U.P. teachers put heads together to create curriculum for the real world

Even though school’s out, 16 U.P. teachers from districts spanning the region headed back to the classroom today to hone a craft that’s changing the face of education.

It’s called Geometry in Construction.

Two full-time teachers from Loveland, Colorado are making their way around the country to show fellow educators the benefit of the program, which gives kids a chance to see how core academics directly relates to a career path and answers the age old question of ‘When am I going to use this?’

“That question comes up like clockwork in every math class across the country, ‘When am I ever going to need to know how to use this?’ said CTE trainer Scott Burke. “And that’s exactly what we’re aiming to do – try to make the connection for the kids by answering that question first and then showing them the math behind it.”

“The lessons start with, ‘Why do I care?’ ‘What can I do?’ or ‘How can I use what I’m about to learn?'” remarked CTE trainer Tom Moore. “Adults would want to know that. We want to know, ‘How does this apply to me and how can I use it? Kids are no different. That’s what the teachers here are striving for in every lesson they create.”

In total, each pair – which is comprised of a core curriculum teacher hailing from the likes of English or Math and a local CTE instructor – will create three lesson plans by the end of the day.

But, the hope is that the collaboration won’t end there.

“The CTE teacher is really in the driver’s seat, which is very different in education today,” Burke noted. “Most places that you go, it’s core academics that are really in the driver’s seat. That is probably from ‘No Child Left Behind’ and all the high-stakes standardized testing we do and everything like that. This is a completely different model in that the core academics is really in the backseat. That stuff is learned in service of ‘What are you going to do as your career?’ We were working with some theater teachers and they didn’t realize even in the news agencies, depending on how the lighting is, it can make you look taller, it can make you look shorter, and it’s all the angles of how they actually do that in theater production and set design. So there’s a geometry tie to that, there’s also a trigonometry tie to that, and it’s highlighting that for the kids so that they understand what that is.”

“In the case of the welding and algebra teacher, they are working on a lesson that relates the number of electrodes used for so many inches,” Moore added. “That is a rate. It’s an algebra topic all the way up to calculus.”

Ishpeming High School adopted the same techniques last year ahead of their own Geometry in Construction program, which has turned out to be a huge success. But, that’s not surprising when you consider that Scott and Tom’s Colorado schools have blown their Advanced Placement and STEM high school counterparts out of the water in geometry testing.

The long term goal is to have all U.P. school’s implement aspects of the program over the next few years. Superior Central is starting up their own rendition next year, and Marquette and a few others hope to do the same the following year. If you’re an educator and you’d like to find out more about the program you can email Brian Sarvello at bsarvello@maresa.org.