Middletown Middle School students - under the supervision of visiting science instructional experts from the national Digital Promise organization - work on project about how best to protect native species. Middletown won a national grant - along with schools in Pittsburgh and San Jose - to pay for experts to help improve science instruction.

Middletown schools got national help teaching science students by winning grant

A half-dozen instructors from the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools, based in California and Washington D.C., spent last week in the Butler County school system meeting students and showing local teachers new ways to teach science.

Middletown schools joined Pittsburgh and San Jose among the league’s 102 school district members in winning the $12,000 grant.

“Last week, Digital Promise visited the Middletown Middle School to observe our science classes and conduct student-focus groups,” said Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for the city schools.

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“As a district, we’re excited to see how engaged our students are with the challenge-based learning and we’re thrilled with the level of engagement and commitment our middle school community has with this new opportunity of learning,” said Beadle.

“Our Middletown Middle School science teachers are collaborating with two other districts (San Jose and Pittsburgh) to create and implement innovative science lessons that will later be made freely available to teachers all around the world, and will serve as a model for other science learning materials,” she said.

Middletown Schools has consistently been one of the lower-performing districts in southwest Ohio, but a series of academic reforms launched two years ago with the arrival of Superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. has seen academic progress in some subjects at some schools.

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Anthony Baker, project director for Digital Promise, said his science instructors found Middletown’s students and teachers eager to learn.

“Thus far we’re seeing shifts in teacher perception and practice in science, where teachers are working more as facilitators in the classroom by allowing students to generate questions about science ideas, and then giving them freedom to investigate those questions and address challenges in partnership with the teacher,” said Baker.

“The teachers have been particularly focused on getting students to come up with their own questions about a science phenomena, making sure that every student participates,” said Baker.

“This practice was new for many teachers and students, as students are typically in the role of providing answers and asking questions only if they are needing help. It’s important, in science and in life, to be able to generate questions that are worth pursuing,” he said.

Middle School science teacher Katie Leist welcomed what she described as “an amazing opportunity for us teachers.”

“We get to work with three other schools to take challenge based learning approach and mix it with the national (next generation) science standards,” said Leist.

“This approach through Digital Promise has really given us the tools and knowledge to prepare lessons where students are taking what they’re interested in and they want to investigate and that is driving their instruction.”

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