New Buffalo Area School Board of Education members were treated to a mini New Buffalo High School students and activities extravaganza at their Monday, Jan. 23 meeting.
High School Principal Craig Stafford started by first discussing STEAM (science, technology, education, art and math) education.
He said middle and high school teachers had met with Dr. Carla Johnson from Purdue University to start writing a “strategic plan” for applying STEAM in their curriculum. He explained that within that strategic plan will be a “mission statement and curriculum themes.” STEAM education, he said, is delivered in project or problem-based learning, which involves students working together in groups to arrive at a solution.
Other activities that Stafford said are coming up at the high school include a Family Connection Night, which involves games and activities aimed at warning parents and students about the dangers of drug use, a social media awareness night and a possible after school program for high school students.
Stafford said they’re working on allowing juniors and seniors to receive college credit through courses taken at Purdue Northwest in Westville, Indiana, next year.
Next up, various high school groups gave their updates. Andrew Keller introduced the high school band and said they were working on music for a concert band festival in March at Lake Michigan College, which was followed by band members giving a short performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Student senate co-presidents Keller and Oliver McNeil said they have 30 active members in the senate. So far this year, they said they’ve run the concession stands for football, soccer and volleyball games, and organized Homecoming activities and a Thanksgiving food drive that benefitted Harbor Country Food Pantry. In the spring, they plan on sponsoring a 5K run with the middle school student senate to raise cancer awareness.
Students in AP Biology were up next, discussing the trips they took this trimester, which included a genetics conference where they learned about gene splicing and CRISPR technology and in vitro fertilization, as well as a trip to the aquarium.
Social Studies Department Chair Tracy Ripley discussed incorporating the C3 (college, career and civic life) framework for Social Studies into their curriculum. Ripley explained that, similar to STEAM, this approach would encourage students to work together to arrive at a common solution as opposed to her just “feeding” students the material. For example, students learning about the Civil Rights Movement would be split up into groups, with each group researching a different way that the Movement affected different groups of people. The approach, Ripley said, was “student-driven” and not “teacher-driven.” In addition, Ripley also mentioned the free online materials available through the Michigan Open Book Project, which include online textbooks for every single content area in social studies for kindergarten through 12th grade. She said that they were going to use it as the “core resource” in the classroom next year.
Robot in tow, the Bionic Bison Robotics Team were up next. They explained that they build the robot to complete an “assigned task” at the competition. They said they must ask various companies to be sponsors, build their prototypes and then get sponsors to help pay for parts. In March, the group will be attending a kick-off event at the St. Joseph FIRST competition March 9-11.
Athletic Director Matt Johnson gave an update on happenings within the athletic program. He drew attention to the banners down Clay Street to highlight their athletes to people driving down the street. For 2016-17, out of 290 high school students, 130 of them participated throughout the fall and winter sports season, and he said they’re working on getting students to participate in more than one sport per year. He said they’re currently working on a “bottom up sports program progression plan,” during which high school coaches meet with middle and elementary school coaches to teach techniques to younger athletes and prepare them for high school.
Student representatives from the radio class and instructor Liz Ditto discussed the radio station, WNBI LP. The class is currently working on doing “business spotlights” throughout the week and interviewing local businesses, giving play by plays of athletic games, and trying to get students to do more live shows and improvisation, as everything is now currently all “planned out” with regards to what’s aired on the station. John Herrbach, station manager and chief engineer, added that they are also looking to add some remote equipment, enabling them to do remote broadcasts and conducting broadcasts from a variety of places, such as during festivals in New Buffalo.
Also at the meeting, Board members approved the appointment of Business Manager Dan Coffman as a designee to sign all documents with regards to elections and sale/rental/closing of property for New Buffalo Area Schools.
Board members approved 1st Source Bank to facilitate the investment of the funds in the Bison Educational Trust, as well as Michigan CLASS (Cooperative Liquid Assets Securities System) to provide investment services of non-operational General Fund monies.
Board members agreed to hold Board meetings from now on in the middle/high school cafeteria. Board members were concerned about audience members being able to hear them throughout the meetings, and President Chuck Heit said the Media Center, which is where the meetings are currently conducted, is “not built to have sound travel.”