#MoltenLava: ‘Straight A’ contributes to statewide culture of innovation

A blog by EnvisionEdPlus President Michele Timmons

Canal Winchester Local Schools Superintendent Jim Sotlar has been telling staff, families and community members for years that Canal students are much more than a score on a report card. He has stressed 21st Century skills, STEM (which his team describes as “Strategies that Engage Minds”), and community engagement as critical components for student success. The district’s mission “Empowering All Students for Success” has framed his transformational approach.

Educators created a district-wide “Innovation Design Process” for everyday use by adults and kids. First-graders collaborate with local entrepreneurs to solve REAL problems affecting their businesses. K-2 students solve issues, like playground behavior, previously left to principals. The design process replaces rote memorization in difficult concepts, improving students’ understanding and retention.

Straight A support

Much of this was made possible by a series of projects supported by the Ohio Straight A Fund. As an outside consultant and close collaborator with Canal since 2013, I had been trying to capture the essence of its transformation. My a-ha moment came when superstar-teacher-turned-Straight-A-coordinator Mickey Bumpus referred to it as ‘molten lava’. Canal played a small role in Reynoldsburg City Schools’ (Round 1) “Innovation Generation” grant to understand and grow college/career pathways combining high school, college and career technical training. Subsequently, Canal received just more than $1.5 million to Re-envision Education K-12, creating K-5 Innovative Learning Zones; embedding Project Based Learning (PBL) and design thinking across the district and rethinking scheduling and grading practices. Participation in these Straight A projects created the volcanic reaction which has quietly but deeply transformed student learning.

Middle and high school students have several new college and career pathway opportunities created in partnership with business and post-secondary partners so every student is more prepared for life after high school. This spring, following a year of intensive planning, Canal Winchester Middle School received Ohio STEM School designation. When students return to school this fall, they will experience a new master schedule with embedded time to create curiosity projects, build culture, and regularly receive intervention and enrichment. Meanwhile, Canal Winchester High School students and staff worked together to identify ways to improve student outcomes by changing grading practices, adding internships, creating collaboration opportunities and beginning the shift from a traditional school day to anytime-anyplace learning.

Straight A inspiration

Canal’s is just one of scores – or perhaps hundreds – of stories marking the success of Ohio’s Straight A Grants. EnvisionEdPlus has been supporting innovation since Straight A began. Our team specializes in innovation consulting, designing personalized learning experiences for adults and students, and grant writing for innovation. To date, 18 applications we supported have been funded, bringing $128 million – nearly half of all Straight A’s awarded funds – to projects we supported.

What is far more impressive, however, is the quiet incubation and replication most would never know was Straight A inspired. In 2013, college and career pathways were almost non-existent outside of career technical and/or STEM designated high schools. Few educators had heard of FabLabs and makerspaces. Innovation Generation quietly brought both the idea of pathways and FabLabs to the forefront. Schools across the state are using local and grant funds to implement these concepts. There are elementary tinkerspaces, middle school makerspaces, re-envisioned libraries and mobile FabLabs popping up all over. Ohio now has a FabLab network with regional meetings and a summer conference. Another of our partners, RAMTEC is replicating not only throughout Ohio, but in Michigan too. It was mentioned last year on CNN by then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and described more recently on Tom Vander Ark’s Getting Smart blog.

EnvisionEdPlus is capturing and sharing these stories. We want to know how Ohio’s Straight A program has impacted your community, your teachers and most importantly, your students.

Please share your #MoltenLava stories with us and we will spread them across the state.
We are particularly interested in learning about:

  • Quiet incubation and replication most would never know was Straight A inspired;
  • Innovation ‘on the fly’ after post award changes to state policy or grant expectations;
  • Unanticipated successes or outcomes; and
  • Stories of ‘We weren’t funded but we did it anyway.’

Email your stories, photos and videos (2 minutes or less) to tricia@envisionedplus.com.

Don’t yet have a story to tell? Then check out our Personalized Learning Design Lab on June 13 and 14 in Northeast Ohio, where your team can collaborate with educators from across the state, including Canal Winchester. Our event last year incubated ideas for three Straight A winners. 

Our Courses

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Image Course Description Price Created On Last Updated On categories_ID
Supporting Families (Level 1) Consider the differences between engaging and supporting eight types of parents or family members you might encounter. Reflect on your past experiences with each of those types. Create and implement an action plan to improve your support for families who need it. 0.00 2020/07/17 2022/03/24 6
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 1) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of STEAM integration (design thinking) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. Two “office hours” will be available to chat with the instructor and others enrolled in this course. 0.00 2021/01/09 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 1) The brain is constantly changing and molding in response to the environment. These changes impact student learning. This is especially true in terms of trauma. This training is designed to help participants learn what goes on in the brain and how they can set up a learning environment for each of the students in their class. 0.00 2021/01/30 2022/03/24 4
STEAMing Up Literacy (Level 2) The content in this course is designed to begin your understanding of Problem Based Learning(PBL) and apply this knowledge to your own classroom. You will have the opportunity to implement a mini lesson and receive feedback about your lesson. 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
High Quality Literacy Instruction (Level 1 & 2) Core content includes an overview of Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement, evidence-based literacy practices, and resources and tools for literacy instruction. Participants will create, implement and improve two classroom-based literacy strategies (in-person, blended or remote). 0.00 2021/02/23 2022/03/24 5
Supporting Families (Level 2) In Engaging Families Through Support - Level 1, you learned about eight types of parents/caregivers and reflected on your past experiences with each type, culminating in a plan to better engage specific types as partners in their children's education. During this 8-hour asynchronous course you will delve deeper in your understanding of the eight types of parents/caregivers by speaking with individual family members you work with, discovering what they need from you and your program, and implementing an action plan informed by the actual families you serve. Doing so will give you sustainable skills and strategies to build stronger family engagement year after year. 0.00 2021/03/07 2022/03/30 6
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 1) Differentiation is effective instruction that is responsive to the learner’s preferences, interests and their readiness. It could be explained as a framework for thinking about your teaching and your student’s learning. This course discusses differentiation as an effective teaching tool. Included are many resources and strategies to help meet the learning needs of each student. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies and resources to adapt lessons to meet the needs of each student in their classrooms. 0.00 2021/03/18 2022/03/24 5
Trauma Brain (Level 2) This course gives an advanced understanding of the brain. including differences between “active” and “relational” based brains, trauma-related behaviors, and strategies to reach and teach trauma-impacted students so that they can re-engage in learning. Participants will learn about the range of thinking that a brain does, explore how students fit into the range of thinking, and discover healthy ways of engaging the full range of thinking. 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 4
Differentiated & Engaged Instruction (Level 2) This 8-hour, self-paced course is facilitated by Laurie Trotter, an EnvisionEdPlus Instructional Specialist. The course explores advanced differentiation as an effective instructional method that is responsive to the learner’s preferences and interests. Create, implement, and improve a lesson plan to engage all learners. Participants will learn through various articles, videos, examples, strategies, and resources to be able to be proficient in starting to adapt lessons to meet all needs of students in their classroom. Prerequisite: Differentiated and Engaged Instruction (Bronze Badge). 0.00 2021/05/31 2022/03/24 5
Creativity Belongs in the Classroom (Level 1) Encourage lifelong learning, improve focus, reduce anxiety and enhance thinking in your classroom or program. Creativity is a learned and trained process for getting the most out of higher level thinking and problem solving of your students. Learn how to embed creativity easily into your lessons, using strategies that will help unlock your students ability to be innovative thinkers and problem solvers. This course is appropriate for anyone who works with youth and also satisfies the HQPD Gifted competencies of A, B, and D. 0.00 2022/01/14 2022/04/10 5

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