Innovative local school districts host leaders from throughout country

School leaders from around the country toured Amanda Elementary School and other Middletown schools during the Spring Convening of the League of Innovative Schools Thursday, March 10, 2022. The superintendents, executive directors and other visitors played with the "LU" interactive math learning technology in the gymnasium and visited classrooms and the Maker Space lab. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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School leaders from around the country toured Amanda Elementary School and other Middletown schools during the Spring Convening of the League of Innovative Schools Thursday, March 10, 2022. The superintendents, executive directors and other visitors played with the "LU" interactive math learning technology in the gymnasium and visited classrooms and the Maker Space lab. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Two of Butler County’s most aggressively innovative school districts played hosts Thursday to hundreds of school leaders and teachers visiting from around the nation, showing off their digitally focused learning programs.

Middletown and Lakota school officials led tours of their various high-tech learning programs — including interacting with the students involved — as part of a national convention in Cincinnati of members from the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools.

The League members represent 125 districts in 34 states serving more than 3.8 million students and Middletown and Lakota are among the few area districts to seek and earn digital learning certification to be of the national organization.

For school leaders from Ohio and out of state touring Middletown’s Amanda Elementary that meant many thing including getting to toss some dodge balls around but not at each other.

District officials wanted to show off their “Lu” interactive math projection video game designed to grow both math skills and student athleticism.

The virtual reality immersion game projected onto Amanda’s gym wall, saw the guest educators scrambling like kids to throw the balls at the proper math answers and raking up a winning score as energetic music pumped through speakers.

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It left some of the guest players breathless but all of them impressed.

Keith Konyk, assistant superintendent from a Pittsburgh-area school system, said these on-site visits to cutting-edge school systems “is the most powerful part of the League of Innovative Schools is to come and see what other folks are doing.”

“We steal these ideas every time we go on tour and take these things back to our schools. We are really excited about a lot of the ideas we have seen from these meetings,” said Konyk.

“The Lu is really amazing and I loved how it keeps kids active,” he said.

Rebekah Kim, executive director from a Seattle-area school system, said the Middletown schools tour showed her “a lot of student pride in the schools and it’s exciting to see that at a young age.”

“There is a really evident culture of engagement for the teachers and so you see that show up in the classroom,” said Kim.

“It’s important for us (League members) to share our innovations and learn from others as we go on these annual visits,” she said.

Kim recalled how in recent years Middletown Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. toured her Seattle-area district’s student aviation career program and now she got a chance to visit Middletown’s version recently created - in partnership with Butler Tech – at the city’s airport.

Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for the 6,300-student Middletown district, said “hosting the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools members is an exciting moment … especially for our teachers and staff.”

“Not only will our schools showcase their students and share their innovative approaches to teaching with our hundred-plus guests from across the nation, but they will also get to celebrate the hard work of their profession with other educators,” said Beadle.

Matt Miller, superintendent of Lakota Schools, said hosting other educators strengthens a nationwide support network that often leads to local learning innovations.

And including student involvement in the tour hosting and presentations is also a key component of showcasing Lakota, said Miller.

“It was important to us that our students, at all grades, are involved in the building tours. They tell our story best and we hope the members of the league will leave here with ideas that they can take back and implement in their districts.”

(Photographer Nick Graham contributed to this story)

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