New Albany News

Research teams unveil four 'academy' concepts

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New Albany-Plain Local teachers, students and parents on Feb. 20 introduced four preliminary concepts for "academies" that could be established in the 2015-16 school year.

The academies would be for the arts; STEM courses; international education; and student empowerment.

Four research teams completed the study and presented their findings.

The arts team showed a video from the Woodrow Wilson Arts Integrated school in New Jersey that explained how a teacher used dance to teach rotation and revolution.

It also showed students learning about humidity while playing the violin.

For the STEM team, middle school teacher Andy Moore said students can learn problem-solving skills from trial and error in science projects.

He explained that he challenges his students to find items in the classroom and build vehicles that can be moved by a puff of air. He said the students are playing while learning about engineering and motion.

For the international education team, four New Albany High School students from different countries talked about their experiences in international schools and suggested an international academy could improve learning and the district's culture.

Sophomore Nina Yazdani said if other students learn more about their peers and their backgrounds, it could help reduce misunderstandings and bullying.

Andy Roeth, the 2-5 elementary dean of students, said the district has students from 26 different countries who speak 27 different languages.

The fourth team, called the Power of One, would identify local, community issues and encourage students to find solutions.

Students would use numerous skills in the problem-solving exercises, said first-grade teacher Trish Russell.

Middle school science teacher Josh Flory said an elementary school unit on feeding hungry people could lead to a middle school unit on reducing poverty by producing a winter garden as a sustainable food source.

Each team presented its concept following Superintendent April Domine's State of the Schools address the same evening.

Domine said during her address the teams would continue to develop the concepts through the end of the school year and in May would present how the academies would work.

Teachers would be trained on the concepts in the summer and fall and would decide in the winter if they want to teach in an academy or if they would rather remain in a traditional classroom.

Students and parents will have the opportunity to express interest in the academies in January 2015 and students would enroll in academies for the 2015-16 school year.

Domine said any academies that do not garner enough interest from parents and students will not be implemented. She said traditional classroom learning always would be an option for students who do not choose to enroll in one of the academies.

Ruth Bank, a parent who worked on the arts team, said she was impressed with all of the concepts.

Karen Keren, a parent with two middle-school daughters, said she liked all the concepts but was particularly drawn to the arts, something her daughters are interested in.

Keren's seventh-grade daughter, Isabelle, said the academies might provide a more interesting way to learn.

Fifth-grader Aenea Keren said she doesn't like to take notes and listen to lectures, so she would appreciate a more hands-on approach to learning.

Domine also spoke about how the school district has improved safety and worked on the board's four goals for this school year: to improve academic achievement; to improve student culture; to implement a new teacher-evaluation system; and to improve access to international education.

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