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Warrior Tech to combine different ways of learning
Integrated classes, new instruction styles key
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Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton (from left), Magna Vista High School Principal Gracie Agnew and Henry County Deputy Administrator Dale Wagoner tour the Warrior Tech Academy at Magna Vista High School. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Warrior Tech Academy, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) academy, soon will open at Magna Vista High School as the first New Tech Network (NTN) school in Virginia.

Project-based learning is at the heart of NTN’s instructional approach, according to its website. Students learn through doing projects on a specific issue or challenge. The students work in groups, and teachers guide them along. Projects require problem solving, critical thinking and communication.

Here are some examples given by staff members of Warrior Tech, which will be a school-within-a-school:

1. Research and write a paper on a topic that would have been of importance to a person in an ancient culture, role-playing that person’s perspective. 2. Design a putt-putt hole. 3. Determine if handicapped ramps are up to code.

1. “Role-play writing” is an example of a project that could be assigned in the integrated World History I /English 9 course at Warrior Tech Academy (WTA), which soon will open at Magna Vista High School as a school within a school.

2 and 3. The putt putt hole and handicapped ramps assignments are examples of problems that may be used in a geometry class at the academy.

The integrated World History 1/ English 9 course and the integrated biology/health and physical education course will be taught through project-based learning at WTA, but the math courses will be taught with problem-based learning.

WTA geometry facilitator Jeannie Stanley explained the difference in an email. Instructors are called facilitators, not teachers, because they facilitate or guide learning, as opposed to traditional teaching by lecture.

Problem-based learning begins with a problem that encompasses one to two standards and takes only a few days to complete, but project-based learning focuses on multiple content standards and takes several weeks to complete, she stated.

In both problem-based learning and project-based learning, the task drives the instruction and students are asked to devise strategies toward a culminating product, Stanley stated. Both learning approaches incorporate determining what students already know and need to know, “entry events” (events that fire up the curiosity of students), rubrics (guides), technology proficiency, real-world connections (meaning that students see a reason for doing the project) and collaboration skills (working together in groups), according to Stanley.

“One specific example of a Geometry problem that I plan to implement is designing a putt putt hole,” Stanley stated. “Students will be asked to design a putt putt hole by examining angles and transformations. In their investigation and design, students will learn about complementary and supplementary angles, perpendicular bisectors, constructions and reflections.”

According to mathisfun.com, transformation means moving a shape so that it is in a different position but still has the same size, area, angles and line lengths. The website says two angles are complementary if they add up to 90 degrees (a right angle), and two angles are supplementary if they add up to 180 degrees.

According to Math Open Reference, perpendicular bisector is a line that cuts a line segment into two equal parts at 90 degrees.

Construction means to draw a shape, line or angle accurately using a compass and straightedge (ruler), according to mathisfun.com. The website says reflection is an image or shape as it would be seen in a mirror.

Stanley said another example of a geometry problem is using right triangles to determine if handicapped ramps are up to code by using trigonometry to investigate angles of elevation. Trigonometry is the study of triangles, according to mathisfun.com.

“In both PrBL (problem-based learning) and PBL (project-based learning), students will be given an entry document in which they will be able to formulate their list of ‘need to knows.’ They will then work collaboratively, with the help of scaffolding (scaffolding refers to specialized instructional supports such as handouts or prompts) and workshops, and present their results to the class. Finally, there will be a debriefing session in which the facilitator (teacher) prompts students to make connections and can conduct additional workshops, as needed,” Stanley stated.

“...We are very excited about the upcoming school year and know that our students and our community are as well!” Stanley wrote.

“I am so excited,” said Brook Hankins, facilitator of the English component of the integrated World History 1/ English 9 course. She said she believes that Warrior Tech’s focus on providing skills that students need in the real world will reap big benefits. “The drive to do something to help this area recover, I feel like this is going to be a big part of that movement.”

Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton has said county students do well on state Standards of Learning tests, which are multiple choice, but employers and higher education officials have said graduates need better skills in critical and creative thinking, communication, collaboration and problem-solving.

Hankins gave this general example of how combining world history and English might work. Students might research an ancient culture, relate it with current events in that region, research and write papers on various topics, learn vocabulary (not just meanings of words but learn about families of words), and learn how to properly cite sources, among other things.

 

 
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