By Rich Place
If there was ever a time for SGI Superintendent Kimberly Moritz to tell the board she is headed to the U.S. Department of Education to present ways Springville is “reimagining education,” perhaps following three student-led presentations was a good time to do it.
Moritz told the board at its Tuesday meeting that she, along with high school principal James Bialasik and middle school principal Shanda DuClon, will head to Washington, D.C., early next week following an invitation from the U.S. Department of Education to discuss two educational aspects of Springville.
“One is how we are challenging the narrative of education and reimagining education,” Moritz said. “Two is our P-TECH center that we are hoping to have a successful vote on in mid-May.”
Moritz said the school won’t be presenting — due to time constraints following the recent invitation — but will instead participate in conversations and then potentially return in June for a more formal presentation.
Her announcement to the board came following an hour’s worth of presentations from three student groups in the elementary and middle schools, each presentation led by students. The groups were were the Springville Elementary School Student Council and President’s Cabinet, Middle School Science Olympiad and a project-based learning group called Plastic Frankenstein.
Each featured a less traditional form of education that the stereotypical rows of desks and lectures.
The SES Student Council is similar to student councils that for years have traditionally represented the high school population, but with elementary-aged students. One by one, a handful of the young members stood and presented the group’s mission and activities to the board.
“The SES Student Council is a 30-member elementary school based service organization that provides students an opportunity to develop leadership skills by planning, organizing and carrying out school activities and community outreach projects,” one student said. “The student council also promotes school spirit through its many special events and fundraising activities.”
Other students spoke about a range of SES Student Council activities, including the annual Student Council Hat Drive, Holiday Community Food Drive, Valentine’s Day Coin Toss and more — all which benefit other groups and organizations.
SES Principal Christopher Scarpine also outlined the Principal’s Cabinet, a group of students voted by their peers who meet with the principal to discuss needs at the elementary school level.
The Middle School Science Olympiad team, which attended a competition in March, presented to the board and discussed their organization, which was likened to a track team as students had to try out, commit to practices and compete in a series of science-based events.
A handful of the 15-member group presented to the board about various competitions, including balsa wood towers, battery-powered cars and plenty of other challenges they faced during their recent event.
The final presentation was on the Plastic Frankenstein Project, another middle school activity where students took the lead in researching, problem solving and finding solutions to the amount of plastic used both at home and at school.
After collecting data and discussing options, the students presented to the board four potential solutions to reduce plastic usage: install water bottle filling stations at the middle school, design and sell aluminum water bottles, eliminate plastic straws and install more recycling bins.
And while the results of the project themselves were celebrated with applause, the presentation also served as an example of the alternative methods of education the school is utilizing.
“None of this happened by accident,” said Andrew Beiter, a middle school teacher and one of the advisors for the Plastic Frankenstein Project. “It happened because of enlightened leadership decisions that (the board) made the past three years with certain people who are surrounding me right now. It happened because of board retreats, it happened because of bringing in a thoughtful approach to education. We need more.”
He requested more in-service days that bring in more experts because, “they pay dividends and what we put in is what we get out.”
“Across the district, what the board is saying is three things: we want these things that you are doing; you have permission to do them, we will protect you if anyone says you can’t do them; and we will reduce policies to make it easier for you to do these things,” responded board president Allison Duwe. “This is what our kids need and this is what our school needs and I think it’s going to put Springville on the map on in a whole new way.”
The SGI School Board of Education is scheduled to meet next at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 1 in the high school library media center. The meeting will include a public budget hearing in anticipation of the May 15 vote.