School and Community Engagement: Conference Recap

Recently, I attended the NC Education Summit on School & Community Engagement in Greensboro, NC. It was my first time attending this event and I found the sessions informative and enlightening. A few highlights of what I heard include:

•  Opening speaker, Bill McBride. He focused on how boys’ and girls’ brains develop and how they learn differently; how we don’t need to change the child, but how we teach them. Bill stressed the importance of teaching kids to THINK – “if teens don’t learn to think strategically, they may never do so.” This was very interesting!

•  The concept behind Patterson Science Center, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) school that opened this past summer, is that there’s one center which multiple schools can visit – much like a field trip. If this goes well, my guess is that they’ll start to implement the concept into their schools.

•  DPI delivered an overview of Core Curriculum – a teaching approach decided on in 2010 but being used for the first time this school year. I’m familiar with teaching approach because it’s already used in my children’s charter school, but several interesting facts were shared about its impact on how subjects are being taught. NC is one of the first group of states to adopt these standards and is being looked to for best practices for other states to follow. The standards are about going “deeper” into a subject rather than broader so that each student fully understands the concept. They are aligned with college and work expectations to help children be better prepared after graduation.

•  N.C. SMT Education Center President and CEO Dr. Sam Houston shared his thoughts about NC STEM, noting that STEM is not just adding extra science classes. It’s about integration. He went so far as to say that STEM should be redefined as Strategies That Engage Minds, which is a redefinition I could easily get behind! Dr, Houston pointed out the importance of communicating to students that the ultimate goal of school is so they are equipped to get a good job upon graduation…not just “because they need to learn.”

The conference was primarily attended by school board members and teachers. I thought it was a great resource in understanding more about the challenges our clients are facing and how we can help overcome them by designing better schools. The community engagement focus of the event aimed to motivate students, families, educators, communities and business leaders to work together to maximize student potential and close the gaps for all student groups. This is definitely a goal we should all strive to meet.

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