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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Innovating at Charter Schools

Innovating at Charter Schools

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What discoveries have you made in re-shaping the structure of school? What successes are ready to share-out and scale-up? What failures have provided you with valuable lessons about moving forward in pursuit of your school's mission? This discussion is for group members to share-out new and different way of reaching students through the charter system's flexibility to meet their needs.

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Nancy Finn's picture

I am an elementary science teacher at a charter school in Cincinnati. Our school is in the process of building a quality science program. We use the Foss curriculum and I love it!!!! I firmly believe in inquiry based and cooperative learning. Using this program and the great ideas of 3 energetic science teachers our program has really taken off! We have lots of friendly science "challenges" to assess student learning at the end of each unit. We also started a "Science Bowl" competition and a roller coaster designing club. This year we plan on having the school's first science fair. These friendly competition give students a great purpose for staying after school in a safe environment while perfecting their science skills. I am so proud of the progress that we have made so far. I am amazed that my first graders know the meaning of the word "viscous". Inner city kids CAN achieve whatever expect of them!

Chad Sansing's picture
Chad Sansing
Charter school humanities teacher for non-traditional middle grade learners

Thank you so much for sharing your school's success with us, Nancy!

How does the roller coaster club interact with coasters out there in the theme parks? What kinds of discoveries are students making in class?

All the best,
C

Nancy Finn's picture

Our roller coaster club did extensive research on wooden roller coasters before deciding our "concept": a clear hamster ball that would travel on a track through loops, corkscrews, and tunnels while getting squirted with water. Students chose this concept because they liked how spheres had the ability to travel in all different directions. The named it "Summersault" (play on words having to do with summer fun). We competed with 18 other teams for several different awards at a local theme park. The owners of the park sponsor this contest every year to help them come up with new ideas for roller coasters that would appeal to young people AND to encourage young engineers to start designing! As far as discoveries students made in class this year ----there are so many!!! First/second graders learned all about the 6 liquid properties of water, the 9 properties of solids, and how mass and torque affect the velocity of objects and how they move. Third and fourth graders discovered how to place mirrors in various positions to "bend" light and the characteristics/behaviors of Bess Beetles. The fifth/sixth graders constructed catapults, pendulums, airplanes, and lifeboats then tested them and graphed their results. I had so much fun doing these investigations with all 6 of my grades. I was so amazed at how much they retained!

Chad Sansing's picture
Chad Sansing
Charter school humanities teacher for non-traditional middle grade learners

That sounds awesome. Are there any pics or videos online? I have a student who LOVES roller coasters. I would love to show him this description and any materials online to inspire his own creations.

We also have a student who LOVES hamsters. Perhaps your kids will inspire a collaborative effort at our school.

Thank you!
C

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