Published in the December 14, 2016 edition
By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD – While science teachers are making the best of outdated classrooms and lab space at Wakefield Memorial High School, those physical limitations are “a real hindrance” when it comes to teaching and learning science at WMHS, according to Assistant Superintendent of Schools Douglas Lyons.
Lyons’ comment came as a response to a question from School Committee member Anne Danehy during a presentation on the STEAM curriculum review process at last night’s School Committee meeting.
STEAM is an educational approach to learning that incorporates Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and the Arts. Lyons was joined for last night’s presentation by Math Curriculum Coordinator Wendy Phillips and Science Curriculum Coordinator Dr. Jennifer Thomas.
Lyons provided an overview of the science curriculum review cycle, beginning with a research and review phase followed by implementation and culminating with assessment and evaluation of improvements.
Lyons talked about a science lab pilot program in which science lab work was being introduced in grade 5.
Lyons noted that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has released new standards for the STEAM curriculum. Local districts have two years to implement those standards. He talked about the approach to aligning the new standards with respect to report cards, assessing professional development needs, reviewing schedules and creating play-based learning centers focused on science for pre-K and kindergarten pupils.
He said that in the Galvin Middle School, pilot programs are underway in grades 5-7 and by next year grades 5-8 will be fully aligned with the new standards.
Lyons said that at the high school the biology, physics and anatomy curricula are being reviewed based on the age of the materials and the needs of the department.
Phillips and Thomas talked about the STEAM Task Force that they will be co-leading. The group also discussed the new Science Curriculum Leadership Team, which held its first meeting on Dec. 2, with representation from all 12 grade levels. The initial meeting included an overview of the Science, Technology and Engineering practices and a discussion about the STE instructional practices.
Lyons talked about the new standards as they relate to standardized testing such as the MCAS 2.0. He said that for the 2016-2017 school year, the test will continue to focus on the old 2006 standards. In 2017-2018, common standards will be assessed and in 2018-2919 the new 2016 standards will be assessed.
When asked by Danehy about the impact of the WMHS science labs, Thomas said that space is tight and a new building with larger classrooms would be great but she added that the teachers were making it work.
Lyons said that he saw the science lab space and equipment limitations as a hindrance to teaching and learning. Danehy added that equipment that doesn’t work can discourage students.
The School Committee heard from Director of Food Services Kristin Morello who talked about her department’s goals, objectives and challenges for the current school year.
Those goals include participating in the “Smarter Lunchrooms” movement. Morello said that Smarter Lunchrooms use easy, no-cost and low-cost changes to encourage students to select, eat and enjoy healthier foods in school without eliminating their choice. These interventions can maintain or improve revenue and increase participation, she added.
She also talked about expanding cooperation with POST Academy to offer training and possibly employment for the post-graduate special needs students.
Morello listed a number of additional goals and objectives, including:
• Explore an a la carte satellite program for food at WMHS (i.e. traveling kiosk).
• Develop a marketing strategy to help increase breakfast and lunch counts at the secondary schools.
• Add second serving line and register at Woodville to accommodate more enrolled students and 47-67 percent participation daily.
• Develop a Professional Development plan to include all regulatory requirements and USDA required contact hours.
• Set up Youth Advisory Committee.
• Prepare SY 2017-2018 budget with PD inclusion and replacement equipment prospects.
• Survey Students on Google Forms about service at WMHS.
• Prepare “accounting rules” to go with financial procedures already in place.
• Update Job Descriptions.
In terms of challenges, Morello said that the ovens at WMHS need immediate replacement. WMHS lunches continue to be a challenge, she said, with only 2 lunch waves. The limits of having to schedule work shifts of over six and under four hours in order to comply with health insurance rules continues to present a challenge in maximizing meals per labor hour district-wide and finding personnel to fill open positions, Morello said.