Guest Commentary: Taking education to new level with partnerships for higher learning
The Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District has developed partnerships with local and statewide education institutions in order to present meaningful learning for teachers and students.
These learning experiences emphasize real-world activity, strengthened by reasoning and analytical thinking skills. In addition to this, these partnerships are an important component of an ongoing system of continuous improvement in instruction, supervision and instructional leadership.
A curriculum model that largely promotes the rote memorization of subject knowledge content is now clearly analogous to an educational Jurassic Park. As Jensen (1997:99) points out: "The more we make school learning like real life, the more the brain, with its rich capabilities, will sort it out."
Northern Arizona University
Cottonwood-Oak Creek began working with NAU's Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL) a number of years ago to build a research-based science education program for the students in our district. This partnership has laid the foundation for an inquiry-based approach to science instruction. An old adage states: "Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand." The last part of this statement is the essence of inquiry-based learning. Inquiry implies involvement that leads to understanding.
Educational Psychology Department
COCSD serves as a site for internship training for college students completing their Master's program in School Psychology. These interns carry out major professional functions under the supervision of a district Certified and Licensed School Psychologist. This collaboration builds the connection between Master's Level students and experienced practitioners in the field.
NAU's Project SKIES:
Project SKIES is a graduate program that grants a Master's Degree in Special Education with certification in Inclusion, Positive Behavior Supports and Assistive Technology. COCSD has several teachers involved in this program and is designated as a site for hands-on, in-class training for students enrolled in the program. This year one of our teachers, Vanessa DiCarlo, was awarded the 2008 Arizona TASH Legacy Award: Pulling for ALL Kids. TASH members work to advocate that all people are included in all aspects of society.
NAU's Foster Grandparent Program
and Retired Senior Volunteer Program
The goal of the Foster Grandparent Program is to enable low-income persons aged 60 and over to remain physically and mentally active and to enhance their self-esteem through continued participation in needed community services. COCSD's Foster Grandparent Volunteers serve as mentors, tutors and caregivers to children and youth with special or exceptional needs. They make a difference in our student's lives through their life experiences and wisdom.
Scottsdale Community College
COCSD mathematics teachers and staff from SCC are working together to refine effective teaching strategies in math through problem solving. This ongoing project provides the opportunity for a research-based approach to math education for COCSD students as well as math leadership opportunities for classroom teachers. This is an inquiry-based approach, similar to the science instruction that integrates math with other content areas.
Mingus Union High School
Mingus Union High School's child development class assigns student Peer Educators to work with COCSD students on basic skills. These Peer Educators instruct students in reading, writing and math. They are able to provide individual attention for specific skill reinforcement. This partnership offers first-hand experiences for high school students in the career of education, while benefiting young student learning.
MUHS Agriculture Department teamed up with students at Dr. Daniel Bright Primary School on building and maintaining the school garden area this summer. The high school students worked with Buena Vista preschoolers in learning about gardening and composting.
Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District believes that learning is a life-long process. These partnerships and collaboration strengthen the learning of students and staff and build a strong sense of connection within and outside of the classroom.
Patricia Osborne is the director of Educational Services Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District.
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