The new academic year is about a month old, and St. Clair R-XIII School District Assistant Superintendent Tanya Vest said she continues to be excited about a pair of programs being implemented locally this fall that will benefit students and teachers alike.
Principals in the buildings where one of these programs is taking place, which actually is a new curriculum, also are excited about what lies ahead as far as hands-on classroom learning.
Vest updated school board members on both the Sangari Science program and Missouri Reading Initiative when they gathered for their regular meeting last month. Both were approved by the board in April. The pair of principals commented on the new program earlier this month a couple of weeks after classes had started.
The Sangari Science program is a standards-based curriculum that is "rigorous and engaging," information passed out to board members stated. "(It) is aligned to conceptual framework for new science education standards."
The curriculum for elementary grades uses more than textbooks. It provides a Web portal that provides teachers a way to adjust their instruction and respond to the needs of individual pupils. The program includes hands-on investigations and experiments.
"The curriculum already has been mapped out for the teachers," Vest said, adding that kits had been delivered to classrooms prior to the beginning of the school year in August.
"The district is very excited to have this type of inquiry-based program available to our students," she recently told The Missourian. "The program promotes active learning using a variety of resources and manipulatives. We look forward to integrating this program into our school curriculum."
During the April board meeting, R-XIII Superintendent Michael Murphy said that in the curriculum rotation, this year was the year to target science.
During the August meeting, Vest said teacher training will continue as the school year progresses. She also outlined units that will be taught by grade level.
•First grade: Needs of living things, animals, water and weather.
•Second grade: Engineering of sound, life cycles, soil, transformation of matter.
•Third grade: Solids, liquids, gases and other materials; light, shadow and color; life of plants, Earth systems; Earth, moon and sun.
•Fourth grade: Substances, electricity, environment and life, rocks and minerals.
•Fifth grade: The universe, machines and motion, weather and climate, life of animals.
"This is about students exploring through the utilization of materials," Murphy told board members in August.
St. Clair Elementary Principal Nadine Myers agreed.
"By using Sangari Science, we are moving our students past just reading about science," she said this month. "They are the scientists. An exciting connection with science is made that was not possible before this program."
Murphy said that "the program includes resources for classroom activities. Teachers can access those resources to provide an exciting experience in the classroom that builds knowledge."
The superintendent said the goal is to expand inquiry-based learning to help stimulate a greater interest in science.
"The administrative team felt more hands-on experiences for students is essential," he said.
Materials include telescopes, test tubes, magnifying glasses, models, maps, rocks, soils and various living organisms such as plants, worms and fish. Videos and games will help engage students in the lessons.
Edgar Murray Principal Kent Sherrow spoke about both the new science program and the Missouri Reading Initiative for teachers.
"The new science program is one example on how our teachers can maximize student learning by engaging students in activities that spark creativity and inspire learning," he told The Missourian earlier this month. "(And), we have began training with the Missouri Reading Initiative, and teachers are really excited. Our teachers are learning new strategies to personalize instruction best suited for individual student needs.
"Collectively, each of our programs are powerful statements about the level of professionalism and dedication our school has toward a comprehensive school improvement model," he said. "Each program works independently to support the other in a cohesive learning environment focused both on literacy and individual student outcomes."
The Missouri Reading Initiative is part of the professional development plan for district teachers. It is a comprehensive approach to professional development in all aspects of literacy and is dedicated to working with Missouri public school teachers and administrators to help students at all grade levels read efficiently.
All four building principals - Myers, Sherrow, SCJH's Steve Weinhold and the high school's Kevin Hillman - attended a MRI training session in Springfield last week.
"The Missouri Reading Initiative is a research-based program which complements currently what we are doing in the elementary (grades) with balanced literacy," Vest told The Missourian. "The wonderful thing about this program is it includes teachers in the junior high and high school, providing strategies and professional development to help our students in the upper grades maintain and/or progress their reading levels. In the junior high and senior high school, training is provided to help all content area teachers teach reading strategies across the curriculum."
According to literature provided to board members, MRI works with teachers to provide ongoing systematic professional development to enhance the quality of literacy instruction leading to improved student achievement throughout all grade levels; examines and disseminates research in reading and writing to educators throughout the state, assisting schools with the implementation of instructional-best practices in literacy through modeling lessons, coaching and collaboration; and assists schools with assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of school improvement efforts in literacy toward a comprehensive model.
Training continues as the school year progresses, Vest said, adding that schedules have been established in the various buildings.
She said training includes one to one, small group, whole group and modeling in the classroom for teachers.
Murphy said he believes the program will be good for the distric.
"But, I think the reward for work will outweigh the work," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing this level of job-embedded development."