achieve great things, implement innovative curriculum, create enrichment programs, and provide student leadership opportunities. South Carolina Association of School Administrators recognized Red Cedar to offer excellent instruction and outstanding leaders, augmented by strong family and community involvement and a supportive business community. We see this regularly in the success of our students as you see below.
SCREADY English Language Arts & Mathematics Data
Because STEM permeates all areas of our curriculum, the below ELA and math data shows the overall achievement of our students. The SC Ready data below shows that we compare favorably to the school district especially in the third and fifth grades in both reading and math. Of particular note, the fifth grade scored 16 and 12 percentage points higher in reading and math respectively than the school district.
STEM and the Four Cs
Standardized testing gives of the quantitative information we need to ensure content is understood and to allow us to makes informed decisions in regards to curriculum. But assessing and understanding the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning is equally important qualitative. Here how one of our teachers ensures that students are progressing not just in content but in practice and skill as well.
(4 Cs for 21st Century Learning Rubric)
Growth Mindset & Effort
As a part of building a culture of problem solvers, our staff began studying the work of Carol Dweck on growth mindset. We seek to embed the ideas of persevering, work hard, the power of “yet,” and seeing failure as a learning opportunity. Through this work and our work on rethinking grading, we developed an Effort Rubric. This is used by teachers in grades 2-5 as well as Related Arts to help students self-assess and set goals for their focus, accountability, participation and initiative. This tool is also a part our each student’s agenda book so that parents can refer to it as well.
One of our school’s priorities is to increase our knowledge base for STEM. Our teachers have participated in professional development workshops on both the national and local levels. One of the requirements for each teacher is upon their return, they present and share STEM strategies to the remainder of the faculty.
Buck Institute for Education (BIE)
As a part of our decision to become a Project-Based Learning (PBL), we brought in experts from the Buck Institute for Education to train a group of 35 teachers in June of 2014 following the end of the school year. The three day intensive training, PBL 101, has been repeated several times and to date, 100% of our staff are trained. This training helped teachers learn how to design, assess, and manage projects that engage and motivate students.
(Pictured: Teachers collaborating with each other and trainers from BIE)
Future of Education Technology Conference
Teachers at Red Cedar Elementary annually attend The Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) to gain insight on emerging technologies, practices and resources that enhance STEM learning in throughout the school environment. FETC offers a variety of session structures designed to foster hands-on and collaborative learning. Participants discover diverse and relevant courses you won’t find anywhere else, with expert-led learning opportunities all focused on the most pressing challenges and technological implementations.
Ron Clark Academy
A team of fourth and fifth grade teachers traveled to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia for an intensive day of training. The Ron Clark Academy is a model school dedicated to training teachers in “transformative methods and techniques.” At RCA, teachers learned about the techniques which make “classroom transformations” possible, including the application of standards and integration of STEM as a mode of instruction. The dividends from the trip have been impressive. Teachers fundamentally changed the methods of instruction, including an increase in student engagement and responsibility, learning through experiences, and the use of hands-on instructional practices to fully join STEM with the delivery of core content knowledge. Some examples of recent projects inspired by the Ron Clark Academy include: building scale models of the Great Pyramids, a student-led production of The Nutcracker ballet, and “Escape the Room” challenges.
Teachers at Red Cedar Elementary often utilize the expertise of the district technology coaches as a resource to increase their understanding of technology trends which helps to ensure students are 21st Century ready. Beaufort County School District employs 8 Educational Technology Coaches to work with faculty, staff, and students in training, planning, modeling and co-teaching technology integrated lessons and activities that support their standards and curriculum.
AdvancED STEM Summit - Murfreesboro, TN
The instructional coach and a classroom teacher participated in this learning opportunity. The two days of intensive keynotes and and more specific strand sessions supported our STEM program as we increase student engagement, learning, and achievement as we continually improve our teaching and learning process.
(Pictured: Kyra Hartley, 1st Grade Teacher and Dr. Cindy Moss, Senior Director of Global STEM Iniatives for Discovery Education)
Famished, Famished Foxes
Part of building teacher’s understanding of STEM and it’s integration into a classroom is to make sure they experience it themselves in a supportive environment. To start off the school year, teachers participated in what we called Famished, Famished Foxes. This challenge was a play on the game Hungry Hungry Hippos where teachers worked together to problem solve, think critically, collaborate and team build. They were presented with the challenge to create a way to store their “food” using only a specific number and type of materials - blue blocks. They had to test their methods and models and played the game together to test their successes.