Everyone Needs to Jump Out of the Box: Meet the Out-of-the-Box Bold Cobras from Fountain Lake

Everyone Needs to Jump out of the Box:

Meet the Out-of-the-Box Bold Cobras from Fountain Lake

By:  Meghan Ables, 2016 Arkansas Teacher of the Year

This school made had a recurring theme around every corner: Take your old-way-of-doing-things box, and jump out of it!  Nothing they do at Fountain Lake is expected, but all of it is great for kids.  Every turn I saw something that I had to know more about.  Teachers taking lessons to a whole new level, librarians re-inventing the library, and projects where students are true innovators.  Warning:  this blog will give you every reason why you should jump out of the box. Are you ready to be BOLD?

What do you do when the freshman struggle at the high school?  Definitely not sit by and watch.  Fountain Lake created a foundation class that is mandatory for all 9th graders.  This class prepares students to succeed in high school by reinforcing study skills, life skills, and presentation skills.  Students are also exposed to college and career readiness through a variety of lessons.  Each student works with a teacher to develop a PSP, or personalized success plan.  This plan will follow the students as they move towards graduation and beyond.  This partner teacher will prepare each child individually for future plans.

How do you incorporate STEM and literacy into a rich learning environment? Fountain Lake is the only school in Arkansas that offers an Integrated Production Tech class.  This class facilitates projects that are 21st century math, science, literacy and STEM.  Every unit requires not only math and science skills, but also a writing component. Students are building, coding, and creating solutions to real-world problems.  They have machines that work like vending machines.  They have machines that work like factory assembly lines.  They use water, temperature, air, and more to bring these creations to life. With the help of 3D printers, this class is taking learning to a whole new level.  Students who complete all four levels of this class are fully prepared to step out and conquer the engineering world.   (Training for this curriculum is available through SREB– Southern Regional Education Board.)

How do you remove speech from the schedule?  Develop a school-wide rubric for presentations and have every teacher require them and teach them.  These students are presenting in every content area and being graded consistently across the board.  During the foundation class, students learn the basics of presentations and begin to understand the rubrics.  After freshman year, every student is expected to make presentations in each class each year. These Cobras are ready for the work world; they are ready to stand tall and showcase their research.

What do you do when your high school students won’t read for fun?  You create a hashtag! #readlife is alive and well at Fountain Lake.  Students are encouraged to take “shelfies” with their books and post to social media.  Every teacher took a picture with their favorite book for the wall of fame.  It is required that every student must read and reflect on one novel of their choice per nine weeks.  There are seven questions that students must answer about the novel to get credit for reading it.  These Cobras are creating a culture of reading!

How do you get students to LOVE the library?  Re-create it. Re-build it.  Re-invent it.  Flexible seating, a maker space, a gaming station, and a technology room are all found in this re-designed library. The librarian decided to trade the money she was spending on certain books and ask the local library to provide E Books for all students instead.  By using recycled materials, the library now offers wall to wall bars with charging stations and stools. Students can go into the maker space and create whatever sparks their interest.  Students can come down and create videos to go along with their required presentations.  Students can come in before school to play in the video game contests.  This library is a FUN place to be.

How do you make FACS (Family and Consumer Science) relevant to today’s students?  You make your own cleaning supplies.  You build a green house.  You create a contraption that allows fish to fertilize plants.  You re-design what everyone knows about “home economics” and make it 21st century so the students can connect what they learn to their current lives.  Students are solving community problems with innovation during class with the guidance of their spectacular teacher.  Students are learning the science behind what cleans their homes.  This class is finding create ways to “go green” and impact change in the world.

How do you get students to say “School is fun!” on their way in the door?  Give them hands-on projects and use PBL (project based learning) in geometry.  Let them create books, 3D creations, and solve real-world problems.  Students learn from each other with presentations and then debate answers to real-life scenarios.  PBL is being used campus-wide with tons of support. The Buck Institute is providing the PBL training for this district.  A new TV Studio is also getting ready to launch.  The quality of this equipment is professional.  Students are training on the basics from a non-traditional teacher who is passionate about his subject.  I can’t wait to see how he builds this new program into a Cobra tradition.

Overall, it is clear to see why Fountain Lake’s theme is #CobraBold.  Everything they do is bold and extraordinary.  More than anything, I am proud that they were brave enough to jump out of the box for their students.  Now that they have, the teachers there would never go back to how they were before.  Are you ready to jump out of the box?  Don’t wait one more minute…..  Go for it. Be bold.

On a side note…..love that these FL students created a QR code for students to use if they are being bullied!  Calls straight to the office for them.  So proud of those bold, innovative kids!

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