Thursday, October 28, 2010

NHLA Lumber Grading "Short Course"

This week, the school district sponsored a lumber grading "short course" for students of Ridgway and Johnsonburg along with adults from the community.  Overall, 23 people participated in the course.  The "short course" is a four day course that helps prepare students to take the longer, full-fledged lumber grading course.  Students spend the first day reviewing basic math skills.  Things like adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing fractions are stressed.  The students then move on to actually learning how to grade lumber.  Barry Kibbe from the National Hardwoods Lumber Association teaches the class.  This is the third year the school district has run the class.  I am very excited about this class and I believe it gives our students real life experiences that can help them as they look for employment in our community.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

From My Favorite Philosopher

Yesterday, my favorite philosopher (my 6 year old son) came up with another saying that really made me think.  Last night as we were preparing supper my son looked at me and said “Dad, I don’t like it when you have that look on your face.  You look unhappy”.  Generally I don’t mind fixing supper, but I must have had an “unhappy” look at that time.  My son went on to say, “When you look like that it makes me ‘wild up’”.  I asked him what “wild up” meant.  He then told me that the unhappy look on my face made him want to act bad and yell.  Can you imagine how a simple facial expression has such a powerful affect on a young child?  Better yet, imagine being a teacher who is constantly on stage with little ones always looking at you for guidance and hints on how to act.  This is a powerful lesson for educators.  Students are constantly taking their cues from us.  More than the content that we teach, the way in which we act and interact with students and other adults will have an everlasting effect on the students.   I probably tend to make too much of these little occurrences with my son, but I can’t help but think that little kids are more profound than some of us adults!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Enrichment Field Trip

I have posted a letter from Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Cortina discussing the field trip that the high school and middle school gifted students took last month.  There is also a picture collage of the trip.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2010 PSSA Results

The 2010 PSSA results are in and they show that the school district is making progress toward meeting the NCLB goal of 100% proficiency.  Students at RASD are achieving at all time high levels.  In Math, 83% of the students are proficient.  In Reading 70% of the students are proficient.  The district leadership team and teachers have analyzed the data further and have identified area of concentration.  First, the school district is focusing efforts on Literacy Training at all grade levels.  Literacy is a “gatekeeper” skill and the district must assure that students have the highest literacy capabilities.  Second, the school district is focusing on making sure special education students are exposed to the same rigorous curriculum as the rest of the students. Finally, the school district is pleased with the progress in math scores.  The increase can be attributed to a focus on researched based instructional strategies, formative assessment, and a collaborative culture utilizing professional learning communities.  These activities will be further expanded to continue RASD’s rise in test scores.  You can view a presentation that I gave to the school board about the PSSA results here.  The presentation gives much more detail about the PSSA scores and shows comparisons to other schools in the region.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Walking Backward

Yesterday my favorite philosopher (my 6 year old son) helped me realize something very profound. Now, he does not mean to be a philosopher, but readers of the blog know that he has had at least one very profound statement about education and “learning”. Yesterday, I watched him get off the bus and start walking backward down the street. I wondered why he would want to walk backward all of that way. I thought about it for a little bit and I finally realized the answer. He was walking backward because it was fun and he just wanted to do it. When is the last time you walked down the street backward just because it was fun? Better yet, when was the last time you did something just because it was fun and was going to make you happy?

Lately, as I think about the direction of education and all of the “speed bumps” school district must maneuver around, I am afraid that all of us in education may forget to "walk backward". We forget that we are dealing with kids that just want to “walk backward” sometime. Let’s keep education simple. Teach the kids things that are useful to them in life in a way that is interesting and engaging. Period…and then we can all go outside and walk backward!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

RASD Receives $5,000 Grant

Mr. Oknefski researched grant opportunities to restart the robotics program at Ridgway.  He was fortunate to find funding from the Elk County Community Foundation.  The following is a statement from Mr. Oknefski.

Ridgway Area School District needed an alternative way to teach robotics which is becoming a huge field not only in the surrounding area but around the country. Robotics has proven itself not only fun but extremely educational because robotics has the ability to integrate science, technology, engineering, and math seamlessly all while keeping students engaged. Robotics is also not a cookie cutter curriculum because it allows each student to creatively think of solutions to problems and then build a robot to solve the problem. When the robot is built, students have the option to manually operate the robot using a remote control, or they can program it using software to repeat steps over and over just like a robot in production.

Last year, Mr. Oknefski wrote a grant explaining all the benefits that robotics can have on education and explained how Ridgway could be a model program. Excitement and publicity in the program could cause other schools in the area to peruse education using robots enhancing an entire community as well as the counties educational experience. It does just stop in the school. After school, students who have been taught using robots will be able to take their knowledge into the workforce, college, or the military and succeed and expand from there.

The Elk County Community Foundation graciously agreed to give our school district a $5,000 grant towards the purchase of the robots. With that money, plus some given by our school, we will be able to purchase four Vex robots and two computers that will have the appropriate curriculum and software downloaded onto it. The robots will be used in the pre-engineering II class to accommodate 8 students (working in pairs) this year and could possibly be expanded into a class of its own in the future. We also anticipate students competing in events using vex robots. I hope to see an excitement and knowledge gained from the use of these robots. If it is as big as a success as I anticipate, I hope others will see its importance and choose to push the program further. It would be a real accomplishment to see the education in this field to continue with a large amount of students using their brains to find creative solutions to problems they are faced with.