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By Ethan Clark, Arts in Education Manager, National PTA

Monday, September 15, kicks off National Arts in Education Week and National PTA's "Start the Arts" Week (September 15-19). During this week, National PTA encourages schools, families and PTAs to #StartTheArts with arts-themed activities at school and at home, helping to encourage student participation in the arts.

Looking for a way to celebrate?  Try one (or all!) of the following arts activities are based on the 2014-2015 Reflections program theme “The World Would Be a Better Place If…”

Monday - Dance Choreography.

Sample Idea: Choose a time during the school day and invite everyone to dance together. Choose a story based on the theme that is read aloud or song based on the theme and have students create movements phrases that communicate the theme ...

By Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Self-directed learning often involves teamwork among classmates. Active, cooperative learning activities not only give students the opportunity to learn deeply, they also present opportunities to practice communicating, negotiating, and collaborating. Learning to work with others is an essential life skill, but for many students it doesn’t come easily!

Here are four complaints students commonly voice during group projects and some possible ways to respond:

“I’d rather do it on my own!”

Students who voice this objection don’t understand that working in groups provides important learning opportunities. Nearly every adult job requires collaboration of some sort, so always “going it alone” simply isn’t an option ...

As a child, I was told never to say that I was bored. Being bored meant I wasn't able to find something interesting or engaging to do, which was not acceptable. “The world is big and full of opportunities, do something!”, as my mother would say.

Boredom, as highlighted in the May issue of the Kappan, a PDK International publication, "is a mismatch between wanting intellectual arousal but being unable to engage in a satisfying activity."  The above description of boredom, from the article "Neuroscience Reveals That Boredom Hurts," suggests that students who seem to willfully defy urgings to focus on school assignments and work may simply be experiencing an involuntary brain reaction. ...

By Stacey Lange, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

The other day, I walked into one of our primary multi-aged classroom communities. I noticed many wonderful things. It was clear the students were engaged in what they were doing.

These young students were working on an inquiry unit related to force and motion. Students were engaged in reading paperback books, articles and e-books individually and/or with partners. Other students were using their i-pads to view videos related to force and motion. Many of the students were recording notes on their i-pads or on paper while watching the videos or reading.  A few students were experimenting with different materials such as ramps, matchbox cars, marbles, etc. to experiment and learn about force and motion. ...

By Lisa Abel-Palmieri, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Blogger

Girls want to change the world.

Eighty-eight percent say they want to make a difference with their lives, and 90 percent express a desire to help people, according to the Girl Scouts’ “Generation STEM” research. Girls have traditionally achieved this goal through people-oriented careers rather than through applying technology and scientific expertise to change the way things are done.

However, if more girls learn that STEM careers open up new avenues to help and serve, more girls will choose STEM.

Maker education allows girls to experience in a fun, tangible way how they can apply STEM skills to solve real problems — all while developing dexterity, learning about ideation and practicing teamwork. By giving girls the opportunity to make and tinker, we also help them develop their creative confidence so they persevere in pursuing STEM majors and careers. The “Generation STEM” report found that 92 percent of girls who engage with STEM subjects believe that they are smart enough to ...

By Gerard J. Puccio and Julia Figliotti, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Proving Creativity Is an Essential Skill

Organizations everywhere are shouting from the rooftops. They are calling for innovation and imagination in our schools and demanding innovation and imagination in the workplace. The essence of it all: creativity is finally being recognized as a must-have, 21st century work skill.

At the International Center for Studies in Creativity (ICSC), we believe it is more than just a work skill. Creativity is a necessity at the workplace, in a home environment and everywhere in between. To cope with the ever-present change in our modern world, creativity has become an essential life skill for all.

Resistance Remains

However, in spite of the clarion call for creativity, there is still some resistance to the view that creativity is a skill that can be developed. In our opinion, there are two major impediments to the integration of creativity into businesses, education and society. The first obstacle is probably the most obvious: while many business leaders tout the importance of creativity in their employees, our educational systems seem to be leaning in the opposite ...

By Gail Connelly, Executive Director, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP)

Educators may continue to argue about the best methods to measure student performance. But most of us agree that achievement gaps resulting from race and socioeconomic status are a moral imperative that educators have a responsibility to address.

We know that principals play a key role in closing achievement gaps. Research over the past 30 years shows that strong school leadership is second only to teaching among school influences on student success and is most significant in schools with the greatest need.

As the role of the principal expands, and becomes more and more complex, it may help to keep a focus on four key things that principals can do to improve learning conditions for students and create a school culture that helps close the gap:

1. Hire effective teachers. Here’s why Finland sits at the top of international rankings: It trains and supports teachers better than we do in the United States. For one, teacher education in Finland is a five-year, university-based program, with emphasis on ...

Technology can be a powerful tool for change, but in the excitement of doing something new, important planning aspects may fall by the wayside. In order to support long-term success and systemic change, technological integration benefits from piloting, community buy-in, visionary and consistent leadership, and a diligence to build on successes over time.  Vail School District in Vail, Arizona exemplifies these attributes, and the district staff is proud of the collaborative culture they’ve created. As they put it, they do the hard work of getting along, and they’ve established a strong foundation for their relentless pursuit of innovative practices that support student achievement and learning in the 21st century.  ...

By Joanna Schimizzi, American Federation of Teachers member and National Board Certified Biology teacher at Butler High School in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools

Those who can’t do… teach??? Undoubtedly, teachers would disagree with this, but sometimes it can feel like what we teach is pretty far from the actual practice of our content areas. Is what I’m teaching actually helping my students become scientists?

Since implementing the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in my classroom 2012, I’ve gradually changed what my high school science students read and how they engage with the concepts these texts present to them. After only two years, the feedback I receive from my former students is very encouraging. Now university students, the first group says they feel more prepared for college-level classes and more committed to pursuing science careers. Kayla McGuire, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, says, “All we do at college is read papers and discuss them the next day. While I didn’t try my hardest in your class, it was the class that prepared me the most.”

For me, the huge lever was incorporating primary source academic papers into my classes. While I might not be “doing” the experiments in these papers, I can help my students build knowledge using the direct findings. I had tried to do this before, but with much simpler articles from ...

The National PTA Reflections Program was founded in 1969 by Colorado PTA President Mary Lou Anderson with a simple objective: to encourage students to explore their talents in the arts and deepen their self-expression through those experiences. Eleven years ago, the US Department of Education started a Student Art Exhibit Program, and each year they recognize many of the student Reflection winners as part of the ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the opening of the art exhibit at the Department headquarters in Washington, DC. This year, the PTA Reflections theme was “Magic in a Moment,” and millions of students from across the United States created works of art in a variety of mediums, including film, music, literature, and photography. These works of art are exquisitely crafted and reflective of the artists’ stage in life and the experiences that inspired their creation. The student voice and perspective speaks to the world through the vibrant range of expression; it’s truly a celebration of the human experience. ...

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