Friday, June 22, 2018

Farewell 2017 - 2018~

Welcome to the Summer of 2018!

Our school year seemed to fly by in 2017-2018 and we have successfully gotten our
studentsthrough another  year of projects, assignments, and homework. Camps are
in full force and over the last weeks of June we are hosting about 200 children in
our various programs offering Makerspace, Sculpture, Coding, Camp Dynamite,
and Basketball.

Before I share some reflections of last school year I want to describe the scene at
Conley Schoolat dismissal on June 11th - Music was playing (Justin Timberlake and
other songs), the students and staff danced to the busses with a combination of sadness
from leaving for the summer mixed with happiness for having such a great year.  

The joy was evident as our drivers were honking their horns and staff stood waving
at students who returned the waves out their windows.  Hoppock was a bit more
reserved but the emotions were evident - and after an amazing 8th grade graduation
on Friday night the last day seemed like more of a preparation for next year rather
than an ending of our current year.

What a year!  We began Project Launch (STEAM) in Conley school and the
3rd - 5th graders made some amazing projects and fine tuned their problem solving
abilities.  Our students at Hoppock were coding and making rockets and sustainable
housing in their electives while preparing in their core areas for rigorous coursework
at North Hunterdon.

Next year we want to focus on empathy and character programs as well as our
academics and our counselors and staff will be preparing a “Mindfulness” type
experience for all of our students.  Also, we will be presenting our Strategic Plan
at the July 26th Board of Education meeting as we move forward to 18-19!

If anyone has any questions or concerns please contact us at the schools and we will
be happy to discuss anything--

Have an amazing summer!

Below is a post about the future that includes information from a book study the
Hunterdon County Superintendent’s participated in facilitated by me and
Dr. Rick Faulkenstein--

As the Summer of 2018 flies by we look forward to school opening in two months!

This is a very hectic time of year and the past two years have flown by - I have
learned so much about our students, parents, and community members and feel
the bond with our stakeholders and the enthusiasm for our programs and student
learning.  As we begin to implement a strategic long-range plan beginning in Fall
of 2018 we must set our goals and think about the future of our children. I will
be inviting members of our educational community to be a part of our planning
process and everyone that wants to be involved will have the opportunity to have
their voices heard.

A question I ask to educators and stakeholders is "What are we preparing our
students for?"  The answers typically range from colleges and careers to becoming
productive citizens, and the most basic Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.  I believe
all of these to be true. However, my recent thinking, spurred by my last read,
The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon
Valley Are Changing the World has been altered by our new reality.  If our schools
function to prepare students for their future what exactly does that future look like?

This reminds me of the trendy and popular quote "All we know about the future is
that it will be different..." and that we need to think creatively and not be constrained
by what we know.  What we know can be debilitating to creative thinking and problem
solving by limiting us to our current understanding of how things work and the structure
of rules and fear of any disruption or change in how we understand the world to work.  
Confinement to 'that's the way we always did it' can be devastating to free thinking and
whatever awaits us in the different world of tomorrow.  

We have heard the Educational Evangelists talk about how we used to be taught not
to take rides or stay in homes with strangers (businesses now worth $68 Billion
Uber-and $30 Billion Airbnb) in which both companies implement and embrace
the Sharing Economy.  These ideas were cast aside and seen as too revolutionary to
take on systems that were so ingrained with history, rules, policies, and Associations
to be successful.  Why did these ideas and this type of thinking take so many people
by surprise? What kind of thinking do we need to be encouraging to prepare our
students for working in the world of 2025 and beyond?  It is time to do something
about it.

Bethlehem Township Schools is adding key components to our curriculum and
program for next year. This includes STEAM projects (Science - Technology -
Engineering - Art - Mathematics) which are precursors to Project Lead The Way
which will be offered in North Hunterdon beginning next year. This is more than
simply an Engineering/Computer Science pathway for student learning, it is
teaching students to think.  In an Articulation Meeting with Lou Mazzella
(former STEAM Supervisor at North Hunterdon-Voorhees) we discussed fostering
student learning and Lou profoundly said "We want our students to make something
- to do something." I found that to be so forward thinking and moving away from
the testing mentality that can consume other educators. Research suggests students
become better more independent learners, and creative problem solvers when taught
critical-thinking skills.

Can we have a Makerspace?  The answer is yes. We will also be adding Global Day
of Design and increasing opportunities for students to  create, make, and build - and
to take charge of their learning. Children and parents of Bethlehem Township please
prepare for lift off as we offer some challenging programs for next year!

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