Photo courtesy of Discenza's Twitter
On November 7th and 8th, a group of Chagrin Falls 7th-grade teachers attended the Ohio Middle Level Association conference in Columbus, Ohio, to represent the entire middle school as they were named a School to Watch by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades and to receive the prestigious Interdisciplinary Unit component award.
This is the 7th grade’s first award for their boat regatta unit. The OMLA award committee liked the boat regatta because it’s Interdisciplinary, which means that all of the curricula are tied into one unit. They also liked the fact that it’s a service-learning unit. The students are raising money for a cause, then donating it all to a village in need in the African nation of South Sudan.
The boat regatta unit starts in English. The students read a book called A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, which talks about the water crisis in South Sudan. Students then learn about scale drawings in math, water density in science and the best types of boats for racing according to history in social studies. The middle school fundraises for South Sudan to build freshwater wells. After that, the students get on teams to build a cardboard boat to race in the water.
Larry Richmond, Jessica Johnson, Brian Johnson, Alison Hinesman, Janet Adamoski, Cynthia Dean, Courtney Polcar and Brooke Campell were recognized at this conference.
With the award in hand, English teacher Mrs. Johnson said that the 7th-grade team is already looking to expand and create new and even better units for future students.
“For this unit specifically we are always refining it and looking at what went well and what we want to improve,” said Mrs. Johnson. “So for this unit, we have some plans for things we are going to do to even better it for our 7th graders this school year.”
The team begins planning and refining the program in the summer. This type of collaboration made the award that much more rewarding according to Richmond.
“I am excited that we worked as a team and came up with a fun way to give children information,” said Richmond. “And I love the aspect of the social learning part of this project.”
The OMLA sent observers to many schools in Ohio to personally view the unit being taught to children in real-time. This allowed the teachers to explain their approach and goals directly to an OMLA representative.
Middle School Principal Laila Discenza nominated the team for the award. “The award shows to the whole state that the OMLA is picking what is exemplary based on what is best practice,” said Discenza, “and the research that says this is what is good for kids.”
The Interdisciplinary unit award is the latest in a long series of awards for the Chagrin Falls school system. The district has been recognized for many awards over the years, including being tabbed as a national “Blue Ribbon School” in 2010.