In order to innovate in the classroom, teachers must continually expose themselves to new ideas and learn new practices. Over 75% of our faculty participate in some form of off-site professional development throughout the year, attending workshops, classes and conferences around the country and indeed, around the world. They bring what they’ve learned back to their departments and classroom, often implementing new lessons and new approaches to keep their teaching on the cutting edge. Some of our faculty have participated in activities that are more extensive and often require an application process just to attend. Below are a few of these opportunities our faculty took advantage of over the summer. They include travel to England, Maine and New Hampshire as well as opportunities in our own backyard. All involved hands-on and minds-on activities that challenge teachers to think differently and see new perspectives.
History Teacher Lisa Ameisen and English Teacher Melissa Sullivan participated in the Oxbridge Teacher Seminar Program at Mansfield College, Oxford, this July. Working with colleagues from North America, Europe and Africa, Lisa studied contemporary challenges in educational leadership, while Melissa explored British literature of the fantastic and its connections to the University of Oxford. Each morning, seminar participants began with classes, which often included field trips to places such as a local British independent school, C.S. Lewis’ home or the Oxford University Press. Afternoons were reserved for lectures by distinguished faculty, visits to the Bodleian Library and cream teas. After dinner and evening events such as a Shakespeare play, participants went back to their dorm rooms and finished their homework for the next morning’s class. The week was an opportunity for renewal, diverse perspectives, deep conversations and (with all of the homework) a reminder of what our students’ lives are like on a day-to-day basis.
Kindergarten Teachers Carol Beaverson and Monica Henkel participated in a program by the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Education department, which offers K – 12 teachers of all subject areas the chance to immerse themselves in the Museum’s collections and explore the special nature of art and its use as a classroom resource. The title of this year’s VAST program was Driving Creativity.
Over the course of a week, they participated in lectures, gallery sessions, hands-on sessions, facilitated discussions and reflections related to teaching for creativity. One of the most interesting lectures was given by Bob and Michele Root-Bernstein, co-authors of Sparks of Genius. The Root-Bernstein’s stressed that children need to be given ample opportunity to explore and play imaginatively throughout childhood. These childhood experiences can lead to more creative problem solving throughout the whole of life. Other lecturers explored the importance of giving students ample opportunity to work collaboratively and to develop/ask open questions. Children who develop good questioning skills become better problem solvers.
Grade 3 Teacher Peter Greenhalgh, Lower School DREAM Lab Coordinator Stephanie Greer and Computer Science Teaching Fellow Katie Burke attended the Constructing Modern Knowledge (CMK) week-long professional development opportunity, which was an amazing week of group maker space learning. Peter spent several days with 5 teachers from across the country building a giant hydraulic hand that would play Maynard Ferguson Jazz using Makey Makey and computer coding. He had the opportunity to observe and collaborate with other teams working on a variety of STEAM projects. Katie worked with fellow educators to create virtual rain animations using the Microsoft Kinect and Processing. The group also spent an afternoon at the MIT Media Lab and heard speeches from Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, and Eric Rosenbaum, co-creator of the Makey Makey and developer for Scratch.
Katie also attended the National Computer Science Teacher’s Association Conference in Baltimore. Highlights of CSTA included the Girls Who Code and Hummingbird workshops and the keynote speaker, Freeman Hrabowski III, President of Maryland University.
English Teacher Kelly Zemaitis spent a week at Columbia University with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). Most of her time was spent with other Middle School English teachers where they learned how to elevate their reading curriculum. Some topics studied included creating a community of readers, using reader’s notebooks effectively, teaching nonfiction, one-on-one conferencing/small group work and refining the mini-lesson, as well as a plethora of other topics.
Art Teacher Kristin Brown had the opportunity to study and create art at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, ME. She made collaborative art for two weeks with the only distraction being the natural surroundings. She was able to hone her skills as a printmaker, carving wood blocks by hand and using a laser cutter to create plates from which to print. The class she took worked as a team to illustrate the alphabet. According to Kristin, it was a great experience to come together with 10 strangers to produce a body of work.