by Luke Carnicelli, Principal
This year as a school and staff we are focused on three specific school-wide educational initiatives; the Common Core Writing Process, Project-Based Learning and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) promotion. We will also continue our focus on common core curriculum improvements as well as college and career readiness activities. I would like to provide an outline of our initiatives this year.
Last year the English Department worked to outline and update our school-wide literacy plan to align writing in all content areas to the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS). This year we are placing the updates into practice. The English Department, with the assistance of professional development specialists from Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES, created resource materials and guidelines for junior and senior high school teachers that align common core writing strategies to each content area. The goal was to supply literacy information to all teachers to use as a reference for classroom instruction and assessment of writing. This, in turn, encourages common instructional language and assessment procedures across the content areas. Teachers in grades 6-8 are working together on aligning their reference material with the common core. This makes sense since the module curriculum used in those grades is complimentary, having been written by the same authors. The 7/8 team will be scheduling specific writing activities each month, which gives the ELA department the opportunity to inform the rest of the team regarding the types of writing being studied and practiced each month. Other teachers then have the chance to piggy-back off the primary writing goals of the month. Finally, the calendar will allow us to see how much of each type of writing is being done throughout the year and enable us to fill in any gaps. Grade 9-12 teachers are working to incorporate a common instructional language and common assessment methods into their writing assignments throughout the school year. Through surveys and discussion we discovered that research-based writing is happening everywhere in the senior high school. Our goal is to have students understand that reading and writing are connected by having them formulate claims and arguments about texts they read and use text-based evidence to support those claims and arguments. One of our goals is for students to be college and career ready when they leave Southern Cayuga and we believe this is one of the most important skills they can have.
Project-Based Learning (PBL)
This marks the third year we have infused PBL into our teaching strategies at the Junior/Senior High School. Our continuation of this initiative is based on the growing need for students to be involved and invested in real-life learning situations. Many of the projects will take into consideration real-time global and local issues. Students will be given a situation and be immersed in how to work on and solve the issue collectively between group members. The skills gathered by being involved in and possibly solving issues faced by our local community will enhance communication, collaboration, problem-solving skills and focus among our students. In our 21st century society, PBL will enhance our students’ ability to be more competitive in college, the military and the workforce.
This year will be the initial phase of our STEM initiative, which is truly rooted in building 21st century skills for our students. We are initiating courses at the senior high level that encompass robotics, programming and computer coding. For the past few years we have used the Lego Robotics curriculum in 8th grade technology class. In addition to these courses, we are beginning a Google Chromebook 1:1 plan for all students in Junior High School. Over the next few years, we will purchase additional Chromebooks via the NYS Smart Schools Bond Act. Information on the Bond Act can be found online. We are also starting the use of Google Classroom in select courses. Google Classroom allows teachers to move to a more paperless/online environment for students. One of our goals for 21st century skills is to expose students to communicating and learning via online applications, and Google Classroom works directly to support that skill. Students use an assigned SCCS email and their network password to access the site. Student school email addresses are secure and are only accessible to students and teachers at SCCS. Outside use of this email account is blocked by our internal server/firewall. Teachers can use Google Classroom to add an announcement, add an assignment and manage student accounts.