To prepare for the day, faculty were asked to decide what they were curious about, identify where they wanted to go and whether they wanted to go on their own or with a group, to discuss their ideas beforehand within their divisions, and finally to plan their trip.
The professional development day itself consisted of two parts: In the morning, teachers and staff members visited a school or educational program of their choice. In the afternoon, they returned to DCD to come together as a community for lunch, conversation, and sharing their experiences, first in small groups, then later all coming together for a final session. Both parts of the day were equally important to the learning process.
Areas of interest explored during the day included forest kindergarten, Native Americans and art, cross-curricular learning models, social-emotional well-being, non-traditional school environments, interdisciplinary music programs, and many other topics.
Middle-school math teacher Jim Pinola was interested in the topic of leveling in math and dealing with students who enter at a young age and have difficulty meeting expectations as they get older. He visited Whitney Academy, which serves students with a combination of severe learning and psychological issues.
“Prior to working as a teacher,” he explained, “I worked in group home with adults with mental retardation, autism, and mental health problems, so this has been an area of interest to me.” At Whitney Academy, he said,students are grouped by ability not age, a model that may require some adjustments if it were to work here at DCD.
A group of faculty members, including new science teacher Sarah Walsh, visited the NuVu Innovation School. NuVu’s approach to fostering creativity, collaboration, and curiosity is centered around using the design process as a way to engage students with real-world problems and situations. Courses, which are called studios, range from designing prosthetic body extensions for ballet dancers in New York City to the art and architecture of pastry design.
“High ceilings, power tools galore, and groups of mixed ages— nothing about it looked like your traditional school setting,” noted Sarah. “It was inspiring to hear about the work these teenagers are able to accomplish, as well as how the emphasis is mostly put on the process rather than the final product,” she said. “As a science teacher, I’m constantly reflecting on what my students need to know as they grow as learners and how we can make our time together at DCD as meaningful as possible, so this trip to NuVu was an invigorating experience!”
List of schools and organizations visited:
Brimmer & May School
Beaver Country Day School
Belmont Day School
Birches School, Lincoln
Canton Public Library
Cottage Street School, Sharon
Countryside Elementary School, Newton
Dana Hall School
Endicott Community Garden, Dedham
The Gordon School
Greenlodge School, Dedham
Lexington Montessori School
Mass College of Art
Museum of Fine Arts
Noble and Greenough School
NUVU: The Innovation School
Pollard Middle School
Walnut Hill School for the Arts
The Winchendon School
Xaverian Brothers High School