Zoo Project Introduces Sixth Graders to Project-Based, Maker-Education Model
Women comprise half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce. And, minority women comprise fewer than 1 in 10 employed scientists and engineers.
The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders (ARS), an all-girls, college-preparatory public school, is determined to change the narrative. As the only 6th-12th grade school in the Austin Independent School District where STEM is a rule and not an exception for every student, ARS is preparing today’s female students to become tomorrow’s STEM leaders.
Through rigorous and cross-disciplinary STEM curriculum, ARS inspires girls to build solutions for the 21st century. The APNF grant supports “Modeling the Zoo Project” where all sixth graders research and create enrichment solutions for rescue animals at the Austin Zoo. Students use the on-campus MakerSpace to develop their design and building skills using technology and power tools. The Zoo Project launches students into the project-based, Maker education model that is centered on collaborative, hands-on learning and is inherent throughout ARS.
ARS staff will also attend their first Project-Based Learning World Conference to learn and share best practices as they prepare curriculum and formalize the Maker model from idea generation through the final product. Throughout the year, an interactive display board will provide visual insights into the stages of the project, emphasizing “process over product.”
As a national leader and innovator in this space, ARS will incorporate teacher- and self-assessment of the process and growth in students’ 5Cs (collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking and community) for further assessment and replication.
Photo Credit: Ann Richards School Foundation
Setting Teaching Fellows Up for Success with Curricula and Classroom Engagement to Reverse Summer Slide
School may not be in session over the summer, but for Breakthrough Collaborative’s undergraduate teaching fellows, middle school students, and professional instructional coaches, teaching and learning are still going strong. Breakthrough’s students-teaching-students model aims to recruit and inspire the next generation of educational leaders while supporting students from under-resourced communities on their paths to college.
The undergraduates who devote their summers to Breakthrough’s intensive teaching fellowship are observed and coached in real-time by professional teachers. Through this mentorship and support, they not only have the opportunity to confirm their passion to pursue careers in education but also help to reverse summer learning loss for their middle school students.
Breakthrough’s students have similarly dedicated themselves to this challenging and action-packed program. The rigorous curricula, community of learning, and near-peer mentorship from the teaching fellows and site staff put students on a path to achieve their dream of being the first in their families to graduate from college. Many Breakthrough students return to teach the next generation of Breakthrough students in the program, creating a continuous cycle of support and a true family of learners.
Almost 40 years after Breakthrough was founded, the national office now serves a network of 25 affiliates by providing program standards and resources including curricula, evaluation tools, and teaching fellow recruitment. A grant from APNF will enable the national office to seek vital feedback from affiliate program directors, instructional coaches, and teaching fellows to fine tune the curricula’s quality, comprehensiveness, level of student engagement, and ease of use.
These improvements will help Breakthrough support its students, teaching fellows, and instructional coaches in achieving their full potential as learners, teachers, leaders, and agents of change in their communities.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Breakthrough Twin Cities and Breakthrough San Francisco
Closing the Opportunity Gap Using Hands-On, Project-Based Learning Taught by Expert Mentors
Middle school is a critical developmental period and turning point in the lives of young students. For students at East Somerville Community School (ESCS), many of whom come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, Citizen Schools is intent on setting these Massachusetts young people on a positive trajectory forward.
The Boston-based nonprofit organization has brought both rigor and relevance in its partnership approach with middle schools across the United States to expand the learning day for children in low-income communities. By tapping the reservoir of resources in the community, Citizen Schools helps to catalyze student growth through comprehensive academic support, college and career readiness activities, and real-world apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships guided by local STEM professionals will help 150 6th and 7th grade students at ESCS master 21st century skills like collaboration, teamwork, and problem solving, through project-based, hands-on learning opportunities. Students who might otherwise have a limited understanding of available career pathways to become better prepared to thrive in the ‘innovation economy’. For families, many of whom represent diverse cultures where English is a second language, Citizen Schools also serves as a welcoming access point and helps them navigate the school system. By semester’s end, educators, students, community and families come together for a public celebration where students teach back what they’ve learned in their apprenticeships at an event called WOW!
For 22 years, the Citizen Schools collaborative model has focused on the whole child, “educating children, strengthening communities” and instilling the belief that success is indeed attainable. At ESCS, Citizen Schools is closing the opportunity gap, and, with the support of corporate and community volunteers, is ensuring that students have the opportunity to dream big and envision their path to future success.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Citizen Schools
Digital Tools Power Student Learning, Teacher Practices, and Parental Engagement
Research shows that middle school can be a challenging time when students begin to falter in academic achievement. For high poverty schools, the challenge to produce successful learners is even more pronounced. Students struggle with mastering Common Core standards and STEM subjects, social and emotional learning, and the 21st century skills needed to succeed.
Through a multi-pronged approach to digital learning, PowerMyLearning — a nonprofit that leverages technology to strengthen learning relationships — is helping students in low-income communities, together with their teachers and families, harness innovation to improve educational outcomes.
An APNF grant will enable students in a high-need L.A. middle school to join more than 16 partner schools in Greater Los Angeles and power their mastery of learning. PowerMyLearning’s three-pronged strategy consists of: school-wide, comprehensive programs and services to help students increase their classroom effort and ownership over their learning; intensive coaching for teachers to enhance their instructional practices and develop effective personalized learning environments; and bilingual evening workshops for parents, designed to build confidence in helping their children learn at home and plan for the future. Integral to the national organization’s work is its online, personalized learning platform, PowerMyLearning Connect, which offers 5,000 of the best digital learning activities on the Web. The free platform has been adopted in more than 40% of public schools nationwide.
Through innovative programming that brings together each part of a school community, PowerMyLearning is accelerating teacher innovation and strengthening the home-school connection. In a recent national study, students at PowerMyLearning’s partner schools increased their math proficiency seven percentage points higher than students at comparable schools. Their unique school partnership model is proving its impact on high student achievement – while fostering noticeable professional growth in teachers and in families as supportive partners, a proven booster for academic success.
Photo Credit: PowerMyLearning, Inc.
Saturday Night Bath Concert Fund Makes Music Matter at LA Middle Schools
The seven-piece band is conducting a sound check as at-risk youth stroll into the gymnasium, slightly skeptical of the musicians 40 to 50 years their senior. But soon the sound of congas, trap drums, bass viol, guitars and harmonicas, saxophones and flutes flood the gym and students are captivated by the music.
Saturday Night Bath is not only entertaining but educating 150 middle school students in courtyards and classrooms in a Los Angeles school district where music programs often are shelved because of limited funds. For Drew and Gompers (Los Angeles) and Dana (San Pedro) Middle Schools, Saturday Night Bath is determined to make music matter.
Since 1986, Saturday Night Bath has delivered 540 concerts in schools and detention facilities, connecting with over 37,000 at-risk youth through music. From Chuck Berry to Carlos Santana, each concert of American jazz and blues consists of pausing midway for Saturday Night Bath members to describe the origins and history of their musical instruments, its inventors, and snippets of famous contemporary artists.
The series of concerts and clinics include acoustical instrument tutorials and composition workshops. Saturday Night Bath artists provide one-on-one coaching on musical instruments and song selection whether rock & roll or “flow” rap, culminating with a student concert performance. Principals and teachers alike point to the positive impact music, like Saturday Night Bath’s performances, has made as a critical learning tool that keeps at-risk youth engaged.
Photo Credit: Saturday Night Bath
From Classroom to Career
Imagine having a dream that one day you aspire to be an astronaut. A teacher. A ballet dancer. A doctor. A top chef. An architect. But every day you wake up from your dream only to find that reality hits and hits hard – a challenging home life, foregoing after-school sports to babysit a sibling whose diapers need changing, having to piece together dinner while the head of the single family household is juggling two jobs that lead late into the night. And you are the tender age of 11 or 12 at most.
Enter Spark, a unique program that makes meaningful matches between underserved middle school students at risk of dropping out, and local working professionals for a tailored, personalized apprenticeship that gives these youth a shot at success in high school and beyond. From architecture to zoology, Spark connects students with positive role models who mentor them in career fields that align with their interests and build skills through hands-on activities and projects. In the 2013-14 school year alone, Spark increased enrollment by 50 percent to reach nearly 1,000 students across four metropolitan regions, building a bridge to a brighter future.
APNF is pleased to continue its support for Spark Chicago and in 2013, added a grant to Spark San Francisco Bay Area. No doubt we have seen Spark become a life-changing milestone in the lives of youth in some of the most underserved neighborhoods across the country. From perhaps being on the brink of dropping out of school one day, these Spark students explore professions based on their interests and strengths. After 10 years and thousands of apprenticeships, the results speak for themselves. Spark students consistently gain a newfound confidence, essential life skills, positive relationships with caring professionals, and a graduation rate significantly above the national average.
Photo Credit: Spark