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Building the Middle Schools We Need: The Story of one 8th Grader’s Accidental Preparation for Freshman Year at SLA

Session 1
Justin Siegel & Kevin Jarrett — SLA Student | STEAM Teacher, Northfield Community Middle School

Up until 8th grade, Justin had spent his educational career in the public school system in Northfield, New Jersey (a traditional school environment). But when he became an eighth grader, everything changed. Northfield Community Middle School launched two important new programs that year - “Technology, Engineering & Design,” including a makerspace/fablab experience called “Digital Shop,” and, a student-driven “Edcamp Period” that was unique to the 8th grade. These experiences gave Justin, for the first time, control over his own learning - and the capability and freedom to embrace an inquiry model of learning. Given the resources to learn like a 21st century student should (including working in a truly project-based environment), Justin saw for the first time what education truly had to offer, and it formed his identity as a learner. The process prepared Justin for high school by giving him the opportunity to work on inquiry based projects, developing his technical and specialized skills with state-of-the-art tools, and requiring him to collaborate like never before with his fellow students and teachers. When he was presented with an unexpected opportunity to apply for a spot in SLA’s Freshman class, he jumped at the chance. Mr. Jarrett’s Digital Shop experience, in particular, exemplified what Justin wanted in a high school. When he discovered SLA, he knew he’d found his educational home. This is his story. This is our story. Join us for a wide-ranging, inspirational discussion around what a public middle school education can be.

Conversational Practice

Justin and Kevin will explain how & why the school developed these innovative programs, what they seek to accomplish, how they are managed / experienced, and the results they are generating. Google Docs will be used to compare and contrast “typical” middle schools with Justin’s 8th grade experience, identifying implications for pedagogy, scheduling, technology infrastructure, teacher professional development and more.

Conversation Links

Presenter Profiles

Justin Siegel
Justin Siegel
Science Leadership Academy Student
Kevin Jarrett
Kevin Jarrett
Middle School STEAM Teacher

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