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Hands on learning coming to Ripley

RIPLEY — Principal Micah Oldham, teacher on special assignment Michelle Waters, and second grade teacher Danni Riley from Ripley Central School have returned from the EL Education National Conference in Atlanta, GA with a desire to make student learning more hands-on.

The theme of the conference, which took place October 16-17, was “One Vision, Three Dimensions.” This refers to the three dimensions of EL Education, that is, mastery of knowledge and skills; character; and high quality student work, Oldham said.

“Currently, we are looking to expand our ELA modules into expeditions by giving students field work opportunities with experts and providing more hands-on learning opportunities,” Oldham said.

For instance, Oldham said the 5th grade is currently reading the novel Esperanza Rising which is set on a ranch in Mexico and a migrant farm in California. The students took a trip to a local farm and learned about grape growing and the history of agriculture in this area, Oldham said.

Oldham said that while at the EL conference, they visited Brighten Academy in Douglasville, GA, a school which uses the same curriculum as Ripley, but focuses on giving students authentic learning expeditions. Oldham said the visit greatly encouraged them.

“Michelle and I were pleased to see that enhancing our modules into expeditions wasn’t going to be as heavy of a lift as we thought going in,” Oldham said. “This year we are working to connect students with local experts and raise the level of authenticity/quality of student work.”

Oldham said that Riley went in with a focus on math and “came back super energized.” While Ripley has been focusing on ELA issues in recent months, math also needs to be a school-wide focus, he said. “We would like to move from a teacher-centered model to a student-centered model that gives students time to grapple independently with real world problems,” he said.

Oldham also noted that one of the focuses of their trip was to continue the process of becoming an EL credentialed school. There are only 41 schools in the country that have achieved this level, he said.

Currently, Ripley is an EL Network school and hopes to become fully credentialed at the 2021 National conference in Washington, DC.

The ultimate purpose of EL Education, Oldham said is to “insure that every child has the opportunity to become a powerful contributor to a better world at school.”

The EL process combines its three dimensions of academic achievement, character and high quality work to help the child succeed, but also engage the world in a positive manner, Oldham said. “EL believes that academic success is built on strong character qualities of collaboration, perseverance, responsibility, and compassion, and that character is shaped through engaging and challenging academic work.”

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