Upper Arlington News

21st-century teaching

Simple projects help UA students with complex ideas


Upper Arlington teachers explained classroom projects inspired by strategies taught by the district's 21st-century teaching team to the Upper Arlington Board of Education Oct. 22.

Greensview Elementary School teachers Erin McGuire and Blythe Lamont talked about their first- and second-grade projects.

McGuire said her first-graders worked on an "emergence-cage design" for butterflies.

"The students observed butterflies to learn what they would need in an emergence cage, then came up with various designs for a cage," she said.

Parents provided the supplies and student groups created six different cages, McGuire said.

"We learned a lot about teamwork," she said. "We talked about what teamwork looks and sounds like -- for example, being kind to your teammates -- and what it doesn't sound like, which is goofing around."

Lamont said her second-graders studied "wild weather."

"They created green-screen videos and designed survival shelters," she said. "The students had to come up with scripts for the videos and then we videotaped them working through their scripts."

She said the video assignment for students was to persuade people to buy their survival shelters.

"The students also had to reflect on the process of designing their shelters and creating their videos," she said. "They had to reflect on what they would do differently next time."

"Twenty-first-century skills can be embedded in the lessons and do not necessarily add more time to your day," Lamont said.

The district's 21st-century teaching team is in its fifth year of working with teachers.

Team members are teachers Martha Barley, Jeanne Beaver, Toby Fischer, Cathy Johnson, Andrea Lusk and Alexa Stazenski.

Associate Superintendent Debora Binkley said the team formed from the district's strategic plans in 2005 and 2009, when it wanted to help teachers integrate new technology into their class lessons.

She said 21st-century learning means teaching things such as complex thinking, where a central question is defined, then relevant information is studied in order to explore and develop solutions.

Students learn to solve "complex, multidisciplinary, open-ended problems and collaborate with teams of people "across cultural, geographic and language boundaries," Binkley said.

Molly Hinkle, a teacher at Wickliffe Progressive School, said she and her students learned to us a Wiki Spaces website as an important learning tool.

She said students could share their class projects online through the website.

Sarah Oberlin, also from Wickliffe, said her students created a pen pal program online to design a safe website through which they could interact with students at the International School in China.

"All were English-speaking students at the school in China, but English is a second language for them," she said.

"Each of my students had their own website page and could share stories and poems they had written, which led to conversations about digital citizenship and what they could and could not share online," Oberlin said.

Other teachers who gave presentations to the board included Barbara Hirsch and Mark Rice from Hastings Middle School and Tim Bridgham, Warren Orloff and Bret Cuthbert, from Upper Arlington High School.