Friday, October 18, 2013

Notes from Badger Rock Middle School

Badger Rock Middle School grades 6-8
Oct. 14th, 2013
One Sentence Take Away: "The impoverished have no choice but to persevere."

Badger Rock Middle School is charter school in Madison, WI that currently serves about 100 students in grades 6th through 8th. The student demographic is largely minority students, a high number of ELL students, and mostly students of free and reduced lunch status. Badger Rock is unique in that it is a project based learning environment. Each day students have significant time built into their schedule to pursue a project of their choosing. They also spend each Wednesday out in the community or working in their own large garden. Badger Rock Middle School is apart of the Wisconsin Innovative Schools Network (WISN).

In the morning, I spent some time with their English teacher, Mr. Stephen Perez who demonstrated what a 21st century ELA middle school classroom can look like. Mr. Perez emphasized what he called reciprocal accountability to ensure respect in his classroom. During my visit he had 7th graders working on their writing skills by reviewing a Langston Hughes short story (Thank You Ma'am) as if they were writing a news article on the piece. He provided what a "2" paper would look like, as well as a what "3" paper would look like. Students worked on their mac-books in google-docs and edmodo to review the provided documents, rubric, and begin their own writing for submission. Students were required to seek instruction out by reading his directions and examples carefully and then raise their hands for more individualized instruction if necessary. When discussing resiliency and perseverance, Mr. Perez suggested that his students HAD to show perseverance because the impoverished have no other choice. Students also reported feeling more motivated to persist because they were able to be more self-directed on their timelines to complete work and chose their work more often than in traditional settings.  

In the afternoon, I spent some time watching 8th graders present on their most recently finished self-directed projects. The students had been working on their projects for about two weeks. On this occasion their projects had to have an improving the community's environmental practices theme. Students presented on projects that included refurbishing old desktop computers, appropriate disposal of E-waste, reusing old clothing to make pillows and dolls, and one group had successfully brought new recycling bins to the playground/park area. I was impressed by how many students had practiced the skills of communicating with adults over the phone to have expert consultation. Thank you to Principal Tim Bubon and Sarah Hackett from WISN for hosting my visit!

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