By: Steve Gratz
During the summer after my first year of teaching, I went over to my colleague, Jim Boyd’s, biology classroom and snooped around to see what I might be able to “borrow” to enhance my teaching — I was working on embedding more science principles into my agriculture curriculum. While I was rummaging around his classroom, I found a syllabus from his 10th grade biology class, and I realized it closely paralleled my sophomore class agriculture syllabus. However, it did so through principles rather than the context from which I taught. For example, Mr. Boyd taught cells: homeostasis, respiration, photosynthesis, mitosis and meiosis; and genetics: fundamentals, DNA, RNA, inheritance and expression. I taught AgriScience 200 (Animal and Plant Biology): genetics, anatomy and physiology, growth and development, reproduction, and nutrition. The parallels were uncanny.
Aside from spending a majority of that summer conducting home visits to students, I invested many hours rewriting the agriculture curriculum with my colleague Brad Moffitt. Brad and I graduated together from The Ohio State University, and we focused on embedding more science principles into our agriculture curricula throughout our teaching careers.
During the fall semester of my second year of teaching, Jim stopped down to my classroom and asked me about my curriculum. I quickly shared with him my syllabus from my sophomore agriculture class. He carefully reviewed it, paused and said, “No wonder your students know the answers to all my questions, you are teaching biology in your ag class.” This was sheer luck and not planned on my part, but it really motivated me to continue to highlight the embedded science in the agriculture curriculum.
In addition to teaching animal and plant biology, I also remember introducing gel electrophoresis to my students. Gel electrophoresis is a laboratory method used to separate DNA fragments (or other macromolecules, such as RNA and proteins) according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. Of course, gel electrophoresis has evolved tenfold since the last time I was in the classroom. These are just a few examples life sciences embedded in agriculture.
The National FFA saw the importance of embedding more science principles in the agriculture curriculum. In fact, it created a recognition program for teachers of agriculture who brought science to the forefront. Brad (1985) and I (1986) were both recognized by the National FFA for outstanding work in agriscience. We both experienced increases in program enrollment because of the curricular change. However, we weren’t satisfied and set our sights on ensuring that our students could receive science credit through our agriscience courses. In Ohio, local districts control the awarding of credit, and we saw a handful of schools granting science credit for students in agriculture courses due to the embedded sciences.
When I started working at the Ohio Department of Education, I provided leadership to the agriscience initiative that was sweeping the country. At the Department, I immediately started working to ensure more students could receive science credit through agricultural education. I recall visiting with staff from the Office of Educator Licensure to determine the coursework agriculture teachers needed to become certified science teachers. After several meetings, we determined that agriculture teachers needed a physics class to receive certification to teach science. I reached out to Ohio State and arranged for a physics course to be taught on Saturdays to help agriculture teachers get science teaching certificates.
With the passage of House Bill 59, schools may now integrate academic content in a subject area into a course in a different subject area, including a career-technical education course. Upon successful completion of the integrated course, a student may receive credit for subject areas that were integrated into the course. Moreover, credits earned for subject area content delivered through integrated academic and career-technical instruction are eligible to meet the graduation requirements.
Integrated coursework benefits students by creating authentic learning experiences, deepening student understanding and creating space in students’ schedules for additional learning experiences. These experiences can include elective courses, College Credit Plus, work-based learning or other innovative educational practices. Integrated coursework mimics real-world situations and makes learning more authentic. Students are actively engaged in learning because the design of the integrated curriculum creates challenging, meaningful tasks that help students connect information.
Innovative school leaders who take advantage of the integrated coursework initiative really can change a student’s experience in and out of school. I’ve witnessed this as a teacher and by visiting schools across the state. Below are videos showing how schools have integrated different subject areas into different courses. The Department will continue to capture examples of integrated coursework as this initiative gains momentum.
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By: Guest Blogger
Throughout my entire life, my mom always pushed me to be a leader and not a follower, so I always hold myself to that standard. I believe that helped me get to where I am today. Today, I am very proud to serve as the president of Educators Rising Ohio. Educators Rising Ohio is a career-tech student organization that includes more than 1,000 students who wish to pursue careers in the education field. On a national level, Educators Rising includes more than 30,000 members. Career-tech student organizations such as Educators Rising Ohio have helped me and students throughout the state and country. I also am currently the captain of my football and wrestling teams, and I strive to push others in a positive direction. As president of Educator Rising Ohio, I look forward to further developing my abilities as a leader.
I would not be pursuing this field if it were not for Mr. Richard Wakefield. He is our lead instructor for the Heights Career Tech Prep Consortium Teacher Academy at Maple Heights High School, as well as our Educators Rising Ohio teacher leader. I took his career search class as a freshman, and I saw something in him. He is fiery and not afraid to challenge a student to do better. Where many teachers would throw in the towel, Mr. Wakefield keeps on pushing. He never stops. Mr. Wakefield saw something in me as well. He could see that I try to lead others. He could see that I am motivated by my struggles. When he asked me to join the Teacher Academy, he told me there is no better way for a man to give back to society than to become a teacher. He also told me that I could have even more influence because I am black, and there are very few black male teachers.
I have always loved sports and helping others. Mr. Wakefield has helped me realize that teaching and coaching would be a good career to enter after my football-playing days are over. I can see myself being a great teacher in the classroom and a great coach on the sideline. I can see myself using my talents and passions to change lives.
For now, as president, one of my first goals is to bring Educators Rising Ohio to more students. We are a student-led organization that not only teaches students how to become great teachers but prepares them for life as well. Educators Rising Ohio stretches students’ opportunities in life tremendously. We expose students to colleges and a multitude of careers and help each individual develop professionalism and character. By learning and applying these things in everyday life, success in life seems more attainable. From the beginning, children are always told to set goals and then take the necessary steps to achieve those goals. Educators Rising Ohio emphasizes that state of mind and immerses one in the field to get hands-on practice. Educators Rising Ohio prepares students for teaching and life. The organization also helps students develop relationships with people they would never meet otherwise.
Anyone who would like to join Educators Rising Ohio should visit this website. It is a great way to start your journey to becoming a teacher.
Antoine Holloway II is the current president of Educators Rising Ohio. He will be a high school senior in the fall. To learn more about Educators Rising, contact Angela Dicke.
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By: Guest Blogger
School may be out for summer, but learning is always in season at your local library. Ohio's public libraries serve a critical function in summer learning, in many cases, acting as the only safety net against the “summer slide” — the documented decrease in reading proficiency of students who do not read during summer vacation. The stakes for children who do not read during the summer are high. Substantial research on this topic shows that elementary school students who lose reading skills during the summer will be two years behind their classmates by the end of sixth grade. It's usually the students who can least afford to lose ground as readers who are most likely to suffer from summer reading loss and fall behind their peers. Parents and teachers alike have long asserted that regular use of the local library improves children’s reading dramatically. Summer vacation is the perfect time to explore all the library’s resources and programs.
Every public library in Ohio offers a summer reading program for children with organized activities, projects, games and incentives to promote reading during the summer months. This year’s theme is “Libraries Rock” and includes a variety of musical activities from making instruments to dance parties. For hundreds of thousands of Ohio’s kids, these programs develop positive attitudes about reading and strengthen the skills they learned during the previous school year. Preventing the “summer slide” continues to be the main objective of summer reading programs.
Ohio’s public libraries provide quality learning activities that are fun and encourage some of the best techniques identified by research as being important to the reading process such as storytelling and book discussions. Librarians know how to connect kids with books and encourage readers, especially those who are reluctant, with different formats such as eBooks, magazines, audiobooks or comics. Families can try out digital formats and borrow devices such as tablets, MP3 players and even Wi-Fi hot spots.
Parents often indicate that summer is the most difficult time to find productive things for kids to do. For many families, the public library is the only community space available during the summer where they can access free educational activities. Libraries also are natural spaces for serving meals to children whose access to lunch disappears when school is out. Free summer lunches are available at more than 120 libraries across the state. To find a location, visit education.ohio.gov/kidseat.
In addition to reading, children can participate in activities at the library that support their curiosity and creativity including physical makerspaces, coding classes, production studios for digital media, virtual reality and more. Many libraries offer hands-on science and math activities that let kids brainstorm, problem solve and work together on projects. By taking an informal and playful (and sometimes messy and loud!) approach, libraries see these activities as opportunities for children to further their sense of discovery. Children who join summer library programs keep their brains active and enter school in the fall ready to succeed. An Ohio Public Library Directory is available at https://library.ohio.gov/using-the-library/find-an-ohio-library/. Check your local library’s website for a calendar of summer activities to see how you can keep kids reading and learning all summer long!
Angie Jacobsen is the director of Communications for the Ohio Library Council. The Ohio Library Council is the statewide professional association that represents the interests of Ohio’s 251 public library systems, their trustees, friends groups, and staffs. You can contact Angie by clicking here.
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By: Stephanie Donofe Meeks
Who remembers the original Star Trek television series from the 1960s, set in the 23rd century, when Scotty would talk to the computer? We all thought that was a long way off, but a few days ago I dashed out my front door and yelled, “Alexa, turn off the dining room lights!” Granted, Alexa is not setting a vector for warp speed travel, but that's still my voice activating a cyber response to a physical object. I can ask Alexa to order something from Amazon, tell me the weather in Myrtle Beach or to settle a debate with my husband about a Civil War fact. (He was right.)
Using an interface like Alexa is part of the cyber connection to our physical world often referred to as the Internet of Things. The concept is not new; however, it is now embedded in our everyday life rather than being a nebulous concept from Star Trek. If we think about it in terms of the Industrial Revolution, we are in the fourth iteration of the Industrial Revolution. This is where the cyber and the physical are more connected and work together.
We talk about preparing kids for an unknown future but isn't that what we've always done in schools? The difference is we now have a greater understanding about the future of jobs and growth industries. How do we get students ready, no matter what the future brings?
One way is to establish personalized learning environments and maximize learning for all students. It's not a defined, exact science so much as it is a collection of elements that define the learning environment. It is a child-centered approach using technology as an accelerator for learning. In schools doing this, you will see the following priorities and related actions displayed in this infographic:
The Alliance for Excellent Education developed the Future Ready Framework for Personalized Learning. The Framework provides districts with a free resource to plan and support personalized learning environments. Going through the district assessment process allows for rich conversations about all the areas needed to personalize learning for students, not just about what device a district will purchase. If we believe that personalized learning can truly maximize learning for each child, our next step should be making this a reality. For more information, you can start here.
Let me leave you with this: If students can find answers by just asking Alexa, then how do we change the questions we want students to answer? Do we teach them what to think or how to think? Watch this video for more on the difference between knowledge and thinking.
For tips on using Alexa in the classroom, click here!
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By: Steve Gratz
“Those Were the Days” was in heavy rotation on the school bus radio when I boarded during the 1969-1970 school year. I was in elementary school and my big brother, Kevin, was a senior. We went to Bluffton, a small school in northwest Ohio in Allen County. I remember that Kevin would leave school early to go to work at Lima Lumber as part of his DCT program – Diversified Cooperative Training. You see, Bluffton was a small agricultural community, and vocational agriculture, home economics and shop class were still a strong part of the curriculum. I don’t know when the DCT program started, but it was for students whose interests were outside of the vocational agriculture, home economics and shop classes.
DCT taught students job readiness skills in class and then all students were released early to go to their places of employment. My brother and his friends worked in various job sectors. While I don’t remember much about the program or when it ceased to exist, I do recall that my brother really enjoyed the class and the work experience at Lima Lumber.
I’ve shared this memory with Department staff on numerous occasions. In fact, the more I shared it, the more I thought, “Why not consider bringing this program back?” This past September in Cincinnati, we had a team attend the fall convening for our New Skills For Youth grant. During our “team time,” we dusted off the DCT program from years gone by, gave it a face lift, added a few new dimensions and started thinking through how we could roll it out for the 2018-2019 school year. Our creative staff came up with a modernized name to replace the DCT moniker – Personalized Professional Pathways or P3.
I sat down with staff and we started to flesh out the P3 program to ensure it would be successful. Parallel to the development of the P3 program, staff also were working on developing the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, and it was a logical decision to blend the two together.
Similar to the DCT program, the P3 program will consist of a class on employability skills, with the foundation of the course aligning to the 15 professional skills that are part of the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. All students will be required to have work-based learning experiences. Ideally, the work-based learning experiences will be aligned to students’ career aspirations. Leveraging Ohio’s Credit Flexibility program, students’ work-based learning experiences will require training plans aligned to one of Ohio’s 39 career pathways. As a result of this alignment, students will earn career-technical education credits and possibly postsecondary credit.
Developing a traditional pathway program can be a little daunting as you consider which pathway will meet the needs of a majority of your students. Once the pathway is decided, you need to select a sequence of courses, determine classroom and laboratory space, purchase equipment and recruit enough students to make the program feasible. Many schools find this challenging due to the diverse interests of their students – especially smaller schools. Instead of choosing one or more pathways, the P3 program meets the needs of students’ various career interests and has very little startup costs.
Department staff are working with educators to develop a course outline for the P3 program that embeds the 15 professional skills on the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. This course outline will serve as the foundation of the in-school program. The essential part of the program hinges on student work-based learning. The P3 program requires the student, along with coaching from the instructor, to find employment in a sector aligned to his or her career aspirations. The instructor then works with the student and the employer to develop a training plan (resources can be found here) aligned to a career pathway course. This training plan ensures that the work-based learning experience is more than just a job – it is an authentic, work-based learning experience aligned to the content standards of the course.
A student enrolled in the P3 program will earn credit for the in-school class and credit for the work-based learning experience aligned to the student’s training plan. The employer ensures that the student is learning the technical content standards, so the student can earn course credit and be prepared to earn industry-recognized credentials aligned to the program. Students even have the ability to earn postsecondary credit through Ohio’s robust statewide articulation program (Tech Prep). The magic of the program is that it allows one teacher to help students earn credit in a variety of courses. Schools no longer have to choose which pathways they want to implement in their schools.
Staff still are finalizing plan details such as teacher qualifications, EMIS requirements and accountability aspects. I expect that to be available within the next few weeks. You can fill out this interest form to receive information about P3. Feel free to contact Cassie Palsgrove or Leah Amstutz should you have any questions on the P3 program.
And my brother, Kevin? He still works at Lima Lumber, but today, he owns the company!
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