Teachers around the Tri-State use innovative and creative means to engage their students and instill a love of learning. With our "Field Trip" series, we head back to school for a lesson in what works in classrooms today.
School: Glen Este Middle School
Where: Union Township, Ohio
Teachers: Nicole Bass, Ben Osborne, Darla Chandler, Ken Cowan and Amy Aluise
While learning about math, language arts, social studies and science, one group of Glen Este Middle School sixth-graders recently learned the meaning of cooperation and giving back to the community.
The students were part of a team that spent the 2013-2014 school year collecting pull tabs (from soda cans and other containers) to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati. Students also prepared and served meals to families in the House.
“These kids were the driving force behind it. They worked so hard on it,” said sixth-grade science teacher Nicole Bass.
The school even won the local 2013-2014 Ronald McDonald House Pull Tabs Contest for middle schools. Students collected 307 pounds of pull tabs and won against 17 other area middle schools. According to organizers, recycled tabs raised more than $24,000 to help support families in 2012.
Sixth-graders from Glen Este Middle School's Team Topaz served two breakfasts at Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Bass)
Last year, West Clermont Local School District officials decided to restore a teaming model in middle schools. Teaming refers to grouping of a specific set of students with a set of core teachers.
The model was in place at West Clermont’s two sixth through eighth-grade middle schools until the 2010-2011 school year, when it was discontinued. The 2013-2014 school year was the first time since then that teaming has been implemented.
Each grade has three teams of 100 to 120 students and four core teachers for math, science, language arts and social studies. Some teams have one or two intervention specialists as well.
“With teaming, teachers have more of a support system,” Bass said.
The model allows the core teachers to do cross-curricular activities and to connect with one another if a particular student seems to be struggling, she added.
A focus on community service
Team Topaz teachers Nicole Bass, Ben Osborne, Darla Chandler, Ken Cowan and intervention specialist Amy Aluise got together to make a plan for their group. They discussed team rules, behavior expectations, what they wanted to achieve and what they wanted to change for their students.
The teachers agreed they wanted to incorporate community service in their teaching.
“We decided to collect pop tabs because it would be easy for everybody to pitch in,” Bass said.
To help them understand why the team was collecting pop tabs, the students watched a video on the Ronald McDonald House website explaining its purpose.
Ronald McDonald Houses provide a place for families to stay at low or no cost near the facility where their children are receiving medical care. The Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati houses up to 78 families at a time.
After learning more about the organization, the students of Team Topaz wanted to do more for the Ronald McDonald House--beyond collecting pop tabs. Bass, who volunteered at there in high school, suggested signing up to serve a meal.
Students were eager to help, but only 20 people--including chaperones--could volunteer at a time. So, students developed an application process. Those who wanted to be involved had to meet behavioral and academic requirements, get teacher and parent recommendation letters and write a letter explaining why they should be selected to participate. In the end, 13 students were chosen for the service project.
“I thought it would be nice to go there and help people who couldn’t afford to do it themselves,” said Bryce Goad.
The volunteer experience also seemed like something that could help his resume in a few years, he said.
“I wanted to do it because my nephew has cerebral palsy, and I wanted to help other people like him,” said Rosa Cianciolo.
A learning experience
After the selection process, the participants spent time after school planning the two breakfasts they were signed up to serve.
Students used math as they learned to read food labels to figure out the number of servings an item would yield and how much of the ingredients would need to purchase. They also had to budget and raise money to buy the food.
The participants developed their communication skills through fundraising, with many of the students going around their neighborhoods asking for donations.
While core subjects like math and language arts came into play, the most significant lesson was learning to help those in need of support.
“I wanted to do it because I thought it would help me learn how to help people,” said Ashley Rinckel.
For some students, serving others helped them realize how fortunate they are.
“I learned how blessed we really are and how strong kids are and how great it is to give back,” said Makenna Patridge.
Glen Este Middle Schoool students prepare breakfast at the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Bass)
Doing more with less
Glen Este Middle School is one of two middle schools in the West Clermont Local School District, the other being Amelia Middle School. Glen Este Middle School is in Eastgate on the same campus as Glen Este High School.
Of the nearly 8,000 students the district serves, about 1,000 attend Glen Este Middle School. Students come from Eastgate and Mt. Carmel and--through open enrollment from neighboring districts--Milford and Batavia.
The district has faced financial challenges in recent years, with voters rejecting operating levies in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
While the district is struggling, reinstating the teaming model has helped raise the morale at Glen Este Middle School, Bass said.
Continuing community service
Team Topaz teachers plan to continue helping the Ronald McDonald House with future students.
“I want it to be something people look forward to and know Team Topaz will do,” Bass said.
She and the other teachers encouraged students to continue community service efforts in seventh grade and beyond, challenging them to branch out beyond serving meals and consider other volunteer opportunities.
Got a tip for us about an awesome K-12 school, summer program or summer camp? Email Community Editor Holly Edgell: firstname.lastname@example.org.