ST1.2: Students work independently and collaboratively in an inquiry-based learning environment that encourages finding creative solutions to authentic and complex problems. (add pictures)

Self Assessment Rating 3

Bate Middle School students have many opportunities to work independently and collaboratively in an inquiry-based learning environment which encourages finding creative solutions to authentic and complex problems. The school’s emphasis on the use of problem/project-based learning (PBL) leads to many experiences that involve real-world learning and creative problem-solving. Our school includes STEM Mindedness in all of our classes through the use of the 4 C’s: collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. Students solve authentic and complex problems using our Bantam Engineering Design Process as a guide. The South Carolina State Academic Standards include inquiry standards for ELA, Social Studies, and Science and process standard for Math. All of these standards are relevant to accomplishing the goals of the Profile of the SC Graduate. We are also a 1 to 1 school and have additional Chromebooks in class carts for student use.

In addition to classes utilizing a problem based learning environment for daily instruction, students are also engaged in school-wide project based learning units. Our students work independently and collaboratively to help find solutions and raise awareness for numerous local, national, and international human rights problems. The Great Kindness Project challenged all of our Project Based Learning classes to identify, investigate, analyze, and form a solution to help solve a real-world problem. Each PBL group researched and formed a solution to help a real world human rights problem. Projects ranged from homelessness, to hunger, to poverty, to animal rights. All of our student body were members of a PBL class. In the Spring of 2018, one of our 7th grade Project Based Learning classes chose to complete a PBL on suicide prevention and how it relates to young teens. They researched and created their own projects to help combat teen suicide, a subject very close to their hearts. As part of their research, the students reached out to Brooks Gibbs (an expert in social/emotional learning, a national spokesman for the Office Depot Foundation’s “Be The Difference. Speak Up Against Bullying!” Program, and the author of the anti-bullying book Love is Great Than Hate.) They were able to conduct a video interview with Mr. Gibbs. They also created and administered a suicide prevention survey which they administered to students and staff at our school and analyzed the data. Their culminating project was a website with student created informational videos, a school-wide pledge, and kindness activity.

Our BioBantams student club identified the problem that many pollinator species are declining and the loss of habitat that provides sites for overwintering, foraging for pollen and nectar, or nesting can be detrimental to these species. The students embraced the challenge of creating a butterfly pollinators garden on our campus. To meet this challenge, they have written grants to obtain materials, equipment, and supplies for the garden. As a team, they schedule time to design, plant, and tend the garden. Their work has involved mathematics (e.g., calculations for spacing of plantings, design of the garden), science (e.g., research on plants such as when and how to plant, what grows well in our environment), as well as collaborative problem-solving. They also researched the best native plants for pollinators, met with a horticulturist, and toured a butterfly garden at a local park. The garden earned the distinction of a Nationally Certified Wildlife Habitat in the spring of 2019.

Our 8th grade science students participated in the Cubes in Space program. Cubes in Space, a program by idoodledu inc., is a global competition for students 11-18 years of age to design and propose experiments to launch into space or near-space environment on a NASA sounding rocket and zero-pressure scientific balloon. In this program, students design an experiment, create scientific diagrams of the experiment, and submit the proposal and diagrams as components of the Application for Spaceflight. If selected, they implement the experiment into a cube that will then be launched into space or near-space and analyze the results upon its return. We had an individual student experiment picked to launch on a NASA sounding rocket and another student group experiment picked to launch on the zero-pressure scientific balloon.

Bates also holds semester school-wide STEM Days in which students are given real world scenarios and tasked with creating solutions.

We are sustaining our areas of strength through continuing professional development and weekly common planning time. Professional development on problem/project based learning, Blended Learning, and our Bantam Design process is on-going. Teachers meet weekly to collaborate on weekly problem-based lessons. Committees are formed to ensure progress of school-wide problem based learning units and STEM Days. Our school STEM Team meets bimonthly. We continually seek outside resources, competitions, and real-world connections for our students.

We have identified an area of need in ensuring that we provide locally relevant problems. To address that, we have identified problems that are relevant to our area and have developed units of study around them. An example of this is our school-wide Census PBL we are implementing during the 2019-2020 school year. Our city and county lost millions of dollars in funding due to incorrect counts in the last census cycle. We are working with the Sumter County Planning Department on this unit of study. Another area of need is to ensure school-wide common instructional strategies for student collaboration. To address this issue, we have engaged in the implementation of Kagan strategies school-wide. Professional development is on-going for the implementation of Kagan in the classroom.