Middletown’s experiment: No class day lets students, teachers explore real life

It was a first-ever experiment in encouraging Middletown youth to think about their future careers and it worked, said school officials and parents.

On Tuesday, Middletown Schools had its students and school families choose among a menu of career or other areas of interest instead of attending classes.

Joining them in the large-scale, real-world experiment were hundreds of city school teachers who spent of the first of this school year’s three, professional development days participating in the new Middletown program.

Dubbed the district’s first “Personalized Learning Day,” the goal was to allow time and encourage students, often with the help of their parents and others, to explore future possibilities in the work force.

“Middletown Schools’ curriculum team designed a personalized learning experience for roughly 6,000 students and 700 staff members,” said Debbie Houser, assistant superintendent for the city schools.

“This year we added three additional professional development days for staff which gave us an opportunity to provide a day for student choice.”

Examples were students doing a virtual meeting with the Middletown football coach or having lunch with the school resource officers.

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“Multiple families visited Midpointe Library and some took a trip to the U.S. Air Force Museum (Dayton) and so much more,” she said.

The continuing evolution of learning calls for such innovations, including broadening the real-world experiences of teachers so they can better relay to students what is needed for them to succeed, said Middletown Schools Spokeswoman Elizabeth Beadle.

“All Middletown staff members are learning about workforce skills and what that looks like for our students and their futures,” said Beadle.

“The days of ‘sit and get’ education is going by the wayside and that is true for teachers too. Middletown is making sure our staff members are getting outside the buildings on professional development days.”

“On Tuesday we had teachers travel to the Middletown Municipal Airport, the Cincinnati library, and attend a physical education class taught by one of our gym teachers. We’re putting the joy back into the education profession by doing what teachers love to do – learn,” she said.

Heather Magill, who has three children in the city schools, said they all enjoyed and learned from the unique experiences.

Magill’s 14-year-old son had arranged for his first job interview with the local Kroger and walked away employed as a bagger.

Her oldest son was interested in a possible career as a wildlife officer and spent the day shadowing an officer at a local park.

“At first I did question it (Personalized Learning Day) because I didn’t want them to be wasting their time. But now that they did it and how much they talked about it afterwards … I know it was really a cool concept,” she said.

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