Advancements in curriculum further innovative learning

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By Juliana Moxley
Old Town Lansing Times staff writer

OLD TOWN LANSING — A $3.4 million grant was awarded to the Lansing School District to implement a new curriculum that will offer students an innovative way to learn and prepare them for the future.

Introducing the MSAP

The Lansing School District was awarded the Magnet grant, which is funded through the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, or MSAP. MSAP is an affiliate of the U.S. Department of Education. The grant benefits six schools in the Lansing School District and specifies what technology, personnel, training, and project materials are needed in each Magnet school and then funds those needs.

The Lansing schools receiving money from the Magnet grant are Fairview Elementary School, Sheridian Road Elementary School, Cavanaugh Elementary School, Mt. Hope Elementary School, Lewton Elementary School, and Everett High School.

The new curriculum will begin at the Magnet schools in the 2014-2015 school year.

The purpose of the MSAP is to implement innovative programs that have a themed approach — an aspect that differentiates the Magnet schools from the non-Magnet schools in the district.

The themes for the schools are S.T.E.M., which focuses on engaging students in science, technology, engineering and math; S.T.E.A.M., which has the same focus as a S.T.E.M. school but also has an added focus on art;  in the Global Studies/Spanish Immersion theme, children will learn to be become bilingual and knowledgeable on multiple cultures and then apply those skills in math, science and social studies; and the last theme is New Tech Network, which is a school within a school that places an emphasis on students using technology for about 90 percent of their coursework.

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Photo: Magnet Schools website. Two of the four themes that will be implemented into six Lansing schools are S.T.E.A.M. and New Tech Network. All of the themes have a innovative academic approach.

The new world of school technology

MSAP Project Director Delsa Chapman has a long history with education and is very passionate about what the Magnet program does for students. The evolving world of technology is not only becoming more prominent in our every day lives, but also in childrens’ education.

“Due to technological advances in our society, the Lansing School District feels it’s our responsibility that we are offering innovative programs and instructions to prepare them for college, and we want to offer them a skill set that will prepare them for the future,” Chapman said.

Pre-kindergarten through third grade students at Fairview Elementary School are eligible to partake in the school’s new Magnet curriculum, S.T.E.M. As part of the program, students can

explore math and science as a way to enlarge their academic world.

Fairview Elementary School Principal Janice Marchal is excited about what the grant is bringing to her school. Marchal said Fairview is looking forward to it’s teachers being able to instruct in a different way and being given professional development to refine their teaching skills in this century.

“Fairview is a S.T.E.M.,” Marchal said. “We will be using Project Lead the Way and Engineering is Elementary.”

Photo: Fairview Elementary School’s website. Fairview Elementary School, located at 815 N. Fairview Ave., is one of the six Lansing schools that will implement a new Magnet curriculum starting next fall.

Photo: Fairview Elementary School’s website. Fairview Elementary School, located at 815 N. Fairview Ave., is one of the six Lansing schools that will implement a new Magnet curriculum starting next fall.

Magnet schools are given a focus teacher, which is who makes sure the school’s teachers have what they need in order to succeed in this new teaching style. The focus teacher plays an important role in the new curriculum and they act as a guide for the school as it goes through it’s curriculum transition.

“I don’t think a principal could do this on their own with all of the extra things that have to be taken into account,” Marchal said. “They (focus teachers) help with professional development, lesson plans and help with training the teachers.”

The application process

This is not the first time the Lansing School District has been a recipient of the Magnet grant.

Chapman said the Lansing School District was chosen through a very rigorous application process, which was submitted for review to the U.S. Department of Education.

“As a part of that process, you have to identify within the application the number of schools you anticipate implementing the program in, as well as what the Magnet program at those schools will become or transition to,” Chapman said.

In the application, the district must state how much money they would need to implement the new program curriculum. This time, Chapman said the district was awarded 100 percent of the requested funding amount for the six schools that will become Magnet schools.

If in-district students wish to attend a Magnet school or be in a Magnet curriculum class at their current school then they must apply. Because the district is transitioning and becoming a Magnet school site for the fall of 2014, Chapman said it is a requirement that every student applies to the program.

Magnet school programs are available to all students — they are not strictly for academically gifted or academically challenged students. Chapman said the primary requirements, aside from the application and parent recommendation, are based on if the student has truly shown an interest in a Magnet program’s specific theme.

Not all students are permitted for entrance into a Magnet program though. There are about 200 students allowed in a Magnet program at each Lansing school.

“The amount varies based on the budget put together with the application,” Chapman said. “Districts can sometimes be funded less than 100 percent; they still receive an award but the amount can be determined by the U.S. Department of Education.”

A new chapter in education

The ability for students to academically advance alongside the advancements of technology shows how prominent technology is becoming in this century.

Magnet programs offer alternative ways for students to excel socially and academically, while also enabling them to get the most out of their education and prepare them for what’s next.

“My whole staff is excited, we just can’t wait for the training to start,” Marchal said. “We’re looking forward to the excitement of change to prepare the students for the future.”

Questions? Contact Juliana Moxley at moxleyju@msu.edu or (586) 819-9750

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