Most people assume that summer represents vacation time for teachers. While it is true that teachers get a chance to spend quality time with their families and friends during the summer months, many take advantage of their break to refocus, reflect, and plan. It is commonplace for educators to utilize the summer flexibility for their professional learning.
This summer, Sue Meckler, Director of Middle School Curriculum, Sarasota County Public Schools, along with Bernadette Bennett, High School Social Studies Specialist; Tracy Prince, Middle School Social Studies Specialist; and Cindy Balistreri, former Arts Education Manager at the Arts Alliance of Sarasota County, initiated an extraordinary cross curricular project for 8th grade students. The concept was constructed around creating a field experience at Patriot Plaza for Civics and a companion science component at Twin Lakes Park UF/IFAS Extension. Language Arts and Math teachers will eventually become involved to maximize this EdExploreSRQ Exploration for students. Ms. Meckler explained, “We are building collective efficacy with all stakeholders being critical members of the team.” Collective efficacy is the belief that through collective actions, educators can influence student outcomes and increase achievement. Research suggests that teachers with high efficacy show greater effort and persistence, willingness to try new teaching approaches, and attend more carefully to struggling students’ needs.
In partnership with The Patterson Foundation, in June, 26 teachers participated in a simulated field experience at Patriot Plaza, experiencing what their students will when they visit. Teachers witnessed firsthand Patriot Plaza’s key features like the bronze eagles flanking both the east and west entrances, the 22 white marble pedestals with photographs from the civil war to the modern era, and the “Night to Day, Here and Away” mosaics. They previewed, reflected, and refined collaboratively on their teaching units, making authentic connections that would otherwise be limited.
The Bootcamp was just the first part in a multi-step opportunity to ensure this combined Exploration is fully realized for students. After the summer and during the fall, Middle School Program Specialists will develop connections to other content areas and begin preparing students for the field experience. It is essential that students are prepped in advance of the Exploration to fully maximize their learning. After the hands-on experience, teachers will ensure that students transfer their new learnings back to the classroom through private reflection, personal writings, and productive student to student dialogue. The use of social media and arts integration expertise will also enhance student learning.
The Education Channel produced a video of the Bootcamp teacher experience. The impact for those participants personally and professionally is immediately evident.
The Patterson Foundation covers busing expenses for any 4th–12th grade school tours to Patriot Plaza from Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee or Sarasota counties. For information on scheduling a Patriot Plaza tour or requesting busing information, please contact Education@sarasotaarts.org or call 941-365-5118 x301.
We anticipate these emotionally moved teachers will create the same dynamic experiences for their students. We look forward to watching, listening, and learning from the next phases of this project as the year unfolds. Stay tuned!