Monday, March 5, 2012

How Do You Survive?

What I love most about my daughter's elementary school is that they have a theme\motto each year. The entire school reflects the motto. Last year it was LG Rocks and this year, it is pirated-centered. Hope's second grade teacher gave each student a shell at the beginning of the year as a welcome piece. I love the idea of the having a theme\motto that galvanizes your staff and students.

At my school we are organized in Small Learning Communities (SLCs) to help combat the isolation that students feel in a school of 3200. Initially we received a million dollar grant for five years which helped with the implementation of the structure and the training of teachers with summer institutes as a component of professional learning for the teachers.  Now we are doing our best to put together experiences for our students without the fiscal support and time that the grant provided for us to thoughtfully collaborate.  I work in the College of Health and Public Affairs (HPA). My ninth grade students have self-selected to be in HPA where our focus is medical skills, culinary arts, personal fitness, and security\law enforcement. Our motto is to lead and serve. Other SLCs include iAM (The Institute of Arts and Media), and I-STEM (The Institute of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) as well as the IB Magnet. The arrangement of SLCs is supposed to galvanize not only our staff, but also our students by having a career focus.

Staff Members of HPA on the Ropes Course

I have arranged my instruction around the topic of Survival. I often think about decorating my room with a little survival gear, a little camouflage. My grand scheme would be to take my students camping. What I love most is that the topic of survival has centered my instruction around the essential question, "How do you survive?" This question is easily one that we can attempt to answer every day and it makes sense to attach the importance of reading and writing as essential survival skills. We can also examine issues such as surviving real disasters and imagined, perhaps zombies as my students pointed out. There is also so much literature, both classic and young adult that I can connect to our topic. The whole class novels that we are reading include Speak, Anthem, Lay That Trumpet in Our Hands, and The Odyssey.  This year we have loved reading many YA survival novels, mostly science fiction.  Our favorite read so far has been Divergent by Veronica Roth.  We are awaiting the sequel in May.  The other event we are waiting for is an actual "disaster" on campus.

We are in the midst of planning our Full Scale Emergency Exercise. It takes place on the teacher work day toward the end of this month. I can't tell you specifically more about it, but it grew out of our mock disaster last year in which we created a career focus day for our students and a disgruntled employee situation. I have worked with the English teachers in my college to create a differentiated reading lesson about disasters for all of our HPA students to encourage interest in our Full Scale Exercise.  I have also take 4 FEMA courses with 2 more to take so that we can officially host this event.  This year emergency management for our county is orchestrating the event and they will bring heavy equipment, special effects and actual emergency workers including firefighters, the hazmad team, police officers, and paramedics.  Students will get an opportunity to watch the scenario unfold and them go on the floor with the team.  They will participate in a hot wash as well to debrief the scenario.  I am excited and hoping to get my students excited enough to give up their first day of spring break to participate.

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