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High school expands Project 21 ideas



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December 07, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry

Review Editor

What do the kids think?

That is the question Lake Orion's Project 21 task force wanted answered recently by the high school's leadership class, as the district continues to evaluate year-round learning opportunities for students.

"We gave all of the proposed projects to the students to get their reactions and determine which were worthy enough to pursue," said Lake Orion Superintendent Marion Ginopolis.

Leadership class advisor Lori Hogan said her students took the 26 ideas provided by the task force and narrowed them down to 12 that the kids thought would be "most applicable" to students. The class then broke up into smaller groups to flesh out the year-round learning ideas and gave presentations on them to each other as part of the class final exam.

This work included making sure each project included the enhancement of critical thinking and problem solving, creativity, communication and collaboration skills. These were identified earlier this year by the task force as critical to student success in the 21st Century.

"The best part of the project from the students' perspective is that they may really see some of their ideas put in motion," Hogan said.

Ginopolis sat in on the kids' presentations and, based on the quality of their work, she agreed some of the ideas may be implemented as early as next summer. The goal is to have at least one year-round learning program in place at each education level: elementary, middle and high school.

"I've got to tell you, their work was outstanding," she said. "They did a marvelous job."

District parent and task force member Jill Potter agreed input from the students was important. "I like the fact that the high schoolers got involved and made some choices," she said. "They have a better idea of what may excite kids."

On Nov. 28, students from the class met with the Project 21 task force to share two of their presentations – one on an expanded orientation program for freshmen at the high school and the other on a "Geek Squad" of middle school students who would prepare instruction programs and work with seniors in our community to teach them how to use technology devices like laptops/tablets, smart phones, social media tools and similar devices.

"I think kids and seniors in our community can actually learn from each other," Potter said.

Members of the task force present then voted on the first three Project 21 programs to further develop and pursue later this year.

Those selected include Lake Orion elementary and middle school student involvement in the worldwide FIRST LEGO League program for 9-14 year-olds that promotes science and technology education. It includes applying real-world math and science concepts, as well as various life skills including the Project 21 requirements above.

At the middle school level, the Geek Squad program for teaching technology to seniors was selected. Ginopolis reiterated how this program in particular could possibly help students meet district requirements for community service and competence in computers, as well as the new State of Michigan graduation requirement regarding online instruction.

At the high school level, a year-round, age-appropriate "Life Skills" training program was selected. A breadth of topics would be covered, from meal planning and money management to home maintenance and insurance basics, as well as basic social and business etiquette and other subjects.

"This is just a start," Ginopolis told the group, whose members then selected one or more of the programs to develop further. "Let's flesh out these ideas and make them more substantial, implement them and do a really good job and then we can revisit our original list and pursue others."

Another program that grabbed the task force's attention was expanded online foreign language offerings. Heidi Kast, assistant superintendent of curriculum, assessment and instruction, said this is already being pursued, starting with high school students who need two years of a language to graduate. Members were interested in expanding this program to the middle school and elementary levels, as well, and Kast said she expects this to be implemented within a couple of years.

Whatever ideas are pursued as part of Project 21, Potter said she wants to make sure all of the year-round learning activities not only expand a young person's knowledge beyond what they may learn while in school, but also reward them with credit(s) toward graduation.

This was one of the original objectives of the effort, she said.

"Many of today's kids are already so busy," Potter explaned. "There needs to be a real incentive for them to take a class outside of school that may not be a requirement."

ementary levels, as well, and Kast said she expects this to be implemented within a couple of years.

Whatever ideas are pursued as part of Project 21, Potter said she wants to make sure all of the year-round learning activities not only expand a young person's knowledge beyond what they may learn while in school, but also reward them with credit(s) toward graduation.

This was one of the original objectives of the effort, she said.

"Many of today's kids are already so busy," Potter explaned. "There needs to be a real incentive for them to take a class outside of school that may not be a requirement."

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