In the second of four opportunities, local leaders got a firsthand look at ongoing initiatives happening within Grand Haven Area Public Schools. Tuesday’s meeting focused on the high school’s parent engagement and science instruction shifting to Next Generation Science Standards.
The efforts are part of the state’s Public Act 25 to hold schools accountable, said Mary Jane Evink, the Grand Haven district’s director of instructional services.
The building houses 1,950 students in grades 9-12 and 200 adults. Principal Tracy Wilson said they have the largest high school under one roof in West Michigan.
The school operates under the motto that “Team GH” aims to unite staff, students and parents as “one family, one team, one Grand Haven.”
Some of the ways parents are involved include freshmen parent night, QPR training, outside speakers, Love a Buc, Help a Buc Community Walk, and learning walks that allow parents the opportunity to visit and see classrooms in action. About 67 percent of parents participate in parent-teacher conferences.
Parent volunteers have also been involved in helping launch the new Bucs Care Food Pantry. Student groups help ensure the pantry remains full.
In addition to following the district’s one-page strategic plan, each high school department has plans that are evaluated throughout the year for progress. Embedded into instruction are trainings such as AED/CPR, diversity and Capturing Kids’ Hearts.
Beginning with the school’s current sophomores, changes are coming for science requirements through the new Next Generation Science Standards. Assistant Principal Mike Roberson explained the goal is to make students critical thinkers by presenting them with the problem and having them find a solution. Roberson said it takes the necessary skills that engineers and scientists need to be successful.
Science teacher Todd Diedrichsen said it’s aimed at getting students to think more critically, and it’s their job as educators to give students those opportunities.
One of the most challenging aspects has been the time involved in teaching that way. Roberson said they’ve had the curriculum content pieces, and know they’re infusing the practices. Currently, they’re in the implementation phase.
Wilson gave an example about a change in homework. Instead of a set number of homework problems, students are asked to give a reflection statement about what they learned.
After viewing three science classrooms, the group reflected and provided feedback.
Greater Ottawa County United Way President Patrick Moran commented about the critical thinking aspect of the science curriculum. In meeting with area businesses and employees, Moran said those are some of the skills they’ve discussed, and it will help businesses in the future.
Other members of the group said they would like to see more opportunities for parents to learn about ways to help students with classwork.
Dan Martin, a parent and local lawyer and the school district’s counsel, spoke about students working with partners.
“It’s great to see the kids helping one another out,” he said.
In October, a group of community leaders toured Mary A. White Elementary School, where they learned about early childhood literacy efforts. Later this year, they will visit Peach Plains Elementary School and Ferry Elementary School/Voyager School.