By Travis Smola
Teachers at Indian Lake Elementary school showcased many things they are working on to improve education during the March Vicksburg board of education meeting.
Art teacher Jake Biernacki gave a short presentation on Indian Lake’s use of Project Lead the Way (PLTW) at the school this year. The program is aimed at introducing children to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields at a young age through lessons and learning modules.
Students Grant Anderson and Bryce Town were on hand to demonstrate to the board what they learned through the robotics and innovation module. The students learned to program a small robot to move blocks safely through an obstacle course.
PLTW gives students the chance to use critical thinking skills while laying a foundation of knowledge and interest in the STEM fields the students can build on as they continue their education.
Indian Lake staff also highlighted their “PAWS-itivity Matters” program. The system believes all students can learn at high levels and teachers have developed unique learning opportunities, rules and guidelines in order to make a safer and more productive school environment. “Punishment is not the most effective way to change behaviors,” teacher Angela Spanhak said. “We’re teaching these positive social expectations to all kids.”
Under the PAWS system, all students are aware of rules regarding things such as acceptable noise levels and proper hallway and office etiquette. Students and teachers helped make videos demonstrating that on Youtube for quick and easy review in the classroom at any time.
But it’s more than just rules. The program also works to give and teach students to have a positive attitude towards staff and peers through stories written by the staff and distributed to all classes.
“Instead of harping on the kids, you can read them a positive social story instead,” Spanhak said.
Other parts of the program seek to teach critical thinking and life skills. Teachers wrote a grant to set up a student-run coffee cart in the building. Students have to take orders from the staff, they learn how to make the coffee and make change through the experience.
Small incentives through “Paws tickets” which are distributed for good behaviors can be redeemed for rewards like sitting in the teacher’s chair or first choice of a play area, have proven popular with students as well.
And the program is working according to data collected by the staff that shows a decrease in negative behaviors. “They (students) are more engaged because they are less confused about what is expected of them,” Indian Lake teacher April Zapata said.
They plan to grow the program among the staff and get parents more involved as time goes on.
Hook also recognized the efforts of PTSO President Melissa Swetz, Vice President Amy Henderson, Treasurer Nichole Dalman, Secretary Laura Sikkenga, hostess Helen Scharamer and volunteer coordinators Patty Sherwood and Sonya Sutherland for their work with the PTSO this past year.