Next generation classrooms that have a variety of seating options and exercises to foster positive communication were part of a presentation by the Saline Area Schools' Goal Group 3 to the district's trustees during the March 13 meeting of the board of education.
Goal Group 3 members set up various kinds of seating arrangements, from more traditional chairs, to a standing workstation, to a balance ball, to show trustees some of the nontraditional options being explored.
Trustees were then asked to participate in an online assignment, followed by an in-person group exercise, to show the kinds of "blended learning" happening in next generation classrooms. The online-exercise consisted of listing keywords related to why students in the district feel anxiety. The answers were then funneled into Wordle, a program that makes clouds out of text, highlighting repeat answers in larger font.
Trustees also participated in a "making lemonade" exercise for promoting positive communication. Each participant stands in a circle with the others, and the first person tells about a negative experience she or he had had, while the second person puts a positive spin on the experience. Then the second person talks about a "lemon" that the third person then turns into "lemonade," and so on around the circle.
For example, a lemon in someone's life might be, "I was stuck in traffic for 90 minutes today." The next person might come back with, "What a great opportunity to catch up with your favorite podcasts and reflect back on what you accomplished today."
As part of the discussion on mental wellness, Goal Group 3 members talked about students experiencing stress and noted that the high school has started an elective 12-week class called "Learning to Breathe" that helps students learn about stressors and how to identify them, ways to deal with stress, and the importance of making healthy decisions when confronted with unhealthy choices. The class was originally offered as just one section, but proved so popular that three sections of the class are now being offered to students.
Other efforts to support the mental wellness of staff and students included extending programs to support staff such as bus drivers and food service workers, showings of the film "Angst" about dealing with anxiety, and creating "Hornet Time," an opportunity for a small group of students to bond with one another and with a designated staff member over all four years of high school, discussing problems in their lives and sharing successes.
Goal Group 3 members also talked about new or modified professional development opportunities. For instance, the ePortfolio was causing stress for many teachers, so that has been dropped in favor of a less intensive progress report system that allows for more individualized teacher reflection.
The district has also launched a "micro-credentialing" program where teachers who are strong in one area can earn badges for that skill and then share those skills with other staff members.
"It provides an opportunity to engage and work together with colleagues and, as they earn badges, become resources for one another," said Steve Laatsch, assistant superintendent for instructional services .
See a trailer for the film "Angst" below, and a slideshow of other next generation seating options at the end of this article.