Schools focus on curriculum and collaboration

| 14 Mar 2019 | 11:14

    By Mandy Coriston
    Stanhope - Lenape Valley Regional High School students are from Netcong, Byram, and Stanhope. Band Director David DiGrazia and Choir Director Kathleen Donahue recently brought students from the district’s sending schools to a day-long clinic, with a collaborative evening performance from students in grades 7-12.
    “This allows the middle school students to see what the high school performing arts department has to offer,” DiGrazia said, “We had over 150 students participate in this event, with four ensembles performing.”
    DiGrazia said Lenape’s award-winning marching band will also be visiting with the district's 7th- and 8th-graders in the Spring, to show middle schoolers to start recruitment for the upcoming seasons.
    In the visual arts department, teacher Sherry Carnegie focuses on collaboration of a different sort. In her service-focused Art for the School and Beyond class, the seasoned art and photography instructor guides her students in production of a puppet show on classic artists, to bring art from the high school into the elementary schools.
    “We begin with the students choosing the names of a famous artist, and end with a completely student-written, designed, built, and produced puppet show at the end," Carnegie said.
    After randomly drawing the names of artists such as van Gogh or Mondrian, the process begins. Working in teams, the students, who range from grades 9-12 in the elective course, decide what information to teach about the artists, then build a puppet representing them.
    “We work with a lot of donated materials,” Carnegie said, “Fabric scraps and newspapers for papier-mâché. The students really need to be resourceful.”
    The final step is to build the sets, which must be sturdy but portable.
    “When we first began this program, it was in conjunction with Valley Road School [Stanhope’s elementary school],” Carnegie said, “Then we added Netcong, and now Byram as well.”
    Carnegie said a testament to the success of the project is now having students who remember seeing the puppet show when they were in first grade.
    “It means we are making an impact," Carnegie said. "...We do other projects, of course, but the puppet show is a signature event for us.”
    While the arts departments thrive on district-wide connections, it’s another sort of connection that led LVRHS Principal Thomas Claeys to ask his faculty to take part in Google’s Educator Training program.
    “Educational software is such a generational thing,” Claeys said, “When we switched to using Chromebooks in the classrooms, the kids were really adept at the software right away. It was clear the teachers needed training to be able to use all the classroom tools Google offers.”
    Claeys said that his faculty hembraced using the Google programs, and in January, dozens of faculty and staff began Google Educator certification.
    “We’ve now got over 50 percent of our classroom teachers with Level I certifications, and I expect that number to go up as we progress,” Claeys said, “We had 48 teachers sit down for formal training this winter and others are doing it on their own.”
    Google’s Educator Training guides teachers through Google’s many educational tools and software programs, and then tests their knowledge to become certified as either Level I or Level II. Educators who wish to go beyond may take Google’s Trainer, Innovator, or G-Suite certifications. It’s a system implemented in thousands of schools.
    Within the walls of Lenape, Claeys feels the benefits of the Google training are evident.
    “We see a greater level of cooperation between the teachers and the students, as they all learn these programs and technologies together,” he said, “And I can already see that productivity levels are going up.”
    This is the final installment in a three-part series on innovative curricula, community initiatives, and cooperative learning. Districts around the region have marked the 100th day of school and looking towards the last few months of the academic year, administrators and faculty members shared their insights on what’s happening in their classrooms.