Vineyard STEM Magnet School
Vineyard STEM Magnet School is a k-8 school of approximately 750 students. Our newly established middle school (our first year with 8th graders was 2010-2011) includes 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. The middle school team of teachers has found that many of our students are disengaging in their learning in the classroom. This disengagement results in disruptions to instruction, negative behaviors, apathy, and a general lack of achievement with many of our students, which creates an environment that is not conducive to learning or teaching. Our team decided to use this problem as our focus for action research, with the help of the Teachers’ PD Inc grant.Our team of three (two teachers and one staff development leader/instructional coach) will attend several conferences based on brain-compatible learning strategies; with the knowledge gained from these workshops, we will return to our classrooms and implement new strategies in our classrooms, as well as hold staff development opportunities to disseminate our new knowledge to our colleagues. We will also begin teaching a required elective for all 6th grade students at our school site; this elective will be based on social emotional learning (SEL) and will focus on building a community within the middle-school, as well as helping students to explore alternatives to common negative behaviors. We will hold several parent workshops about the brain, focusing especially on the adolescent brain and changes middle-school students might be experiencing. Over the course of the two years, we will also begin integrating units (tying science to social studies, or social studies to language arts, etc…) and tracking the success of/change in our students over the course of these units. We will incorporate new technology into our classrooms by using Smart Responders to assess instantly and give immediate feedback. As all of this is happening, we will be tracking student attendance, behavior, and achievement; we hope to see improvements across the board with these new implementations.