Designing Learning that is Relevant to Students

GardenIn Worthington Schools we are convinced that relevance is one of the most important aspects of teaching and learning. We know that as a student, the content we found most relevant was the easiest to learn, so our teachers believe it is their job to help students see the relevance in content they may not find inherently interesting. We know that if we do this, our students will engage in class and be motivated to work outside of class.

Research teaches us that the context of learning matters very much. With today’s traditional focus on educational outcomes in some cases learning at school has become less social and more focused on spitting back content.  In our Linworth Alternative Program they are focusing on promoting learning that’s interest driven, peer supported, and infused with technology as one way of putting the focus back on that context of learning. In this model, the process and context of learning matter as much as the outcomes.

A great example of coursework that is relevant and taught in context is our Farm to Table course.  The course is designed to lead students through the essential steps in understanding the question “how does my food consumption impact the world?”  Throughout the course students analyze food systems and the impact they have on human consumption, determine the actual cost of the Western Diet in regards to the environment, personal health and well-being, government decision-making and policies.  The students investigate the production, distribution, and consumption of staple crops and explore the historical movements as well as cultural diet trends.

In addition to these formal areas of study the class has a hands-on component.  The class works with the Linworth community garden (which has donated 200 pounds of produce to the Worthington Food Pantry), the pollinator garden and with composting bins.  

Students can take the Farm to Table class for a .5 elective credit in either Health, Social Studies or English because the course content is interdisciplinary and covers significant strands in each content area.

High school students today can be passionate learners. Our challenge as a school district is to design coursework that taps into that passion and makes certain that all of students’ passionate learning is not done outside of our curriculum.  With Farm to Table Linworth teachers Mark Shannon and Laura Zelch have done just that.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Master Facility Planning

colonialThe first few days of the 2016-2017 school year are off to a great start!  While we’ve just begun this school year we’re actively working to prepare for our shared future.

In Worthington, our schools are a great source of pride in the community and we are grateful for the support our residents provide year after year.  In order to protect our residents’ investment in our schools, from time to time we analyze the way we do business to ensure we deliver on the quality and efficiency our community expects, including our school buildings.

Last year, the district engaged construction and school facilities experts to analyze the efficiency of our school buildings – both from a financial and educational standpoint.  The research revealed some of our buildings are in great shape and are in need of some minor maintenance, while others could use extensive renovation or even replacement. That makes sense when you consider that some of our newest school buildings are 25 years old, while several of our schools are 50 years old and were not built with today’s learning in mind.  We have done an excellent job with upkeep on the buildings, however, it’s not the appearance of the buildings that concerns us.   It is the out-of-date infrastructure behind the walls (i.e. plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling) that is becoming more and more costly.  Also, our student enrollment is growing! Families are moving to Worthington because of our great community and excellent schools. Managing this increased enrollment has impacted our school buildings in different ways.

We are working with the community and our educational leaders to come up with a long-term plan so that our schools can continue to offer vital programming and the variety of opportunities for students that our community expects and values.  We are also committed to delivery of an excellent education in the most financially efficient manner possible.  Before any decision is made about the future of our school buildings, we plan to engage our community with a 12-month master facilities planning process. The district will work with students, parents, community members and facilities experts to explore all options to determine the direction of facilities and enrollment planning for Worthington’s schools.

There are no preconceived notions or decisions made about what the future will hold once this process is complete. We are encouraging all residents to be a part of this vital conversation that will shape the future of our schools and community for generations to come.

At tonight’s (8.22.16) Worthington Board of Education meeting the planning firm of DeJong-Richter will present an overview of the planning process to our Board of Education.  (7:30 P.M. at 200 E. Wilson Bridge Road).  If you’re interested in this process please consider attending the meeting in person, watching the live stream at http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/Page/3176 and/or checking out our Master Facility Planning webpage: http://www.worthington.k12.oh.us/Page/3365

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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WorthingtonStrong

strongFrom a friend of mine, who I respect greatly, I recently heard that “the wound is where the light gets in.”  On Friday (8.12.16) our Worthington Kilbourne Girls Water Polo team was in a terrible accident.  The accident resulted in the tragic death of Worthington graduate Courtney Fisher and in the significant injury of four Worthington Kilbourne water polo players and Courtney’s mom.  I think I can speak for our entire community when I say my heart is broken for the families involved in this accident.  

This morning I was able to visit the families and our young ladies who are in the hospital.  All of our girls are still in Toledo hospitals and are still in intensive care.  As a community we are wounded.  Yet, there is light.  The overall feeling in the hospital is one of hopefulness.  Currently, we believe that each of our girls will recover.  They sustained significant injuries and it will likely be a long road of recovery.  But today when I gave Betsey Fisher a new Worthington T-Shirt, she immediately found a way to get it on over her head and to pose for pictures with her friends.  That’s what teenage girls do and we want nothing more than for our girls to return to being typical teenage girls.

And there has been much more light.  I believe most every public school district in the Columbus area has reached out and offered us support and any resources we may need.  The water polo and swimming community has been amazing.  The team from Upper Arlington attended our vigil last night.  The team from Napoleon sent well wishes and the President of St. Francis DeSales in Toledo visited our families in the hospital and offered any support our community might need while in Toledo.  Our girls water polo coach has spent all of the last three days traveling back and forth to Toledo.  While I was in Toledo this morning one of our teachers from Worthington Kilbourne High School came into the hospital room and I was told it’s the second day in a row he has made the trip.  

Although it shouldn’t, sometimes it takes a tragedy such as this for us to stop our busy lives and focus on what matters most.  I’ve seen people from all over Worthington and all over Ohio do just that and their response has been overwhelming.  Our challenge will be to mobilize our resources and to make sure our response to helping our families is not short-term, but instead the long-term support that will inevitably be needed.  Together we’ll meet that challenge.

I’m proud to serve the Worthington community.  Our students will return to school on Wednesday of this week and while we’ve recently suffered a great tragedy, our professionals will rise-up and make certain that all 10,000 students who enter our doors receive a warm, kind, positive, and energetic start to their school year.  It’s O.K. to be positive.  We’re going to make sure this is an amazing school year in Worthington Schools.  There is light.  We’re WorthingtonStrong!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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Changes in Elementary Food-At-School Practices

IMG_7722We begin the 16-17 school year in Worthington next Wednesday, August 17th.  As the new year begins we will be making some changes in how we deal with food in our elementary schools.  As we continue to change and evolve we recognize that many of our students are dealing with significant food allergies or dangerous medical issues such as childhood diabetes.  By making some adjustments to our policies and practices this year we will be able to provide our students with a safer school environment.

In case you are not familiar with the seriousness of food allergies today, researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies.  This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children (under 18 years of age) in the U.S. and that’s roughly two students in every classroom.  According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. The number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but there is no clear answer as to why.

Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year. A reaction to food can range from a mild response (such as an itchy mouth) to anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially deadly reaction. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish.

In Worthington Schools our food service team will no longer sell peanut butter products in our elementary school cafeterias.  In addition, we have instituted a new interactive food service menu which will allow you to view nutrition information for each food, filter the menu for specific food allergies, and see the carb counts for each food.  You can view the new interactive menu here: http://worthington.nutrislice.com/

In addition, while at school, we will ask our teachers to no longer use food as a routine incentive for students in class.  Maybe an even larger shift is that while we want to acknowledge and celebrate each student’s birthday because doing so is an expression of each child’s special place in the world and our school community, we will be asking for parent cooperation in celebrating birthdays in the classroom without food of any kind (we may still celebrate with pencils, stickers, games, puzzles, etc.. but not with food).  Once again, with the growing presence of food-borne allergies and student medical limitations, these moves will help ensure the well-being of each child.

Later this week all elementary parents will receive an email that will outline these changes in more detail and also discuss how we plan to handle school and classroom parties as well as parent-provided snacks during the school day.  Please look for this email in your inbox Thursday or Friday.

While these changes may be difficult at first, by partnering together we hope to make our classrooms safer for all students.

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

Here are a few links that I would encourage you to explore which I hope will help you understand why we are choosing to make these changes:

Discovery Documentary:  Food Allergies in America

A Letter From an Annoying Peanut Allergy Mom

Dear Teacher Of My Food Allergic Child

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Happy August!

AugustIt’s been a good summer.  We’ve been to the beach, we’ve spent long days at the Worthington Pool and we’ve spent nights around the fire pit and forgotten about bed times.  But, at least in our house, there are three girls ready to go back to school.  They may not admit it, but they’ve had a little too much together time and they’re getting a little (maybe a lot) grouchy with one another.  

Happy August!  In Worthington Schools it’s the most wonderful time of the year!  In just 16 days we’ll welcome around 10,000 students back to school.  School officially begins in Worthington on Wednesday, August 17th.  Our fall sports officially begin today.  You’ll see football teams and field hockey teams on the practice fields and you’ll hear our marching bands on the front lawns of our high schools.  Our school offices will all be open this week and over the next two weeks there will be schedule pick-ups, back to school ice cream socials, and  open houses.  We’re back!  I hope you’re ready for a great school year!

As you begin to plan for this upcoming year there are a few quirks to our school calendar you should plan for.  The first is that Worthington will be in school (K-12) on election day, Nov. 8th.  Many area school districts will take this day off.  After working with the Franklin County Board of Elections we have been able to move voting out of all of our elementary school buildings.  Voting will occur at Worthington Kilbourne High School, Thomas Worthington High School and Phoenix.  We believe that those facilities can manage voting on that day.  To be extra careful, we will have a police officer on campus to make sure it is a safe environment.  We’re excited by this change because it allows us to continue with a five day school week and also to support the democratic process.  

Spring Break is late this year.  We’re scheduled for Spring Break the week of April 10th – April 14th.  This aligns with the Easter holiday but it’s later than is ideal for those who participate in Spring sports and is fairly close to the end of our school year.  Our students graduate on Sunday, May 21st and the last day of school for everyone else is Wednesday, May 24th.  

You can access this year’s district calendar here.  You’ll also want to access individual back-to-school dates at our district website.  Can’t wait to see you soon!

-Trent Bowers, Superintendent

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